The Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles (GMCLA) has been a notable part of the Southern California performing arts community. Formed July 12, 1979 as a volunteer effort of 99 gay men from all over the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, GMCLA has grown in size, gained professional artistic and administrative staff, toured nationally and internationally, released fourteen CDs, and appeared with numerous stage, film and television celebrities including Billy Porter, Lily Tomlin, Angela Lansbury, Bea Arthur, Malcolm Gets, Doris Roberts, Jerry Herman, Melissa Manchester, Mary McDonnell, Levi Kreis, Joanna Gleason, Alex Newell, Amber Riley, Charles Pierce, Miss Coco Peru, Valarie Pettiford, Jane Lanier, Randi Driscoll, Margaret Cho, Michael Jeter, Stephen Schwartz, Liz Callaway, Lance Bass, Jennifer Holliday, Tierney Sutton and LeAnn Rimes. The Chorus has appeared on several television broadcasts including the 85th Academy Awards, Access Hollywood, Will & Grace, $#*! My Dad Says, The Ren & Stimpy Show, Mad TV, and a six-episode arc on Six Feet Under.
GMCLA became the first gay chorus to tour central Europe in 1991. That historic tour was featured in a documentary entitled "Out Loud" and was broadcast on the PBS television network.
GMCLA became the first gay men's chorus ever to perform for a sitting President of the United States, Bill Clinton. In September 2011, GMCLA sang for President Barack Obama at a fundraiser in West Hollywood, CA.
GMCLA became the first openly gay performers ever to be broadcast nationally over Russian television during their 1999 concert tour (sold out concert in Tchaikovsky Hall, Moscow).
In 2006, GMCLA was the first openly gay chorus to tour South America (Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Chile), performing at some of the most revered theatres and concert venues. Repertoire included North American and European classical and popular music from Bacharach to Verdi, as well as new works commissioned for the tour by Daniel Catán, Rosephanye Powell, and Daniel Alfonso. New music for the Tour was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the James Irvine Foundation, and Los Angeles County Arts Commission. In each of the four countries, the Chorus raised money for LGBT and HIV organizations, as well as helping to start the first gay chorus in South America, in Rio de Janeiro.
Each year the Chorus presents three mainstage concerts in such venues as the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, California, Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles, California and the historic Alex Theatre in Glendale, California; GMCLA performed over 100 times on the Alex stage since 1994, more than any other musical group in the theater's history.
In 2010 GMCLA recorded a music video of Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" as part of the It Gets Better campaign in support of gay and lesbian teens. Singers LeAnn Rimes and Sheryl Lee Ralph joined the Chorus in December 2010 for their "Comfort and Joy" concerts, which also addressed bullying and teen suicide.
In 2013 GMCLA performed in the 85th Academy Awards, now the Oscars, in the opening musical sequence "We Saw Your Boobs" with host Seth MacFarlane. The following year they were featured at the Hollywood Bowl in "The Simpsons Take The Bowl" with Conan O'Brien, Beverly D'Angelo and the cast and creators of The Simpsons, celebrating the show's 25th Anniversary.
The choir, originally formed in July 1979 in Plummer Park Community Centre in Los Angeles, had a surprising 99 members in its birth. The group participated in the March on Washington D.C on October 14, 1979 in which members of the LGBT community and its allies demanded equal rights in the eyes of the law. The march signified an uprising in the community and followed events like the assassination of Harvey Milk on November 27, 1978. The GMCLA also participated in the first ever national LGBT concert at the Washington Memorial. The AIDS crisis did not spare the chorus' members, The chorus suffered the loss of its musical director in 1987, Jerry Carlson to HIV/AIDS. Over 150 members were lost to the AIDS pandemic leaving only 12 original members of the chorus as members.
The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles was under the direction of Christopher Verdugo until September 9, 2016. Verdugo decided to step down as director in search of new opportunities. Verdugo was a member of the choir for ten years, beginning as a choral member and later transitioning to his executive role in 2011. Under his leadership the chorus grew to 250 members. He has since become the executive director of The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, the first gay chorus to exist. During his time with GMCLA, Verdugo drew inspiration from the "It Gets Better" project, a nonprofit organization founded by Dan Savage formed in response to the alarming rise of LGBT suicides among teenagers in the United States, to launch his national tour partnered with Speak Theater Arts. The tour is a US based tour that hosts a week workshops concluding in a performance by the GMCLA. The main goal of the tour is, with the use of song and storytelling, to tackle a variety of issues that affect LGBT folk throughout their lives. The cast of the shows consists of eight members of the GMCLA who tour around the country. The cast partners up local schools and community members to deliver relatable content to youth at risk of bullying and their potential allies. The final show aims to shed light on the lives of LGBT peoples through musical performance. The tour currently has three upcoming stops for the 2016-2017 season, including performances in Miami University, Johnson County Community College, and Omaha, Nebraska. The "It Gets Better" tour is sponsored by AT&T and Southwest Airlines. Dr. Joe Nadeau was named artistic director in the fall of 2013 and has worked alongside Kevin Bolling (Director of Philanthropy), Gavin Thrasher (Assistant Conductor), Brianne Cohen (Events and Tour Manager), Taylor Hartley (Marketing Operations Manager), and James Geiger (Online Development - Photographer). The GMCLA is currently in search of a new executive director, as Verdugo's last day with the choir is on September 9.
The GMCLA has also started the Alive Music Project (AMP) which has reached over 43,000 teenage students in middle and high schools in Los Angeles. Much like the chorus' partnership with the it gets better Project, the goal is to spread a message of love and hope to teens who may be struggling with their sexuality. The schools Gay Straight Alliances form partnerships with GMCLA to help improve the experience of LGBT youth in American schools. The members of GMCLA utilize their own stories and experiences to deliver a message of acceptance. The emphasis is placed on the impact singing with members of their own community has had in the creation of a safe space. The students and the members of the GMCLA come together at an assembly to participate in musical performances and a question and answer period. Those who choose to participate in the AMP receive an invitation to a GMCLA concert (which includes a free ticket and transportation).
The GMCLA is supported by the Foresters Financial Voice Awards. This annual award show is running on its 6th consecutive year and it aims to honour those who use their platforms for social change and advancement towards equality. In 2016, the award show raised funds in support of GCMLA's outreach programs: the Alive Music Project and the it gets better Tour. Hosted by Ross Mathews, television host from the popular show Hollywood Today Live, and Pauley Perrette, actress most commonly known for her role as Abby Sciuto in NCIS, the show was held on April 23 at the Dolby Ballroom Hollywood and had over 600 attendees.
The GMCLA has garnered international and local appraisal for its dedication to the LGBT community in its 4 decades of existence.