Holiday Gaiety

The North Coast Men's Chorus holiday concerts are a prelude to a bigger, more celebratory festival next July in San Jose. It's there that more than 120 choruses -- 5,000 members from the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses -- will participate in the quadrennial, noncompetitive event. Neil Giewont, one of the founders of the 12-year-old local group as well as a national board member, estimates that this will be one of the largest countrywide gatherings of the international organization, which consists of approximately 6,000 members from 180 choruses.

But for now, Giewont and the 50 or so members of the regional North Coast Men's Chorus have their holiday show, Fruitcakes, on their minds. It's one of three annual concerts that the group puts on (there are also spring and summer editions), and Giewont promises a holiday show unlike any other in the area.

"The chorus itself likes to do a wide range of music," he explains. "You'll have everything from very traditional, serious carols to some choreography and other fun things that will surprise the audience. There's a nice blend of music, and it's high on entertainment. A few tears and a few laughs."

Giewont, a past president of the chorus, says that the performance includes various ensembles accompanied by a piano (and occasionally brass and strings).

Beyond entertainment, chorus members share a common goal. "The North Coast Men's Chorus affirms the gay experience," he says. "We do that by providing a place for our members to be accepted and grow by providing quality performances and by promoting a positive presence. And that's really what we're about: providing a positive, affirmative picture of the gay experience in the Cleveland area."

As for membership in the group, Giewont says that, providing you're gay (there are also lesbian and mixed choruses in the area), they're not a very demanding bunch. "You're not required to read music or anything like that," he says. "You primarily need to be able to sing the note that's played on the piano. If you can't do that, you'll probably be encouraged not to join. But if you can match pitch and are willing to work at it, anybody's welcome." -- Michael Gallucci