Gary Holt's Grandmother Test

SD Gay Men’s Chorus and Queen Elizabeth will belt Guy Tunes.
  • SD Gay Men’s Chorus and Queen Elizabeth will belt Guy Tunes.

After decades of choral experience that included singing with the Tucson Boys Chorus and at Interlochen Center for the Arts in Missouri, Gary Holt became artistic director for the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus in 1986. The Coronado resident explains, “After I first sang with them, they had to replace the conductor. I stepped in on an interim basis while they did a national search. I had such an amazing time, I threw my hat into the ring.

“I [collaborate] with other organizations and programs that help our singers improve. The project I’m most excited about is our anti-bullying mini-musical, an adaptation of Tomie DePaola’s book Oliver Button Is a Sissy. We’re raising funds so we can send that program into San Diego County elementary schools.”

Why do we need a gay men’s chorus?

“Our music is something our singers couldn’t access in a mixed chorus. There isn’t a lot of great men’s choral repertoire commercially available. So we commission it. Some of the greatest modern American composers — Ned Rorem, Libby Larsen, John Corigliano — have written music at our request.

“Gay choruses are agents and advocates for social change...whether we’re singing about marriage equality, bullying, or the struggle for basic civil rights.”

Does the SDGMC ever get outrageous?

“Camp is a healthy part of our well-balanced diet. Sometimes it looks like Priscilla, Queen of the Desert on our stage. My responsibility is knowing where to draw the line — I always come down on the side of less camp. There may be an occasional member dressed as an iconic woman. For last year’s holiday concert it was Norma Desmond. In Guy Tunes, I think Queen Elizabeth makes an appearance with Henry the Eighth. And I have it on good authority that the Village People characters will pop in.

“I have what I call my ‘grandmother test.’ If I wouldn’t be comfortable with my grandmother in our audience, then it doesn’t belong in our concerts.”

The SDGMC performs Guy Tunes on July 30 and 31 at the Balboa Theatre downtown.

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