The Denver Gay Men's Chorus performs at Passport to the Holidays

Denver Gay Men’s Chorus: Building Community through Music

The Denver Gay Men's Chorus performs at Passport to the Holidays

Photo courtesy of the Denver Gay Men’s Chorus

In 1982, a group of gay men decided, over a Chinese dinner, to form the Denver Gay Men’s Chorus (DGMC) with a commitment to build a diverse community and foster acceptance through music. Having performed in concert halls across Denver and the U.S., and venues including Coors Field, not to mention the steps of Colorado’s State Capitol, the Chorus is recognized as the premier gay performing arts organization in the Rocky Mountain Region.

The 140-member ensemble seeks to build community and share their stories through music. With core themes focusing on social justice, the DGMC acts

as an LGBTQ+ catalyst for change by entertaining, educating, inspiring, and empowering audiences to foster acceptance and tolerance throughout the greater Denver area.

DGMC Artistic Director James Knapp has over 35 years of choral conducting experience leading university, church, and community choruses. He explained the main difference between directing in a church or academic setting with a community chorus is the passion for social justice.

While Knapp seeks to share stories and make a difference within the LGBTQ+ community and the community at large, he stresses the importance of quality. “We strive to achieve excellence in choral music,” Knapp explained. “My core belief is that a great message, regardless of intent, sung poorly doesn’t translate to the audience.”

Almost equally important to the music is the sense of belonging the chorus provides to its members. “The kaleidoscope of personalities, occupations, ages, socioeconomic status, and religious backgrounds is remarkable,” Knapp mentioned. “We work hard to be inclusive and create a safe sanctuary for all of our members.” Building that type of community is difficult enough but maintaining it and fiercely protecting it is a testament to its importance and uniqueness.

John Hess, Event Sales and Business Manager for the Denver Center Event Services Team, has been a member of the DGMC for five years, joining in hopes of meeting new people and getting back into making music.

Hess was involved in choir in high school and even years later remarks that the community within the DGMC reflects that of his high school experience. “The stories we get to share, the friendships and community that comes from the chorus is so unique,” Hess commented, “and unlike anything I’ve experienced outside of music.”

For a lot of members, DGMC is the only place where they feel they can be themselves, be loved, and be seen by others. “You’re instantly connected to 100+ local members of the LGBTQ+ community who share the same struggles, lived experience, and deep love for making music,” Hess said. “I’ve seen chorus members start one season and instantly begin to grow, develop deep and meaningful connections, and build their confidence.”

The community within the DGMC is and has been a nonjudgmental, welcoming safe space. As Knapp said, “If we can’t cultivate a community of equality during rehearsals and on our tours, then how can we translate that same message during concerts to our audiences?”

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the DGMC. In celebration, the chorus is ending its season with Unbreakable, a new musical by Broadway composer Andrew Lippa. The musical takes audiences through a chronological musical journey of the LGBTQ+ experience in America, from 1900 through the present day. It is a musical tribute to the LGBTQ+ community — How they’ve evolved, triumphed, suffered, and soared over the last 120 years.

Learn more about the DGMC in their 35th-anniversary video.

June 10 & 11 • King Concert Hall at Metro State