Pride Chorus Houston, formerly known as Bayou City Performing Arts, has updated its name and logo. The LGBTQ singing group made the change on September 1 to reflect its commitment to inclusivity.
Board president Matt Leslie proposed the change two years ago after receiving several comments from community members who were unsure about who was able to join the choirs. Founded in 1979, the group has been called the Gay Men’s Chorus since 1992, and the Bayou City Women’s Chorus since 2005.
“I had regularly heard comments from people about why they were hesitant to join. Were bisexual people welcome to join the Gay Men’s Chorus? Should someone whose gender identity doesn’t match the traditional gender of their voice part join the chorus for their identity or their voice part?” Leslie recalls.
“So we started the process of thinking about what [a more inclusive name] would look like, and realized that [identifying the groups as] a combined choir was better all around—from the standpoint of the fellowship we can offer members, the ability to be more inclusive by rethinking [the gender-specific names], and from an administrative standpoint as well. We quickly realized that [a single identity] would be a much more modern approach to the gay choral movement.”
Leslie also noted community members’ confusion over the meaning of “Bayou City.”
“The organization has been ‘Bayou City Performing Arts’ for years, but it turns out that a lot of people, even in Houston, don’t know what ‘Bayou City’ is. We wanted to make sure our new name reflected the city of Houston, the fact that we were one chorus, and that we were for everyone in the LGBTQ+ community. We decided that Pride Chorus Houston was perfect,” Leslie explains.
In order to honor the group’s history, Pride Chorus Houston won’t completely abandon the “Gay Men’s Chorus” and “Bayou City Women’s Chorus” names. While these break-off groups’ names are gendered, Leslie emphasizes that anyone can join these choruses. “Even before the name change, both groups were open to anyone, regardless of their gender identity and expression. For example, in our most recent concert year, we had a handful of female-identifying singers join the tenor section of GMCH, which is typically a ‘male’ voice part.”
According to the group’s mission statement, Pride Chorus Houston strives to be “the voice of Pride,” using the power of music to make a positive change in the community. “The way we look at it, there are three primary groups we are aiming to impact: our members, by providing a safe and nurturing space to make music with other members of the community; our patrons, by enriching their lives with high-quality, entertaining performances; and the Houston community, by using our music to send a positive message to and about the LGBTQ+ community,” Leslie says.
Auditions for new chorus members are held in August and January, but singers can sometimes join throughout the year. “Don’t let the word audition scare you—it is merely a chance for our artistic director to get a sense of your range and place you in a section,” Leslie notes. “We have members at all levels of skill and experience, from beginners to pros. If you can carry a tune, we have a place for you. For non-singers who want to get involved, we have tons of volunteer opportunities available, as well.”
Pride Chorus Houston’s Fall Follies concert is Saturday, October 23. For more info on concerts and auditions, visit pridechorus.com.