It’s gearing up to be a busy year for the members of Tone Cluster. In May, the choir will host Unison, a quadrennial choral festival for LGBT people and their allies. They will also be participating in the Mosaik Choral Festival in February. And in February the choir will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a concert appropriately titled Fabulous Twenty.
Tone Cluster got its start in 1994 as a small madrigal group (a madrigal is a Baroque vocal music composition). The choir has always been queer-oriented. “Things were a little more difficult 20 years ago . . . so it was a safe place to get together and just sing and have fun,” says Kurt Ala-Kantti, the group’s musical director. Today, Tone Cluster is a 25-voice mixed choir made up of both LGBT people and straight allies; some of the original members are still part of the group. For Fabulous Twenty, the choir will revisit some of the music it performed over the last two decades, including a nod to its early madrigal roots.
“The first thing we’re singing is ‘Sing Me Enchanted,’ which is a madrigal, and then we’re going to get into some variety of music from over the years, like ‘Drive My Car’ by the Beatles and a jazz arrangement piece called ‘Bim Bom,’” Ala-Kantti says. The choir will also perform a version of “Seasons of Love” from Rent, as well as a selection of the pieces it’s commissioned over the years.
In 20 years, Tone Cluster has worked with an impressive roster of Canadian composers, including Brian Tate, David L McIntyre, Willy Zwozdesky and Stephen Hatfield. The group is also known for working closely with other choirs and musicians, in part to help increase its exposure outside the LGBT community. “[It’s] maybe coming out of the choir closet in a way,” Ala-Kantti says, chuckling. Many previous guests will return for Fabulous Twenty, including violinist Kevin James, percussionist Alvaro De Manaya and Marg Stubington, one of the choir’s founding conductors.
As its first two decades draw to a close, Ala-Kantti is optimistic about what the future holds for Tone Cluster: “Hopefully they’re still around and going strong and singing great music and contributing to the community.”