For folks who have been historically marginalized or oppressed, music is one art form that can be vital for creative expression but also to their everyday mental and emotional health. Research has found that listening to music can relieve stress by triggering biochemical stress reducers. Queer performers can find themselves oftentimes seeking out groups that will welcome them to collaborate and participate, which is exactly what the Forte – Toronto Gay Men’s Chorus does.
The group has been actively performing since 1997. Through performances and social events, Forte members have the opportunity to both share their voices in perfect harmony and free themselves from certain stresses they face in everyday life.
Christopher Brown has spent a good portion of his life on stage, with a background in theatre and the arts. It wasn’t until he joined Forte that a void in his life was filled. “There’s a great sense of connection, community and brotherhood in the choir,” he says. “When you sing with a choir, you feel on many different levels.”
People like Brown are not alone. For many it comes down to finding the right outlet to best express themselves. Many performers lack the safe spaces they need to feel welcomed, encouraged or better yet supported
“There is a connection that is felt within everyone at the choir,” says director of membership Nick Green.
With sixty permanent singers in the chorus, the network and bonds they have created reach far outside the walls of Forte’s performance space. “I didn’t realize I’d end up with a crew of people that are always on-call to hang out,” he says.
The uprise in the choral movement has seen new voices give light to stories and social justice issues through music. Green recalls that after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida, the choir quickly came together and within a week had added “Pulse” by Melissa Etheridge to their 2016 Pride performance which was dedicated to the victims and survivors. “It was very fresh and emotional, and that shared experience really brought us all together,” Green says.
The choir hopes that each performance will inspire audience members. “It’s quite moving because when you realize the work that you’re doing or the music that you’re creating told a story and these people are able to relate to that story so well that they were absolutely moved, I think it’s something that all of us find very enriching about the choir,” Brown says.
And the choir hopes to help a community of gay men feel comfortable about themselves. “I can say it still feels amazing to open your mouth and make beautiful music with people that you share so much with,” Green says. “Our rehearsal hall is a safe place for sharp notes or poor timing, so don’t be afraid.”