Try saying “queer choir” 10 times fast: your jaw will get quite the workout!
For choral singer Gianluca Ragazzini, these two terms are entirely well-matched. When he moved to Canada from Italy in 1997, he joined the Ottawa Gay Men’s Chorus and came out as a gay man.
“I thought I’d never have the guts to actually stand onstage in a public performance with a gay group. However, I did it. I think that the enjoyment of singing in a choir allowed me to get rid of the fear and come out. It’s my love for music that in a way forced me to fully accept my identity,” he says.
Over the last decade, Ragazzini has sung with Tone Cluster: Quite a Queer Choir, the Canadian Centennial Choir and, most recently, with the Ottawa Classical Choir, founded in 2006.
“The Ottawa Classical Choir has been a wonderful environment for me as a singer and gay man to continue making music and learn to sing in large groups with professional orchestras and soloists,” he says.
In addition to his involvement with Ottawa choirs and his day job, Ragazzini is also the president of Unison 2014. The organization will host the fifth edition of the GLBTT Canadian Choral Festival in May 2014.
“I have always loved music. I think that singing in harmony with a group of people who share the same love for music is an incredibly powerful experience, both physical and emotional,” explains Ragazzini, who usually sings bass but is also comfortable singing baritone and first or second tenor.
With the Ottawa Classical Choir, Ragazzini travelled to New York City in June 2010 and sang the American premiere of Théodore Dubois’ Messe solennelle de Saint Remi at Carnegie Hall. He also performed Mozart’s Requiem with the choir at a sold-out audience in Montréal’s Notre-Dame Basilica in December 2009.
This Saturday (May 21) Ragazzini joins the choir for an exceptional concert at the National Arts Centre’s Southam Hall: the group, along with the New World Philharmonic Orchestra and more than 250 choristers, will perform Verdi’s Requiem.