Steve Valido smiles when he talks about the New Hampshire Gay Men’s Chorus’s most recent performance at Fenway Park. The Boston Red Sox invited Valido and more than 25 other members to perform before a June game during Gay Pride Week.
As one of the members who joined the chorus at its founding in 1998 in Manchester, Validoa appreciates its significance.
“We’ve come a long way,” he says. “But we still have a way to go, even today.”
President John McGeehan recalled how many men didn’t want their names printed on a concert program or wore sunglasses to partially conceal their identity for fear of how being gay would be received at work or in the community.
The group marked its 25th anniversary with a series of Silver Season of Love spring concerts performed at venues in Manchester, Newington, Nashua, Jaffrey, Plymouth, and for the first time, at the Barnstormers Theatre in Tamworth.
“We do operate openly as NHGMC now, and our sponsors are very supportive of what we do,” McGeehan says.
Gov. Chris Sununu noted the chorus is “truly a Granite State musical treasure” in his 25th anniversary commendation.
Artistic Director Luc Andre Roberge says he is delighted that chorus members can be open and proud of who they are whenever they take the stage.
“That those of us who have been around such as Steven, who was one of the very original members, it is outstanding. It is just unbelievable that we can do what we do today and not have to worry about who knows,” Roberge says.
McGeehan said the musical numbers they performed during their 25th anniversary shows were complex, because they covered a wide range of topics and events over that span.
“The theme of brotherhood shone through,” Roberge says. “We were trying to give people a taste of what it has been like in this organization for the last 25 years.”
Chorus Secretary Rob Marino said one song remembered the murder of Matthew Shepherd, a University of Wyoming student who was beaten, tortured and left to die near Laramie on Oct. 6, 1998. Shepherd died six days later. Two men were later arrested and charged with first-degree murder, and Shepherd’s murder received widespread media coverage.
They also performed an Armed Services melody encompassing the military’s previous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which ended in 2011, and honored LGBTQ military members for their bravery and service to their country. Other songs were devoted to gay marriage, which became law in New Hampshire on Jan 1, 2010.
Despite any opposition they may encounter, Roberge emphasizes the strong bond shared by the past and present members of the chorus. “I think that was very important for us to be a strong brotherhood and be a strong organization for the gentlemen who sing with us or have sung with us,” he says.
The NH Gay Men’s Chorus was created by Richard Bojko, the late David R. Snelson, and the late David Swart after they had attended a Boston Gay Men’s Chorus holiday concert in 1997. They asked themselves, “Why can’t we do this in New Hampshire?”
Following initial calls for members and rehearsals, the chorus performed for the first time on June 20, 1998, at Manchester’s Veterans Park during the second New Hampshire Pride Festival. The future looks bright for the NH Gay Men’s Chorus as they hope to play more venues and welcome new members.
“We are not going anywhere. Over the past few years, we have had unprecedented popularity around the state,” McGeehan says.
603 Diversity’s mission is to educate readers of all backgrounds about the exciting accomplishments and cultural contributions of the state’s diverse communities, as well as the challenges faced and support needed by those communities to continue to grow and thrive in the Granite State.