With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, Toronto’s largest LGBTQ community choir is getting set for a special show that will cater to both lovebirds and the lovelorn.
Singing Out (www.singingout.com), which has been up and running for more than 20 years, will perform Songs of the Heartless, A Valentine’s Cabaret, with the company’s ensemble members performing their own takes on popular hits from artists ranging from One Direction and Adele to Stephen Sondheim and Barbra Streisand.
“The theme is ‘songs of the heartless’ and it’s going to be a lot of fun,” said Singing Out member Wayne Sujo.
“It’s very tongue-in-cheek and we always try to keep a quirky style but now with Jody Malone as our new artistic director, we’ve grown musically.”
Because of its cabaret style, some of the performers amp up the camp factor. Acts range from a rendition of LMFAO’s ‘Sexy and I Know It’ to a scene in which a drag version of Anne Hathaway pines for her first Oscar.
Singing Out started small, with a group of about seven people looking for a fun musical diversion.
It came about just as the Toronto Gay Men’s Chorus was winding down, at a time when being out and proud was still frowned upon by many.
“It was as much political as it was social at first,” said founding artistic director John Schrag.
“The idea of standing up on a stage and saying ‘hey, I’m gay’ was unheard of at the time.”
Singing Out was a non-confrontational and engaging way to address sexuality, and Schrag noted some performers even used the choir as a way of coming out to their families.
“It was a lot less threatening to say ‘hey mom, come see me perform in a show’ than to say ‘hey mom, I’m actually gay,’” he said.
The choir has become much less politicized as attitudes toward the LGBTQ community have evolved but it remains a strong force for bringing people together.
“There’s a sense of community where people really care about each other,” Sujo said.
“We want to be role models to the LGBTQ community and show people we can make a difference with music.”
While Songs of the Heartless will be performed by members of Singing Out’s ensemble following an audition process, the choir is open to anyone and boasts roughly 100 members.
“We have people at all different levels,” Sujo said.
“Some of our members are really seasoned – almost professionals – but don’t read music at all and just want something fun to do.”
The choir performs two main shows every year along with a number of smaller gigs such as Songs of the Heartless. The ensemble travels to other communities as well, and the organization is part of the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses.
Songs of the Heartless will take place at the 918 Bathurst Centre, 918 Bathurst St., with shows at 3 and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 9.
Tickets are $20 and are available at Out on the Street, 551 Church St.