KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For the first time in nearly two years, the Heartland Men's Chorus held in-person auditions in hopes of performing in front of thousands of people later this year.
"The past 19 months has been a huge challenge for us, mostly because not only do we sing and perform, which we couldn’t do in person, but also because the Heartland Men’s Chorus provides fellowship and provides community for the LGBTQ people of Kansas City," said Shawn Cullen, artistic director of the Heartland Men’s Chorus.
Tuesday's event was the first step in forming the group at the Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral in the Founder’s Hall.
It was the first time Jordan Michels auditioned in-person for the group. He joined Heartland Men’s Chorus during the pandemic.
"It’s just been a very helpful outlet to at least find some peace and happiness in this crazy world that we are currently going through," Michels said.
Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, it's more than just a group of men singing – they said it's a community that supports each other.
"I think it’s a good way for me to understand and grow as a person more because I am gay but it’s not something that I have embraced a lot," Michels said.
Patrick Smith, who also auditioned for the chorus, said he joined his first men's chorus after a "huge transition" in his life.
"A literal transition," he said, "and I think making that step may have saved my life."
To ensure safety, each person who auditioned had to be vaccinated and wear a mask during the audition.
"You can hear yourself a little better because it echoes right back at your face," Michels said.
Last year, the chorus sang virtually, but Cullen said it just wasn't the same.
"From the singer’s vantage point, when they are singing in a virtual environment, when they are singing in a virtual situation, they don’t get to hear everybody else, they just hear themself," Cullen said. "And you sign up to be in a chorus with lots of people around you, so it’s kind of intimidating and challenging that way."
The goal is for the group to perform several shows at the Folly Theater in downtown Kansas City later this year with a packed audience listening to them sing. Earlier Tuesday, the theater announced it would require COVID-19 vaccinations or a negative COVID-19 test for staff, crew and patrons beginning Sept. 6.
"It’s going to be exciting, I’m a little nervous. I’m not going to lie," added Smith.
The group hopes to end the year on a high note, performing and spreading harmony in Kansas City.
"Music brings so much to so many different people in so many different ways, that’s what’s so beautiful about it," Cullen said.
The next audition will be held from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Aug. 31 at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral in the Founder’s Hall at 14th Street and Broadway Boulevard.
The chorus is planning three in-person concerts for Season 36, starting with its annual holiday concert, Joy, scheduled at the Folly Theater on Dec. 4 and 5.