To quote fictitious talk show hostess Linda Richman: "Talk amongst yourselves." Here's a topic: Potential members of The South Beach Gay Men's Chorus don't have to be gay or male. Discuss. Yes, you heard right. Men and women of any sexual orientation are welcome to join the three-month-old nonprofit organization as long as they can match pitch, says chorus president Craig Fashbaugh. No audition necessary.
Fashbaugh, a former systems engineer who moved to Miami Beach from Chicago a few years ago, may have spent his days in the cold world of business, but in his spare time he was surrounded by music. A voice major in college, he helped organize and run two vocal ensembles (the Windy City Chorus and the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus) in his previous home. Once he came south, however, he was quite surprised and dismayed to find himself in a major city that didn't claim a chorus. He quickly commenced recruiting and soon found himself singing again.
"This is a fun group," Fashbaugh says. "This is not let's-stand-up-there-in-tuxedos-and-do-this religious music. This is let's do the cutting-edge stuff, let's do theatrics, let's have fun." And have a ball they do, belting out unorthodox songs such as Madonna's "Keep It Together" and campy numbers from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. This Sunday and the next the chorus will perform outdoors on Lincoln Road under the direction of David Kingery and accompanied by pianist Andrew Sergeant. Dressed in white and wearing red Santa hats, the 30 members will croon cheery holiday tunes, including "We Need a Little Christmas" from the musical Mame, "Santa Baby," and "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," from the Dr. Seuss cartoon. Then they'll hand out lyric sheets of conventional Christmas music in the hopes that audience members will join in a sing-along, but the tour de force is sure to be "Silent Night," which they'll sing in Spanish, Portuguese, English, and German.
The ensemble is devoted to, in their words, "expanding diversity through musical expression," yet the ultimate goal is to entertain, give back to the community, and build up membership. They're hoping to eventually number 80 singers. "There's a lot of people down here with a talent," Fashbaugh says. "They're just dying to do stuff; they just have no outlet. Hopefully we can become that outlet. We're going to try to tell stories, talk about what's happening in the gay community in South Beach, make fun of it through satire. We want to try to educate people, and we're going to try to do it through music."