By Toni Homeperm
In 2008, the Long Island Gay Men’s Chorus took to the stage at Stony Brook University for their very first Christmas Concert. Since then, the Chorus has gone through many changes, as any organization would, including membership, artistic direction, rehearsal locations, and performance venues. But one thing has always remained constant, the belief that through their music they can bring people from all walks of life, together through song.
I began my journey with the Chorus in 2015, when I auditioned to join them for that season’s Christmas Concert, which prophetically was called the “Long Live The Queens” concert! Back then, I was merely Tony Mazza, and had not yet taken on the drag persona of Toni Homeperm. At that time in my life, I had not performed on stage in a very long time, and felt that something was missing from my life. When I saw the flyers for the auditions, I told my husband that I wanted to try out and he was very encouraging. I remember practicing singing something acapella for weeks and was very nervous about the audition (not to change the subject but presently the Chorus no longer requires auditions). At that time the Chorus was rehearsing in the HL Dennison Building in Hauppauge. When I entered the building I was immediately greeted by a welcoming delegation of members who helped me get all signed up and then brought me down to the actual rehearsal room to meet the Artistic Director and the Board. After running through a few scales, I was told “Welcome, you’re the newest member of the LIGMC!”. I was thrilled to be a new member but almost disappointed that I didn’t get to do the song I had spent so much time practicing, but before I knew it, I was rehearsing a whole program of music and having to learn choreography as well!
That began what I consider to be a life long connection for me to the LIGMC. From that first concert, I went from solely being a performing active member, to joining the Board, and then became Secretary and eventually the Vice-President. We went through some very rough times in my early days with the Chorus, we thought that the 2016 Christmas Concerts would be our last performances, and that we would be disbanding after that. Instead, fate intervened, and things turned around completely after that, and the Chorus re-emerged stronger than ever.
One factor that strengthened the Chorus and continues to enhance their performances, was having Jeanette Cooper, the LIGMC’s long time accompanist take over as Artistic Director. Jeanette has the amazing ability to get the best vocals out of a diverse group of voices. As someone who was a part of that mix of voices, it always astonished me at how good she got us to sound! Many were the times after rehearsal when we would grab each other by the arm and gush about how well we sounded. One thing to keep in mind about the LIGMC, they are for the most part, non-professional singers, although that does not in any way diminish their enthusiasm.
Along with their annual concert series that includes a Christmas concert in December, and a Pride concert in June, the LIGMC also has two annual Cabaret shows. The great thing about the Cabarets is that it allows the individual members to perform as soloists. The Cabarets also function as fundraising events for the Chorus, and one of the things I love to do is put together a fundraiser. When we were planning the Spring Cabaret for 2017, I had been told that in the past before I was a member, that one of the best fundraisers for the Chorus was a drag cabaret they had done. This entailed many of the members getting into drag and performing, but then the members who had worked on those shows were no longer actively involved with the Chorus and no one else had continued it. So, in my best attempt at channeling that great Mickey Rooney & Judy Garland energy, I said “Well, if it will make money for the Chorus, I’m willing to throw on some lipstick and a wig!”. Little did I know at the time how that would forever change the course of my life.
So that began what is now arguably one of the best annual Drag events on Long Island. From that very first Drag Cabaret, which was hosted by the incomparable Ariel Sinclair in 2017, the LIGMC began a series of annual Drag Cabarets which has included the talents of some of Long Island’s most popular Drag performers, including LaBelle, Violet Storm, Anita Moorehead, Alexis Flame, Annie Manildoo, Bella Noche, Ivy Stalls, Ruby Monroe, Ashley Jade, Madelyn Keith, Chuleta Devine, Ambrosia Amore and of course, myself, Toni Homeperm. The most recent Drag Cabaret which was this past April, was co-hosted by Madison Mansfield and myself, and was a smash sold out event.
Although my drag career no longer avails me of the time to be a full time member of the LIGMC, I’m always happy to be a part of their Cabarets! The crowning jewel of the performance season for the LIGMC however, is and always has been their Spring and Christmas Concert series. This Pride season is no exception, and the LIGMC is proud to be bringing you their “Destination-Anywhere” Concert series!
LIGMC President Bradley Meek says, “LIGMC began our journey to ‘Destination- Anywhere!’ all the way back in the winter of 2020, so we are thrilled that our audience will at long last join us on this wonderful musical trip. I am so proud of the hard work and dedication that LIGMC’s 17 members are dedicating to making this a concert season to remember and cherish.”
Board Member Danny Schrafel had this to say about the upcoming concerts. “To say the least, it’s been a very long road with many twists and turns along the way! However, thanks to a troupe of amazing singers and the steadfast support of our wonderful audience, LIGMC will complete its trek to ‘Destination-Anywhere’ stronger than ever. We can’t thank you enough for sticking with us, and we’re looking forward to celebrating Pride with you this June.”
This June, you have three opportunities to see the Chorus. Their first concert of the season is Friday, June 10th 8 PM at St. Francis Episcopal Church in North Bellmore. Then is Saturday, June 11th 8 PM at The Universal Unitarian Fellowship in Stony Brook, and finally, June 12th 7 PM at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Huntington. Tickets for all these performances can be purchased either online at www.ligmc.org or at the door and are $25 each.
I highly encourage everyone to attend one of the LIGMC’s concerts this June. I can attest to the fact that these gentlemen put all their heart and soul into every performance. If performing with the LIGMC holds any interest for you, then follow them on their Facebook Page at Long Island Gay Men’s Chorus. There you will find the most up to date information on the Chorus, and how to be a part of their upcoming season.
Tony Mazza aka Toni Homeperm