PGMC History

Beginnings

In the spring of 1980, Portland’s Mark Richards had just returned from a concert of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. He was astounded by what he had heard. He got together with Mark Jones and Gary Coleman at “Wilde Oscars” where they talked of the possibilities for a gay men’s chorus in Portland. They placed an ad in the local gay newspaper and shortly there after, in the spring of 1980, the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus was born.

Conductors

PGMC’s current director, Bob Mensel, has been at the musical helm of PGMC for the longest of any of its seven permanent conductors. Prior to his arrival in 1993, the Chorus was directed by:

  • Jon Rollins (1990-1993)
  • David York (1982-1990)
  • Steve Fulmer (1982-1983)
  • Curtis Holloway (1980-1982)
  • Kevin Walsh (1980-1982)

Mark Jones (1980) was PGMC’s first conductor.

Commissions

Known for its musical excellence as well as its outreach, PGMC has commissioned over 40 new choral works, including:

  • BraveSouls and Dreamers (Robert Seeley/Robert Espindola, 2007), using the words of sages throughout time, examines the personal impact of war
  • Vintage Voices (Kate Campbell, 2004), a multi-media work honoring gay and lesbian seniors
  • Millennium Mosaic (David York, 2000), the first song-cycle based on the lives and perspectives of gay youth
  • Young Caesar (Lou Harrison, 1988), a full-length opera
  • Zillions (Tom Simonds, 1986), a zany musical about the Senate’s attempt to balance the budget

Awards

In May, 2007, the College of Urban Studies and Public Affairs at Portland State University honored the Chorus with their Urban Pioneers Award, in part because of our work in fighting discrimination.

The Chorus was proud to receive the prestigious Lucille Hart Award from Right to Privacy in 1990 for distinguished service to the gay & lesbian community.

For battling anti-gay Oregon Ballot Measures 9 & 13 with song around the state in the early 1990s, the Chorus received a Special Recognition Award from the Metropolitan Human Relations Commission.

Recordings

BraveSouls and Dreamers(2007) A dramatic cantata that reflects upon the human and spiritual consequences of war.

Holiday Serenade (2003) A collection of favorites from our holiday concerts.

Millennium Mosaic: The Voices of Queer Youth (2000) Commissioned by PGMC and composed by David York using poems by Janice Gould, Marie-Elise Wheatwind, and Kat Wilson that came from interviews with queer youth in Portland.

Breaking the Silence with Song (1995) Produced in conjunction with the Washington County Health Department, it features music by the Chorus interspersed with monologues about AIDS by members.