Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus ‘funks up’ Christmas favorites



Artistic director James Morehead said attendees can expect a range of programming including drag performances.

By Art & Culture Reporter

The Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus is looking to revitalize and put its stamp on classic holiday songs as the season quickly approaches.

This year, the group’s annual holiday show “Miracle on Thirty-Funk Street” is scheduled for performances Nov. 29 at the Beverly Arts Center, 2407 W. 111th St.; Dec. 4 at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph St.; and Dec. 5 at North Shore Center, 9501 Skokie Boulevard in Skokie, Illinois. 

Accompanied by a six-piece brass band, the chorus will mix holiday favorites with funky compositions and attitude, according to the organization’s website.

After accompanying the group for six years, James Morehead became the artistic director at the end of the 2014 season and will maintain that role for the group’s 33rd season. 

According to Morehead, the show’s inspiration came from hearing some under-the-radar funk tracks from the ‘70s. 

He said he decided to mix in a few holiday favorites such as “Joy to the World” and “We Three Kings”—albeit with some of their own hints of flair. 

“I rearranged [some classics], and there’s a very traditional, classical rendition of ‘Personent Hodie,’ a medieval Latin carol and there are some pop songs as well,” Morehead said. “[However], they’re not just the full chorus singing. I might have a small group or maybe some  drag queens perform as well.”

Like many of the chorus’ shows, there is more to the performances than “stand and sing” productions, including dance and other theatrical elements such as comedic sketches, according to Morehead.

The chorus’ performance at Beverly Arts Center will be its first performance south of Hyde Park, according to interim executive director Ken Puttbach.

“Shellee [Frazee, artistic director of Beverly Arts Center] gave us a call, and based on our reputation, wanted to gauge our interest in being part of their programming,” Puttbach said. “They do a wide range of [programs], so we met with them and decided to give this a shot.”

According to the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, of which CGMC was a 2001 inductee, the group has been a “positive force in Chicago and northeastern Illinois and [provided] an important social outlet for its members.” 

Israel Wright, executive director of the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame, added that induction into the Hall of Fame in and of itself shows the support the

chorus has received from the community, as possible inductees must be nominated by their peers.

“The nomination is definitely a statement about how much the organization has contributed to [their cause] and how others have recognized what they are doing,” Wright said. 

Puttbach said going to the far South Side is just one example  of the CGMC’s dedication to inclusion and being a voice for the LGBT community and its members.

“We have several women in the chorus—gay, straight [and] trans people as well,” Puttbach said. “As an LGBT organization, it would go against everything we stand for if we didn’t have open  inclusion and non-discrimination policies.”

Puttbach said the upbeat show, paired with diverse performance spaces, aligns with the main goal of the chorus.

“We seek out locations where the LGBT community may be underrepresented,” Puttbach said. “[The Beverly Arts Center] show definitely fits that need.”