Alan Cumming hosts 40th anny ‘Ruby Jubilee’ for Gay Men’s Chorus of DC

WTOP's Jason Fraley salutes 40 years of the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington (Part 1)

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington D.C. is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

It’s marking the occasion with a virtual “Ruby Jubilee” this Saturday at 7 p.m.

“We’re really excited to be celebrating our 40th anniversary,” Board Chair Jay Gilliam told WTOP. “Ruby is the stone for 40th anniversaries. … We’re all going to be decked out in our ruby stones, jackets and clothes. It’s just going to be a really fun evening to celebrate in song and performance, hear stories from our past and bring together our community.”

The live event will be hosted by Tony winner Alan Cumming (“Cabaret”).

“We’re really excited to have Alan Cumming as our guest host and emcee for the evening,” Gilliam said. “He’s probably best known for his Tony-winning performance of ‘Cabaret’ in the ’90s and since then has been in a number of Broadway shows, TV and movies. The chorus actually performed with him a couple of years ago at the Kennedy Center.”

It will also feature five-time Tony nominee Laura Benanti (“My Fair Lady”), whose late uncle, Bob Wonneberger, was a founding member of the chorus; Lea Delaria (“Orange is the New Black”); Todrick Hall (“Kinky Boots”); and Shangela (“RuPaul’s Drag Race”).

The event is free with registration. VIP Packages range from $150-$400, including a pre-event wine tasting on April 28, commemorative stemless wine glasses and recognition in the event credits, as well as wine and dessert on the night of the event if you live in D.C.

There will also be a silent auction through May 2 with vacations like a Greek Island Adventure, New Orleans Cruise and Escape to Key West. Proceeds benefit the chorus.

“We are a community chorus,” Gilliam said. “We are 300-plus members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies who come together every week to sing at rehearsals. … In a normal year, we do over 100 performances around the DMV. We all have a passion for signing, starting in the shower or in high school on stage, but it continues on into adulthood.”

The chorus has seen major growth in its membership over the past 40 years.

“We have a few founding members that are still with us today,” Gilliam said. “Our chorus has expanded to include a youth chorus called Gen Out. We have members as young as 13 or 14 singing with us, so we have a span of decades between members.”

It’s also watched society evolve over 40 years to embrace equality.

“The 40 years of the chorus also mirrors 40 years of the LGBTQ+ movement,” Gilliam said. “The early ’80s was the start of the AIDS epidemic, so those initial years of the chorus we had a number of members that passed on and the chorus was singing at funerals. … Those first few years were harrowing. … Then the ’90s and 2000s began to see a wave of change.”

More recently, the chorus sang at pivotal moments in the 21st century.

“When the Supreme Court ruled for marriage equality in 2015, the chorus was at the Supreme Court singing,” Gilliam said. “When President Obama was inaugurated in 2009, the chorus was there at the Lincoln Memorial singing to herald in his presidency.”

What strides still need to be made?

“While a lot has progressed in the LGBTQ+ movement, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done in our own community, particularly around black and brown trans lives,” Gilliam said.

WTOP's Jason Fraley salutes 40 years of the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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