by tony reverditto –
MenAlive, the Orange County Gay Men’s Chorus was founded with just 13 singers, in September 2001 by Rich Cook. “I made an agreement with myself, ‘If you have 12 guys, go ahead,’” Cook recalled. Today, the chorus numbers more than 130 singers and 180 overall members and is one of the most renown in the country.
Along the way, MenAlive has evolved, becoming more than just an arts and entertainment group. They have made it their mission to “Promote understanding and acceptance of the LGBT community, by countering the fear and discrimination that threatens all of society, especially youth. We do this through the love of performance, community outreach and friendship.”
For the first time in their history, MenAlive is collaborating with the very talented SwingSet of Laguna, an award-winning, 18-piece jazz ensemble for their Spring concert. The group is a subset of the Laguna Concert Band, performing swing, big band and dance tunes, specializing in the sounds of Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey and original arrangements of American swing and jazz classics. The unique partnership between MenAlive and SwingSet will offer new arrangements of Irving Berlin and Jerome Kern, plus featuring the music of Lady Gaga, Sara Bareilles and Hozier.
Bob Gunn was a founding member of the chorus and served as assistant director before becoming artistic director in 2014. Prior to this, he was a professional musician with over 25 years experience, holding a Bachelor’s Degree in piano performance, music theory and education from Azusa Pacific University. His musical career has been broad, with experience as keyboardist, singer, producer, conductor, arranger, orchestrator and even a stint as a recording artist. In his “early days”, after graduating college, Gunn spent many years on the road performing with several rock groups.
The Rage Monthly Caught Up With Him To Get A Sneak Peek Of Their Upcoming Concert:
Tell us how it has been going for you since you took over as artistic director for MenAlive.
It has been fantastic. We have a terrific team in place and that makes my job so enjoyable and rewarding. We now have 100 plus singers at this point, as well as dancers, musicians, production, wardrobe, and communications staff, a board…The list goes on.
What was your original inspiration for the upcoming, jazz-themed concert, Swing Out!?
We have been wanting to partner with local groups who share our love of music and SwingSet out of Laguna Beach, was a perfect fit for our first venture. They’re a fantastic band and put on really wonderful, top-notch concerts.
What can audiences expect to see from the partnership between MenAlive and SwingSet?
I had been noticing a rise in pop songs being “redone” with a retro, swing vibe and wanted to do some of that ourselves. Swing Out! will feature some older jazz and swing classics like, “Ain’t That A Kick In The Head” and “Orange Colored Sky,” as well as some new pop “classics” with that same swing sound. It’s an interesting twist to imagine how some of the artists of today might sound, if they’d been around many decades ago.
Please share what is coming up in the future for MenAlive fans?
We love our community and are always honored to take part in some of the events coming up. We’ll be singing at Long Beach Pride, O.C. AIDS Walk and Orange County Pride over the next couple of months, as well as our summer concert titled The Royals (slated for Friday and Saturday, July 14 and 15, also at the Irvine Barclay Theatre). We’re also making plans to take part in an international GALA (the international association serving the gay and lesbian choral movement), festival in Munich, Germany May 2018. Our first overseas appearance!
If someone is interested in joining the group, what do they need to do?
We accept new members at the beginning of each concert period. It’s always exciting when new guys join and bring their fresh enthusiasm, reminding us “old guys” why we do this in the first place. Check us out at ocgmc.org.
Swing Out! takes place Friday, March 31 and Saturday, April 1, at the Irvine Barclay Theatre, 4242 Campus Drive in Irvine. For tickets and more information, call 866.MEN.ALIVE (636.2548) or go to: menalivechorus.org.
For more information on SwingSet, email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or check them out at: reverbnation.com/LagunaSwingSet.