Web Analytics Made Easy - Statcounter

SMC director brings music that matters to Seattle audiences

Share this Post:
"Holiday Fa-la-la-liday" — Photo by John Pai
"Holiday Fa-la-la-liday" — Photo by John Pai

Craig Coogan — Photo courtesy of the Seattle Choruses  

Craig Coogan, interim executive director of Seattle Men's Chorus (SMC) and Seattle Women's Chorus (SWC) knows the importance of choral tradition to the LGBTQ community.

Celebrating their 43rd and 20th anniversaries, respectively, this year, the SMC and SWC have long held a special spot in the city's heart. "The slogan I like to use is, 'Music that makes a difference," Coogan said about the choruses' work.

While he took his position with the organizations on September 1, his connection with the Queer chorus movement goes back almost 30 years, when he originally sought out performances as an audience member. "I had just moved to Los Angeles... and I was like, 'How do I connect with the community?'" he recalled. Eventually, he would move on to leadership positions with choruses in LA, St. Paul, and Boston.

When Coogan received the invitation to join the SMC and SWC team, a sense of responsibility motivated him to make the move. "These are great organizations, and they needed the help," he said.

Like many other groups over the last few years, the choruses navigated a long and complicated reestablishing process after the pandemic. "I thought, 'I have something to offer, and there appears to be a bit of a need, so let's do this!'"

SMC and SWC — Photo courtesy of the Seattle Choruses  

The Seattle choruses are not only key members of the Pacific Northwest performing arts scene but also national trailblazers. In many ways, SMC was the first of its kind when it was established in 1979; today the two choruses make up the largest community choral organization in North America and are recognized on an international level.

Beyond their sheer magnitude and age, both organizations have also taken huge strides in changing the landscape of the choral movement for the Queer community. SMC, for instance, has had a leading role in creating music that has then been adopted throughout the movement, improving one key factor in LGBTQ+ welfare: visibility.

"When this whole thing started almost 45 years ago, there was not this entire library of music dedicated to telling the Gay experience," Coogan said, touching on the fact that SMC has been a leader in developing music for LGBTQ+ TTBBs (which stands for tenor 1, tenor 2, baritone, and bass). "Music for TTBBs has always been out there, but it wasn't specifically connected to our lives."

Coogan also explained that the SWC, while noticeably younger than the SMC, has also played a major role for women in the performing arts world. SWC uses a repertoire of female-identified composers to raise visibility and create work opportunities that might otherwise not have been available.

On the topic of equality and visibility, Coogan cited these as some of the most important parts of the Seattle Choruses' mission. The organizations are an undeniable favorite for many across the Pacific Northwest, but they've also helped nurture Seattle's LGBTQ+ population.

"The thing that binds everyone together is the music that tells their unique life experience," Coogan said.

It's no mystery that music humanizes us and brings us together, and the Seattle Chorus team has harnessed that power. "Changing hearts and minds and telling the LGBTQ experience: that's what we're trying to do."

In the face of recent anti-Queer legislation and shootings in the US, this sense of community is especially important. While the PNW is a generally blue region, safety and equality are still critical issues, and Coogan takes this knowledge into his work to preserve these spaces.

"Yeah, we're in a blue bubble, but that can be pierced, you know? It can blow up," he said. "Standing there out and proud is as much a statement as anything else."

"Holiday Fa-la-la-liday" — Photo by John Pai  

The SMC is also looking forward to its "Holiday Fa-la-la-liday" concerts, which will take place December 2—23 in Seattle, Tacoma, and Everett. Coogan explained that he and the rest of the team are excited to bring people out to enjoy this time of year with fewer restrictions. As he described it, 2021 felt like a year of reopening, but this is the year of relaunch.

"Our chosen family includes our audience, so we're looking forward to being able to see everybody." he added.

Whether it's for a solo night out, a date, or an outing with family, the Seattle Choruses — a long-standing pillar of LGBTQ+ culture and creativity — continue to offer some of the best entertainment and community engagement in the Pacific Northwest.

For more information, please visit https://www.seattlechoruses.org/.