SEATTLE WA; February 11, 2015 – In late July of 2016, after more than three decades of dedicated and tireless service to the Seattle area LGBTQ and arts communities, Dennis Coleman, artistic director of the Seattle Men’s Chorus (SMC) and Seattle Women’s Chorus (SWC) will retire. He will lead the final two SMC concerts this season (March & June), as well as all five concerts in the 2015-2016 season. Dennis’ final Seattle-area concert will be the SMC Summer concert held in conjunction with Pride Week in June of 2016 (concert title and location TBA). Immediately following that performance Dennis will travel to Denver with the Choruses to conduct at the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses (GALA Choruses) Festival –an international association he helped found in 1983 that is dedicated to advancing LGBTQ choral organizations and changing our world through song. It is at this Festival where Dennis will take his final bow in front of his Choruses and the nearly 200 gay and lesbian choruses that have been formed since the late 1970s. During the 2015-2016 season Flying House Productions will conduct a comprehensive national search for new artistic leadership to shepherd the choruses into a new era.
A large portion of the 700+ members of SMC and SWC first learned of his planned retirement at a packed Chorus Chat meeting at the Seattle First Baptist Church on Tuesday evening February 10th. It was at that chat where Dennis spoke briefly of his plans after retirement, “I am never happier than when I’m conducting the choruses. This organization has given my life meaning, joy and fulfillment. But I feel it is time to move on and savor the days when I can wake up with nothing on my ‘to do’ list. I want some free time to explore other interests, travel, entertain friends, and age gracefully.” Later that evening, chorus members reflected.
“I have been privileged to sing under Dennis Coleman’s leadership for almost 20 years,” said Washington State Senator for the 43rd District and SMC Chorus Member Jamie Pedersen. He continued, “With his clear sense of purpose, outstanding musical talent, and love for the members, he has built the choruses into a community treasure. I will always be grateful for Dennis’ engagement in the campaign to achieve marriage equality. He helped take our message to communities across the state. He should feel very proud of his legacy of building a world that values and accepts its gay and lesbian citizens.”
Jane Abbott Lighty and Pete-e Petersen are founding members of SWC and longtime SMC volunteers. Together they wrote, “Dennis’ planned retirement brings tears to our eyes. We have known this wonderful man since 1995 and had the esteemed privilege of singing under his direction of SWC for the last twelve years. Dennis has always been there for us with his outstanding musicianship, creativity, leadership, spirituality, love and humor. We consider him a musical genius and always recognize that he is admired, and respected worldwide as an expert and consummate professional. We wish him a happy and healthy retirement, but also prepare for the huge gap we will now have in our lives.”
Board president and chorus member since 2009 Bob Davidson echoed, “Like many, I discovered the Seattle Men’s Chorus as a patron over 15 years ago. I was amazed at the artistry Dennis produced with a community chorus. When I joined SMC Dennis and the Chorus became a huge part of my personal life. It will be hard to imagine a rehearsal without him, but I understand his decision to retire and am happy for him. I will cherish these upcoming concerts and know that his leadership over the past 33 years has laid a solid foundation for whoever will follow. I know our Choruses will thrive as we continue to spread our vision of a world accepting of all its citizens.”
SMC Chorus Member since 2006 Danny Cords commented, “Every incredible thing you have heard about Dennis is true. He is the kind of man that can take 300 singers from different backgrounds and skill levels and make a single, beautiful, sound. Dennis’ talent is only exceeded by his kind heart and he strives to make our state and this world a better place. It is extremely difficult to imagine the chorus without him and he will be missed.”
In July 2016 Dennis will have served 35 years with the Seattle Men’s Chorus; longer than any other artistic director from any Seattle-area arts organization of its size, or larger. Dennis joined the fledgling Chorus in 1981 and has been an integral part of its growth and success. In 2002 he helped form the Seattle Women’s Chorus; one of the largest and most successful women’s choruses of its kind in the nation. As the artistic director for both choruses he has worked with a long list of celebrities that include: Maya Angelou, Frederica von Stade, Judith Martin (Miss Manners), Bobby McFerrin, Harvey Fierstein, Michael Feinstein, Marni Nixon, Diane Schuur, Armistead Maupin, Lucy Lawless, Kathy Najimy, Megan Mullally, Megan Hilty, Faith Prince, Kristin Chenowith, Ana Gastayer, Lily Tomlin and many others.
Dennis has led countless Chorus tours across Washington State and a landmark Rocky Mountain Tour to the “Red States” in 2010. He has travelled the globe and conducted SMC in Germany (2014) and Australia (2003). He has commissioned a great many pieces on behalf of SMC and SWC including For a Look or a Touch (2011), We Can Do It (written by Associate Artistic Director, Eric Lane Barnes, in 2014), and Tyler’s Suite (co-commissioned with San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus and other LGBTQ choruses, to be performed in March 2015).
Dennis has received many local awards and honors including: the GSBA Voice for Social Justice Award (2012), Grand Marshall of the Seattle Pride Parade (2007) and the Mayor’s Arts Award (2010).
About Dennis Coleman
Dennis has led SWC and SWC to a position of artistic and administrative excellence with a combined singing membership that exceeds that of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Dennis is active as a clinician and guest conductor throughout the U.S. and Canada. He served for six years on the national Board of Directors for Chorus America and was on the founding Board of Directors of GALA Choruses. As a UCC church musician, Dennis has conducted the choir of First Congregational Church of Bellevue since 1981. Dennis Coleman has commissioned and premiered choral works from many leading composers including Gian Carlo Menotti, Ned Rorem, Robert Moran, Conrad Susa, David Diamond, Robert Seeley, British composer Paul Patterson and Canadian Stephen Hatfield. Of Rage and Remembrance, a 15-minute work for male chorus, mezzo soprano, speakers and orchestra by composer John Corigliano, was premiered by SWC in Seattle in 1991. A recording of this work and the companion Symphony 1, also called Of Rage and Remembrance, by the National Symphony under Leonard Slatkin was awarded the 1998 Grammy for Best Classical Album.
About Flying House Productions
Flying House Productions (FHP) is home to two of the largest community choruses in America: Seattle Men’s Chorus, founded in 1979, which is also the largest gay men’s chorus in the world with over 400 singing members; and Seattle Women’s Chorus, which made its premiere on stage in 2002 and has quickly grown to over 300 singers. Each Chorus currently has a small ensemble of 9 to 11 members each (Captain Smartypants and Sensible Shoes), which further the mission of the organization by performing throughout the Pacific Northwest. In addition to the 700+ singing members, Flying House Productions has a base of over 50 volunteers and associate members who support both Choruses. A leading voice for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, FHP offers 30 outreach events and 19 main stage concert performances annually. Concerts, often including nationally-known guest artists along with our region’s professional talents, receive critical acclaim for their combination of high musical quality, wit, and celebration of people of all sexual orientations and identities. Over 30,000 people attend Flying House Production performances each year at Benaroya Hall, McCaw Hall, Cornish Playhouse at the Seattle Center, and Saint Mark’s Cathedral, with thousands more seeing each Chorus in other local performances throughout Washington every year. FHP cannot be considered as simply a local arts organization. In addition to the high level of performances it produces, FHP is also a “voice for acceptance” in the community and across the nation.
About the Seattle Men’s Chorus/Seattle Women’s Chorus
Founded in 1979, the internationally renowned Seattle Men’s Chorus, along with Seattle Women’s Chorus (founded in 2002), are the largest community choruses in America; and the largest gay choruses in the world. Flying House Productions, home of Seattle Men’s Chorus and Seattle Women’s Chorus, ranks third among the state’s music organizations with over 400 members of SMC and over 300 members of SWC.
Our Mission is to entertain, enlighten, unify and heal our audience and members, using the power of words and music to recognize the value of gay and straight people and their relationships.
Our Vision: A world that accepts and values its gay and lesbian citizens.