Detroit chorus offers a pop mix of social consciousness

Steven Sonoras
Special to The Detroit News

When the Sing Out Detroit singers take the stage this weekend, their goal, the members say, is to present a repertoire of songs that inspire, educate and, most of all, entertain.

The “Lights, Camera, Action!” performance at Lamphere High School in Madison Heights will also be a celebration of the growth of the LGBT and allies chorus that began in 2008 as an outlet for four friends who met weekly in a living room.

That’s a far cry from the more than 40 members who’ll perform this weekend as part of the annual Motor City Pride celebration.

“Our common goal is that we all love to sing, and we want to touch people’s lives with our music and hopefully make a positive change,” says Laura Varga, president of the group that became a nonprofit in 2009.

“When people see that and are inspired by our music, they feel like they’ve been given a glimpse of what you can do if you just really put your passion and your heart and soul into something."

While each performance carries a strong LGBT message, Varga says the group doesn’t proselytize.

“We just want to show people what can be, but we don’t force-feed it. We don’t preach,” she says.

“Lights, Camera, Action!” will be a fun mix of pop tunes with social consciousness, says Jeremy St. Martin, the group’s musical director. For instance, the group will perform “Make Them Hear You” from the musical “Ragtime,” set to images from the fight for marriage equality.

“It’s such a beautiful song about having your voice be heard, and going through struggle and opposition, and coming out in the end having fought that battle and having won, or at least made an impression,” St. Martin says.

Other numbers in the production include “All That Jazz,” “Rainbow Connection,” and “Somewhere Out There” from the movie “An American Tail.”

Chorus member Abbie Goerg, who joined the group in June 2013 after visiting Sing Out Detroit’s booth at Motor City Pride, says she immediately felt at home in the group that was formed in 2008 by the four friends — Linda Brincat, RiverLee Farrell, Kim Whitney and Shelli Schimke. The group was up to 21 members in its second year.

“I was very nervous going into it because they had been established for a few years,” Goerg says. “But the moment I walked in the door, it was warm and welcoming. It felt more like coming into a family than a ‘take a seat, do your job’ type of thing. That’s why I kept coming back.”

Sing Out Detroit is a volunteer organization open to all regardless of skill or experience levels.

Goerg, who will be featured this weekend in a duet with Mark Gonzales, in a ukulele version of “Over the Rainbow,” said one of her favorite numbers in the show will be a rendition of “Proud” from “The Biggest Loser.”

“For an LGBTQ and Allies group, it’s very fun and powerful to sing,” she says. “It pushes you out of your comfort zone

Steven Sonoras is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.

Sing Out Detroit presents: Lights, Camera, Action!

7:30 p.m. Sat.

Lamphere High School

610 W. 13 Mile, Madison Heights

Tickets: $15 in advance, $20 at the door

(248) 943-2411