Feb 15, 2018 | Post by: Dan Gardiner Comments Off on Reflections on WCPA – Beth Bellinger

Reflections on WCPA – Beth Bellinger

Beth Bellinger

What first drew you to WCPA? How did you get involved?
I sought out WCPA when I first moved to Chicago in 2000. I called their number and left a message about auditioning, but never heard back. A couple years later, I found out that my neighbor sang in the choir. She helped me set up an audition to join. I was interested in joining an LGBT organization to connect with the community and be part of a queer space. In my other life as an elementary music teacher, I was and am surrounded by children and mostly straight women. I adore them, but cherish and need an LGBT space to honor my identity. Plus, I’ve always sung in a choir and feel incomplete when I don’t have an outlet for performing and making music with others.

What role has WCPA played in your life? Has this role changed at all as you’ve been with us?
My life is forever changed from being part of this WCPA. I met my partner and my closest friends through singing in the choir. I took off a year when I had my twins, but I knew that it was the one thing that I would come back to as soon as I was sleeping through the night again. It brings me such joy to be part of WCPA. I am proud of who we are and how much we have grown, especially the Treble Quire. I believe that our singing makes a difference and that we really do have the power to change hearts.

Do you have any cute/funny or touching/meaningful anecdotes you’d like to share?
There are two memorable incidents from my 15 years of being in WCPA. The first one was at a holiday concert in 2005. I was feeling sick, but didn’t want to miss the show since I had a big solo. I told myself that I just needed to get through that one song. Well, I made it through my solo and during the next song I started to get dizzy. I know that you are supposed to sit down if you feel faint in a performance, but somehow I thought that I could make it offstage. I started walking toward the conductor and fainted center stage in the middle of a song. There was a lot of commotion. Someone called 911. Our sign language interpreter, Michael Roberts, helped me walk off as I came to. I proceeded to faint again and he swooped me up and carried me offstage.

The audience gave a moment of silence for me and then the show continued. The choir started singing a song called “Joy,” but apparently many of the the signers were crying during this song, worried about me.

I had just started dating my partner, Boyd, when this occurred. Boyd was singing in the choir and came offstage to help me while the ambulance arrived. He went with me to the hospital and took care of me as I threw up for the next 24 hours (I think I had food poisoning). As he was driving me back to the venue to get my car, I looked at him with a goofy smile. He asked me why I was looking at him this way. I told him that I knew he loved me and that I loved him too. He had never told me he loved me (we had only been dating for three weeks), but it was something I felt sure about after all the throwing up. We have been married for 7 years now.

The second most memorable experience was the Pride Prep of 2016. Our conductor, Paul Caldwell, had a horrible accident and was unable to lead the prep. The Board had the most wonderful idea to have the singers with conducting experience share the load of preparing for the concert. Michael Kennedy, the assistant conductor of WCGC, and I coordinated the conductors, the rehearsals, and the other work that our artistic conductor does outside of rehearsal. I had no idea how much extra stuff there was to do outside of leading rehearsals! We were also preparing for our GALA performance in July.

It was the hardest prep I’ve ever experienced, but also the most beautiful. It was amazing to see WCPA come together and share the load. I will never forget leading the choir during the performance and feeling like everyone was right there with me, following every gesture, every emotion. I had never experienced that kind of music making as a conductor before and it was magical.

What do you most hope to see in the future for WCPA and/or its members?
WCPA has come so far since I first joined. I am grateful for all the work of the artistic conductors and Board members who have caused the the Treble Quire to grow to what it is today. I would love to have our membership grow enough to bring back Unison, our SATB choir. I feel a kinship to the tenors and basses that used to sing in Unison with me back in the day and miss performing regularly with tenors and basses. I would also love to see our choir become more racially diverse. Finally, it would be exciting if we were able to perform in auditoriums again. It would raise the concert experience for audience members to get to sit in cushioned, auditorium seats.