Come Together: An Ethnography of the Seattle Men's Chorus Family
Moy, Wendy Kathryn
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This ethnography of the Seattle Men's chorus adds to the growing body of literature examining the culture of community choruses. The purpose of this ethnography was to examine the culture of a highly successful community men's chorus with particular attention to the musical and social interactions of its members in rehearsal and in post-rehearsal gatherings. The shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices of the Seattle Men's Chorus, the largest community chorus in North America and the largest gay men's chorus in the world were explored. This research utilized ethnographic techniques in gathering information that encompasses participation in this chorus, including an account of aims, processes, rehearsal outcomes, concerts, and events. Weekly and production-week rehearsals, retreats, concerts, outreach events, post-rehearsal gatherings, general meetings, and other community events were carefully documented over a two-and-a-half year period. The data were coded, categorized, and analyzed for themes and relationships. The Seattle Men's Chorus exhibited a complex network of relationships that may serve as a model for community choruses. The overarching theme that emerged was the community chorus as a "chosen family" that provides friendship, support, and a sense of self-worth to its members. More importantly, evidence revealed the presence of "social capital," a theory sociologists use to explore the maximizing of relationships on three different levels: bonding, bridging, and linking. The presence of all three types of social capital in the Seattle Men's Chorus is the crux of this study's examination into why it is so successful. The interplay of social capital and a shared musical experience led to the transformation of hearts and minds among the members of the chorus, the artistic director, and the audience. With the hope of serving as a model for artistic directors and the greater choral community, the indicators of social capital in the chorus are discussed and a model of the relationships among the chorus, artistic director, and the community are presented with implications for practice.
- Music