Music Preview: Nashville in Harmony celebrates 10 sensational years of music and community

nihMost music groups exist for the sole purpose of promoting their own musical styles – jazz, rock, country, classical, whatever. For Nashville in Harmony, music is almost an incidental byproduct.

“Our mission is foremost to build community,” says Don Schlosser, Nashville in Harmony’s music director. “Music is simply the means we use to create social change.”

Nashville in Harmony – Music City’s premier gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered chorus – will pursue its serious mission in a lighthearted way this Thursday night, when it presents its holiday show “Sugar Plums” at Ryman Auditorium. The performance is part of a series of concerts the group is presenting this season to mark its 10th anniversary.

“For our Ryman concert, we’re going to perform our favorite holiday songs from the past 10 years,” says Schlosser.

Those tunes will include a jazzy arrangement of “Deck the Halls” along with Vince Guaraldi’s “Christmastime is Here” (from A Charlie Brown Christmas) and Irving Berlin’s “Snow” (from White Christmas). To show off its vocal finesse, the group will also perform an a cappella arrangement of Leroy Anderson’s “Bugler’s Holiday.” Guest artists for the evening will include J. Karen Thomas from the hit ABC show Nashville, cellist Julie Adams and guitarist Richard Smith.

For an organization that sees music as a secondary consideration, Nashville in Harmony has become a remarkably successful music group. It began 10 years ago with just 19 members. “We had barely enough singers to fill all the parts,” says Schlosser. It now boasts 140 singers. “Success breeds success,” Schlosser says. “People would come to our performances and decide they wanted to join up. We’ve been adding anywhere from 20 to 30 new singers a year.”

Nashville in Harmony’s success has been attracting a lot of attention. The group recently received the Nashville GLBT Chamber of Commerce’s “Leadership in the Arts” award. In October, the Nashville Scene’s readers named Nashville in Harmony as the city’s best performing arts group for 2013. “We were blown away by that one,” says Schlosser.

Nashville in Harmony’s 10th-anniversary celebrations won’t end with “Sugar Plums.” In March, the group will join forces with a diverse selection of Nashville choruses at the Ryman. Greg Gilpin, who composed Nashville in Harmony’s signature song “Why We Sing,” will guest conduct.

The grand finale will come in June at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, where the group will hold an elegant dinner concert that will feature the premiere of a newly commissioned work by Jason Shelton. “The concert will celebrate our past and offer a glimpse of our future,” says Schlosser.

Here’s a clip of the group in action:

IF YOU GO

Nashville in Harmony presents its holiday concert “Sugar Plums” at Ryman Auditorium, 116 5th Ave. North. The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5. Tickets are $20 to $40 and are available here.

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About John Pitcher

John Pitcher is the chief classical music, jazz and dance critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He has been a classical music critic for the Washington Post, the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, National Public Radio’s Performance Today (NPR), ArtNowNashville.com and the Nashville Scene. His writings about music and the arts have also appeared in Symphony Magazine, American Record Guide and Stagebill Magazine, among other publications. Pitcher earned his master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he studied arts writing with Judith Crist and Phyllis Garland. His work has received the New York State Associated Press award for outstanding classical music criticism.