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Choral concert fights breast cancer

The Tampa Bay Gay Men's Chorus joins forces with the Womyn's Chorus to raise money for the Susan G. Komen foundation.


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 28, 2001

The Tampa Bay Gay Men's Chorus joins forces with the Womyn's Chorus to raise money for the Susan G. Komen foundation.

If it isn't enough that the "Sing for the Cure, a Proclamation of Hope" choral event will raise money to fight breast cancer, then consider the misconceptions it will skewer: that any gay and lesbian fundraiser is for AIDS research, or at least just for the benefit of the gay and lesbian community. That only women get breast cancer.

The Tampa Bay Gay Men's Chorus and Crescendo: The Tampa Bay Womyn's Chorus will perform this symphonic choral and narrative program, which was commissioned and composed for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. It consists of 11 songs interspersed with readings of letters and anecdotes from breast cancer patients and survivors, and their families and friends.

"Sing for the Cure" debuted last summer in Dallas, where the Komen Foundation is based, and was performed by the Women's Chorus of Dallas and the Turtle Creek Chorale. Shortly after that, Crescendo member and GALA (Gay and Lesbian Association of) Choruses organizer Kathie Michael saw "Sing for the Cure" excerpts performed during a festival in San Jose, Calif. She was impressed and agreed to become project director when director John-Philip Mullinax of the Tampa Bay Gay Men's Chorus suggested that "Sing for the Cure" be brought to Tampa.

If it seems like these choruses are stepping outside their communities with this event, Michael says, that's intentional. "We sing and perform a lot for the gay and lesbian community," said Michael, "and this is also a way and a cause to get outside of that and not be so insular."

The event also has a reciprocal intent. "There's been tremendous support for AIDS for so long, especially from women, that it's nice that we can turn tables and support them in an issue," said Michael Holland, executive director of the men's chorus parent group, Tampa Bay Arts. "And it's nice to reach out beyond the gay community into someone else's realm, where we can be of help to them."

Still, Michael says the attention to the battle against AIDS obscures the fact that lesbian women are just as much at risk for breast cancer as heterosexual women. "I do believe that's true," Michael said. "In working with the local organizations for breast cancer, they have talked about wanting to outreach to underserved communities -- which includes the lesbian community -- that tend not to take care of their health and seek treatment."

Michael said she's not sure why higher numbers of lesbian women are reluctant to have medical exams such as mammograms. "I know that research has indicated that that's the case. It could relate to how the medical community relates to the lesbian population. I don't know how comfortable (lesbians) feel going to physicians. I think a lot of lesbians are not really conscious about their health care, or they have problems going to male physicians."

Imagine the reluctance of men to schedule a mammogram. The Komen Foundation reports that 1,300 men, fewer than one in 100,000, are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, and 31 percent of them will die. That's a higher mortality rate than for women: 25 percent of 175,000 female patients die annually.

Since scheduling a mammogram is the last thing on most men's minds, early detection is less likely, which causes the higher mortality rate. Holland, who sings in the men's chorus, knows all about this. He said a lump was detected in his chest last year, before the advent of this "Sing for the Cure" event.

"I know what women have to go through when they have to have a mammogram. I had to go through a mammogram myself recently and have to go through another one in July. So it's not just a woman's disease." Holland added that there's no diagnosis at this point. "It's a very small lump. They're not too concerned; they just want to monitor it. Kind of ironic, huh?"

Michael Canning can be reached at (813) 226-3408.


"Sing for the Cure," with Crescendo: The Tampa Bay Womyn's Chorus and Tampa Bay Gay Men's Chorus

WHEN: 8:15 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday.

WHERE: Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, 1010 N W.C. MacInnes Place, Lykes Ferguson Hall.

COST: $12, $18, $25, $35, $75.

INFORMATION: (813) 930-9055, www.tampabayarts.com/events.htm.

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