The History of Our Name: The Council Oak Tree
Our name comes from the Creek Council Oak Tree located at 18th & Cheyenne in downtown Tulsa. In 1836 the Lochapoka Creek Indians kindled a ceremonial fire using live coals they had carried from their Alabama homeland over a “trail of tears. ” Of the 630 that began the trip, 161 died. This great Burr Oak tree became the site for Tulsa’s first town hall, first conference room, first church and first court of law. This revered tree still lives and remains a symbol of our early settlers’ strong spirit.
It is in this same spirit of determination in the midst of adversity, of hope for a more inclusive future, and of the promise of new beginnings, that the Vocal Pride Foundation is rooted in the history of the Council Oak.
The Council Oak Mens Chorale (COMC) is a fellowship of gay and gay affirming men dedicated to musical excellence in the performance of choral literature, providing a source to reach the community showing our pride, unity and support, and presenting a positive image for ourselves.
Brief History of Council Oak Men's Chorale
The chorale was formed in 1997 from a group of 12 singers that came together to provide music for a World AIDS Day memorial service. Founded by Rick Fortner, they had no official name. Their hope was to provide support to the families and friends of those affected by HIV and AIDS. From there, the idea of supporting an ongoing gay men’s chorus in Tulsa took root.
From its modest beginnings, this small group of dedicated singers has grown into an organization that is known throughout the nation for it’s vocal excellence. From a one-time memorial service, performances have grown to include a three-concert season with numerous additional performances making COMC a year-round organization.
COMC performance venues include the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, Philbrook’s Festival of Trees, and numerous local churches and community organizations.Although I could not find any videos of this group's performances, here are a few of the songs they performed this afternoon.
First, "epiphany" from Altar Boyz. I think it surprised just about everyone, including me, who had never heard it.
A very touching song was "Tell My Father," from Civil War.
Then there was "Greased Lightning" from Grease.
Finally, "Seasons of Love" from Rent.
I love listening to men's choruses for several reasons. First, they are usually accompanied by an excellent pianist. Today that was extremely talented Glen R. Jones. Second, the director is usually not afraid to help the group tackle difficult and challenging music. And the group's only woman member, Elizabeth Smith Curtis, did that beautifully this afternoon. Third, the close harmony of Tenor 1, Tenor 2, Baritone, and Bass just sounds lush - it's the only word I can think of to describe it. Finally, I fully support gay pride, same-sex marriage, and activism. As a clergy representative of the Unitarian Universalist church in Portland, Oregon, I performed more than 35 wedding ceremonies when Multnomah County authorized same-sex marriage for two months. It was a very powerful experience, and perhaps hearing groups like Council Oak Men's Chorale reminds me strongly of that time.
They will be doing a full version of tonight's short concert, "Not Your Mother's Broadway" this coming weekend in Tulsa. And I have already bought my ticket.