Enlighten. Inspire. Heal. Empower.
That is the mission of the Heartland Men’s Chorus to accomplish through its voice every time it takes the stage. A daunting task, it’s still what the group reaches to accomplish every time.
Through the reaction of the crowd, whether it be after a song, the end of the concert, or in letters sent from people who have heard them for the first time, the one thing the chorus knows for sure is the voices are appreciated and admired.
“It’s a life-changing opportunity,” chorus development director Cliff Schiappa said of being a member.
Heartland, based in Kansas City, Mo., will share its talent in Hays on Saturday with a free performance at 7 p.m. at First United Methodist Church. The stop in Hays is part of a two-day road trip for the men’s gay chorus into the heart of Kansas as it performs at Trinity United Methodist Church in Salina on Sunday.
“(The chorus) has become an oasis for the community,” Schiappa said. “It is an important part of the K.C. arts.
“It’s about teamwork and knowing and learning how to work with someone.”
Started in 1986, the Heartland Chorus has grown from its initial 30 members to more than 130. The choral group will bring 65 singers this weekend.
Described by Schiappa as an eclectic mix of music the group performs, he says what type of genre they perform can change from one concert to the next. One performance might be classical or religious, then the next night pop, then it will be showtunes.
They are followed by a loyal fan base around the Kansas City area, and when the chorus takes its act on the road as an outreach performance, it’s not hard for them to leave with a large amount of admiration.
“Reactions are much the same wherever we go,” executive director Rick Fisher said. “It is more of a concert (performance) when we are on the road, and it’s more of a production when we are in Kansas City.
“It is a bonding trip when we’re on tour. (Group members) really feel good about the response they receive from the audience.”
The audience in Hays will be a part of a first for the Heartland Men’s Chorus, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The group will perform a new commissioned piece by composer Mark Hayes called “I Rise.” The song is based on four poems by Maya Angelou. It was delivered to the chorus three weeks ago.
“We hope to see a lot of people who have never heard of us,” Schiappa said. “People struggle with different things, and we want to be able to reach out to them through our voices, and we have been able to do that.”
Heartland’s artistic director Dustin Cates has a connection to the region as his mother, Brenda Slater, lives in Hays.