Recordings & Sound Files

By Rex Gillit
long-time Gay Men's Chorus of Houston member

HeartSong was "Houston's Women's Chorus." GMCH considered them to be our sister
Founded in 1986, they were at their strongest somewhere around 1990-1991.

Emceed by then-councilwoman Sheila Jackson Lee, GMCH's first show at the Wortham Center's
Cullen Theatre, "Out (Together!) & Proud," included HeartSong as one of its five guest choruses
from Texas in June 1993. The program listed 34 singers for HeartSong, and had this biography:

"HeartSong began in 1986 when several Houston women discovered they shared a need to sing the
songs of their heart (thus the name). After many potlucks and much practice and vision,
HeartSong made their memorable community debut in 1987 opening for Kate Clinton. In 1988, their
first solo concert was SRO. The following two years brought steady growth, more and more
appearances for local, state and national gatherings, two more successful solo concerts, and a
trip to Kansas City for their debut at the Fifth National Women's Choral Festival.

"Hailed for their spirit and sound, HeartSong members returned to Houston with even higher
aspirations. In January of 1991, they proudly performed at the inauguration of Texas Governer
Ann Richards. In November of 1991, with the support of their local fans and friends, HeartSong
hosted the Sixth National Women's Choral Festival, featuring a public concert at Jones Hall.
1992 brought performances in Dallas and at two national conventions here in Houston,
appearances at numerous community events, and a grand Holiday concert with the
Gay Men's Chorus of Houston to top it all off.

"True to its roots, HeartSong continues to evolve as an all-inclusive group of women singing
the songs of their hearts. As their audience expands, their hope is simply to continue making a
difference by raising in song a collective voice of spirit and enthusiasm for this life we all share."

Around 1993 their founding director Lynne Weynand left. Three women had assumed joint
responsibility for musical leadership of the group after her departure: Rawslyn Ruffin,
Denise Bullock, and Judi Messina (who was also the accompanist). Women's choruses in
GALA tend to be introspective and consensus driven, and HeartSong was no exception.
They had made a fatal tactical error right after the director's departure: they decided to close their
doors to new members for a year so they could "heal." They never recovered. We performed
together many times in the 1990s, but their programs more and more became repetitions of
songs they already knew. When they finally dissolved the corporation in 2000, they donated
their remaining funds to GMCH. We dedicated our December 2000 holiday concerts,
"It's a Wonderful Life," to them and the inside back cover of the program contained the dedication.

HeartSong did not self-identify as lesbian, but their membership was nearly entirely so.
They included lesbian- and AIDS-themed repertoire in their programming
("Lesbian Second Date Moving Service," by gay composer David Maddux, for example),
and from 1993 through 1996, were members of GALA, a nationwide association
of lesbian & gay Choruses.

The women's choruses omitted "the word" from their names even more frequently
than the men. They were less prone to draw sharp lines, in general, and the difference
between a women's organization, a feminist organization, and a lesbian organization
was often quite nebulous. It appeared to me at the time that they were not as consumed
by the issue as the men were.

Photos and most clippings courtesy of the Botts Collection

Also see:

Montrose Singers & Houston Gay Men's Chorus