Tag Archives: Memorial Park

YYCGayHistory @CalgaryPride 2022

A big thank you to all of the Calgary Gay History Project readers who filled out our survey for queer history offerings at Calgary Pride this year (August 26 – September 5). Here is where you will find us:

Saturday, August 27, 2 PM

Join Shelf Life Books and Kevin Allen for a talk about his book Our Past Matters: Stories of Gay Calgary. The talk will be followed by an open mic, where audience members can share their stories of Gay Calgary or read poems or prose pieces (with a 6-8 minute time slot limit). If you identify as a part of the 2SLGBTQ+ community and would like to participate, then please let us know at events@shelflifebooks.ca! You can also sign up before the event, space permitted. Registration for audience attendance is recommended and appreciated! Free event.

Saturday, August 27, 4 PM

The Calgary Gay History Project’s Kevin Allen will lead a gay history walk through the Beltline. Learn about the City’s fascinating LGBTQ2 past. The walk begins at 4:00 PM in Central Memorial Park (meet at the Boer War Memorial in the centre of the park) and ends at 5:30 PM at Lois Szabo Commons, a new city park celebrating LGBTQ2 history. Spaces are limited; please register in advance through Calgary Pride. Free event.

Friday, September 2, 7 PM

Our friends at The Calgary Institute for the Humanities presents the 4th Annual LGTBQ2S+ Lecture, featuring Dr. Jules Gill-Peterson. Titled: Trans Panic: A Global History, Dr. Gill-Peterson explores the history of violence against trans women. Where did it come from? And when did it arise? Letting go of a purely psychological lens, history shows that targeting trans femininity has been integral to colonial statecraft around the world for the past 150 years. On Zoom or in person at the Central Library. Reserve your spot: here. Free event.

Sunday, September 4, Noon

Our History Booth at the Calgary Pride Festival—Immediately following the Pride Parade on September 4, join us at Pride’s new festival venue – Fort Calgary. At our table there will be history artifacts, books, and ephemera as well as Project volunteers to answer questions and have conversations about Calgary’s Queer History. Sponsored by Calgary Pride. Free event. Stop by and say, “hi!” Happy Pride!

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Rocky Mountain Singers—Week 2

The Calgary Gay History Project recently presented the history of Calgary’s first LGBTQ2 chorus, the Rocky Mountain Singers (RMS). This is the second blog post exploring the history we uncovered as part of this commissioned research project (thanks to One Voice Chorus).

1990 proved to be a pivotal year for Calgary’s LGBT community. AIDS was in the ascendant, and the community was beginning to find its political voice—confronting the casual homophobia that was pervasive in the city. RMS had been practicing for less than a year but had scheduled their first big concert on June 22nd as part of Calgary’s growing Pride Week festivities.

RMS at the Pride Rally. Source: CBC Calgary

A few days before the concert, RMS participated in a Pride Rally in Central Memorial Park. The Calgary Lesbian and Gay Political Action Guild (CLAGPAG) organized the rally to agitate for LGBT human rights. In fact, this rally on Monday, June 18th, 1990, is considered Calgary Pride’s origin event. CLAGPAG handed out free lone ranger masks at the Old Y, and directed participants to gather at the Boer War Memorial for speeches and songs.

For some, the masks were a media stunt, but others worried about having their LGBT identity revealed. This concern was a reality RMS had to negotiate in the choir’s early years. Members had differing levels of comfort in being out, which affected their ability to perform in public or even have their name listed in the program.

The First RMS Concert Poster: made on a dot matrix printer by chorister Patrick O’Brien!

However, the concert went bravely ahead. Luke Shwart remembers: “Pride 1990 felt like our very first concert. It was set up cabaret-style and sold out. It went very well, but backstage the level of anticipation was through the roof! People were terrified about walking out there and performing—there was a great sense of exhilaration, accomplishment and relief afterward.”

The concert was a hit. Karen Whyte in Modern Pink Magazine wrote, “a special highlight of [Pride] week was the outstanding performance by Rocky Mountain Singers. Over 200 people attended the concert, and everyone loved it!”

Later that summer, 15 RMS choristers flew to Vancouver for the Gay Games. They participated in the Festival Chorus: a choir for anyone who wanted to sing and was coming to the Games. The Gay Choral movement had been spreading across North America, and hundreds came to sing.

The Festival Chorus was directed by choral conductor Carol White from Denver, Colorado. The Calgarians in attendance found the experience electrifying—the sheer volume of that many voices was profound.

Patrick O’Brien remembers: “We had to learn about 14 songs. One of the songs was called Living With AIDS. It had a hymn-like quality. Carol directed it professionally—cutting it into bits for us to practice. At one point, she paused and said, ‘If there is anybody who is comfortable standing up who is currently living with AIDS—can we as a group collectively acknowledge your strength?’ RMS member Karl Siegfried stood up, and then and men started standing up everywhere in their sections. It was an amazing, powerful moment. I think the women from our chorus looked around and thought: what do you know….”

Part of the Vancouver Festival Chorus in Rehearsal
Carol White conducting the Festival Chorus at the Gay Games Closing Ceremonies. Source: communitystories.ca

The Festival Chorus rehearsed every morning for a week. They performed at the Gay Games opening ceremonies on August 4th, marched in the Pride Parade on August 6th, gave an evening concert on August 10th and delivered a final performance at the closing ceremonies on August 11th.

The Gay Games ended with Carnaval! A fantasy parade. Fantastical creatures and people in extravagant costumes led the audience, choristers and athletes, out of the stadium and towards the Plaza of Nations for one last party together. The exhilarated Rocky Mountain Singers had found joy in a larger community and new energy and purpose for their fledgling Calgary chorus.

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#YYCGayHistory @CalgaryPride 2019

Calgary Pride launches tomorrow, and the Calgary Gay History Project has a full slate of activities during the next ten days. Here are the offerings:

Friday, August 23rd: The Our Past Matters: Stories of Gay Calgary e-book release!

Sunday, August 25th: as part of Memorial Park Pride

1:30-2:30 PM – Calgary Gay History Lecture at the Memorial Park Library

3:00 PM – Calgary Queer Arts Society’s Outliers Screening

5:00-6:30 PM – Beltline Gay History Walk

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Beltline Gay History Walk during Pride 2017. Gary Evans, photo.

Monday, August 26th: Bill C-150, the bill “decriminalizing” homosexuality came into force on this day, 50 years ago. Keep your eyes peeled for a particular essay to commemorate this important date.

Wednesday, August 28th:

7:00-10:00 PM RISE: a social commentary with two legendary voices of the LGBTQ+ movement: Cleve Jones and Ruth Coker Burks, Kevin Allen, MC.

Saturday, August 31st:

12:00-4:00 PM  – Join author Kevin Allen for a book signing of Our Past Matters Stories of Gay Calgary at Chapters-Indigo Dalhousie or just stop by to say, “hi.”

Sunday, September 1st:

11:00 AM – 6:00 PM – Pride in the Park. After the parade, stop by the Calgary Gay History Project’s History Booth. Share your own stories and learn more about Calgary’s LGBTQ2 Past.

Phew. It’s going to be a busy Pride!

On a final and sadder note, the Calgary Gay History Project would like to acknowledge the sudden and unexpected passing of Lisa Fahey last month. The 47-year old Calgarian was an indefatigable ally to our community and a driving force behind the Pride Employee Network for Imperial. She was a massive fan of the Calgary Gay History Project: one of our biggest cheerleaders in fact. Lisa regularly marched in the Calgary Pride Parade with her rainbow-festooned wiener dog, Pebbles – who proved to be a media darling, year after year. Lisa’s big heart, enthusiasm, and deep regard for social justice will be sorely missed.

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Greg Cashin and Lisa Fahey of Imperial’s Pride Employee Network with Calgary Gay History Project’s Kevin Allen (centre) in November 2016.

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