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Black Tulip Chorale celebrates 5 years of lifting LGBTQ voices

Dressed in black, members of the Black Tulip Chorale sing for an audience seated in a church.
Courtesy of Black Tulip Chorale
Black Tulip Chorale performs at the Historic Trinity Lutheran Church in Soulard in 2022.

In 2018, 26 singers took the stage in the debut performance of St. Louis’ Black Tulip Chorale. Five years later, the group has grown to more than 40 members — a collection of voices that reflects a different vision than the traditional model for chorus groups, in which women take the high parts and men the low.

Dr. Ken Haller, a founding member of the group, credits conductor Robert Stumpf for turning a dream of a truly inclusive chorus into reality.

“His idea was to start a full vocal organization: soprano, alto, tenor bass … but to add a little twist to it,” explained Haller. “There are a lot of people who don't fit in that dichotomy between male and female — people who are transgender, who are gender fluid. Sometimes even cisgender people have voices that do not fit into a male or a female stereotypical range.”

There are other inclusive choruses in St. Louis, but none was open enough to include gender expressions, and voices, that didn’t fit the genre’s traditional model.

Black Tulip became that group. It’s built, Haller said, “for the entire LGBTQ community — and your vocal positioning in the chorus, your voice, is what puts you there, not your gender.”

For Grayson Rosen, joining Black Tulip was a way of reconnecting with music and singing after going through a gender transition. Growing up, he had always sung in the high register of a soprano.

“When I came out as trans, my voice started changing pretty rapidly,” he continued. “The drop was dramatic and exciting. But also a little distressing with thinking about how much I have loved singing, and not really knowing how to use my voice anymore. And a friend of mine who knew how much I liked singing mentioned Back Tulip Chorale.”

Grayson decided to audition at the beginning of their season.

“The conductor just had me sing some scales to figure out where my range was. He placed me in the bass section,” he said. “It was really, really meaningful to be able to find a group that made space for me, that affirmed my gender identity, and really helped me find my voice again.”

Black Tulip will mark its fifth anniversary with a Sunday performance at First Presbyterian Church of Kirkwood.

Related Event
What: Shining through: Black Tulip Chorale's fifth anniversary concert
When: 5 p.m. May 21
Where: First Presbyterian Church of Kirkwood (100 E. Adams Ave. #4019 Kirkwood, MO 63122)

To hear more from Dr. Ken Haller, and to hear an excerpt from the group’s performance of “O my Luve is like a red, red rose,” listen to the full St. Louis on the Air conversation on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, or by clicking the play button below.

Black Tulip Chorale celebrates 5 years of lifting LGBTQ voices

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski, Elaine Cha and Alex Heuer. Ulaa Kuziez is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr. Send questions and comments about this story to talk@stlpr.org.

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Danny Wicentowski is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air."