Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles (GMCLA), one of the country’s longest-running and largest LGBTQ arts organizations, announced recently that Ernest H. Harrison, a conductor, singer, and educator, has been appointed Music Director & Conductor. Harrison was selected after a months-long search. He will lead GMCLA in THE CALIFORNIA SOUND on April 4 and 5, 2020 at the Alex Theatre and make his Walt Disney Concert Hall debut on Saturday, July 18, 2020 when he conducts GMCLA’s Gala Concert QUEEN/OF THE NIGHT.
Harrison, who is about to receive his Doctorate in Choral Conducting from the University of Southern California, has already gained a place among Southern California’s elite group of choral conductors and educators. He is Associate Conductor of the National Children’s Chorus Concerto Ensemble, Conductor for the Pasadena Conservatory of Music’s Cantare Chamber Choir, and Assistant Conductor at Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church. Ernest also currently teaches private voice for the choral department at USC and has taught undergraduate choral conducting there as well.
“I am delighted that Ernest Harrison is joining GMCLA as Music Director & Conductor,” said Lou Spisto, GMCLA Executive Director. “He’s an inspiring musician, conductor, and educator with a passion for reaching people through music who will help lead this great chorus of over 250 men and help us engage even more with this remarkable community.” Harrison commented “I am so excited to join this beloved organization and inspiring group of men who have given so much to so many for more than 40 years. From my earliest musical experiences, I have always believed that what we do as musicians saves lives, and the work that GMCLA does — on and off the stage — exemplifies that belief.”
Spisto concluded “Ernest’s appointment is the capstone to a remarkable 40th anniversary year for GMCLA. In the past few months we performed at the Hollywood Bowl, Walt Disney Concert Hall, and Carnegie Hall, and marched and sang in the Los Angeles and World Pride Celebrations. In August, we ended the fiscal year with a $385,000 surplus and we have reduced the debt by over 50 percent. We are deeply grateful to our singing members, donors, subscribers, and all the institutions that have supported us this past year. As we begin Season 41 with Ernest aboard we are ready to begin the next exciting chapter for GMCLA.”
Ernest H. Harrison, a proud native of historical Tuskegee, AL, began his music career singing gospel in church and listening to the spirituals of William Dawson, as sung by the famous Tuskegee Golden Voices. Singing and directing choirs from the age of 13 ignited his passion for organizational music making and the relationships and community it creates.
Harrison is currently a Doctor of Musical Arts candidate in Choral music at the University of Southern California. He received his master’s degree in Choral Conducting from the University of Missouri and holds two bachelor’s degrees: the first at Tuskegee University, where he studied voice with Dr. Wayne Barr, Head of Choral Activities; and a second B.A. in Music Vocal Performance from Auburn University, where he studied with world-renowned composer Dr. Rosephanye Powell.
Harrison has worked with the Tuskegee University Gospel Ensemble, the jazz vocal a cappella ensemble Hitt Street Harmony at the University of Missouri, and the Apollo Men’s Chorus at USC. In 2019, Harrison became a member of the international choral ensemble Conspirare, directed by Grammy-winning conductor and composer Craig Hella Johnson. Harrison is also an accomplished arranger and composer. His love for arranging began at Auburn University, where he arranged over 30 pop songs for the TTBB a cappella ensemble AU Cappella. Additionally, he has composed or arranged for many ensembles throughout the country in genres spanning gospel, pop, jazz, spirituals, and traditional choral music. As a composer, Harrison has had the privilege to study under Dr. Stephan Freund at the University of Missouri, and privately with Dr. Nick Strimple and National Medal of the Arts recipient Dr. Morten Lauridsen, both famed professors at USC.
Harrison is most passionate about the educational and outreach aspects of music making. He was Coordinator of the Mentorship program at USC for two years, where he taught the choral undergraduate students conducting techniques, rehearsal planning, and choral pedagogical techniques. He has helped to establish the annual High Desert High School Choral Festival in Palmdale, CA which reaches hundreds of students annually. He is also an up-and-coming choral clinician who has worked across the country with many middle school, high school, and university level ensembles.
GMCLA’s next concert is the HOLIDAY SPECTACULAR Saturday, December 21 at 2PM and 8PM and Sunday, December 22 at 2PM at the Alex Theatre in Glendale. Tickets are available at AlexTheatre.org. Conductor Jenny Wong leads GMCLA in choral classics and timeless holiday music, a medley of hits from the beloved film, Love Actually and Broadway bonanzas. This concert has become a Los Angeles holiday tradition for the entire family.
GMCLA, now in its 41st season, is under the leadership of Executive Director Lou Spisto who began his tenure in February 2019. GMCLA has garnered international acclaim for artistic excellence while remaining deeply rooted in service to the Los Angeles community and beyond by promoting civil rights, tolerance, and acceptance through music. Founded in 1979 during the emergence of the gay civil rights movement, critics have proclaimed the chorus “INSPIRED…EXPRESSIVE, INNOVATIVE, and UTTERLY MOVING,” and hailed GMCLA for presenting meaningful entertainment.