For the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, a Wednesday announcement represents a hopeful new chapter after a year of drama: Ernest H. Harrison has been appointed the new music director and conductor of GMCLA, one of L.A. County’s longest-running LGBTQ arts organizations.
Harrison, who is a doctoral candidate in choral conducting at USC, was selected in a nationwide search, GMCLA Executive Director Lou Spisto said. Harrison is an associate conductor for the National Children’s Chorus, conductor for the Pasadena Conservatory of Music’s Cantare Chamber Choir and assistant conductor at Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church.
He will be the first permanent music director and conductor since Joe Nadeau left as the chorus’ music director in December. Gavin Thrasher, who served as interim music director, departed in August to lead the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus.
The appointment comes at the end of a difficult year for GMCLA. In February, news of a budget shortfall and accusations of sexual harassment against then-board Chairman and West Hollywood Mayor John Duran led to discussions about the possible dissolution of the 40-year-old organization. The chorus carried on, but only after a shakeup in non-musical management and efforts by its volunteer membership of nearly 250 men.
“Ernest possesses a rare combination of talent and humanity that makes him so wonderfully suited to GMCLA’s music and values,” Spisto said by email. “His ability to inspire our singing members, and this entire community, is tremendously exciting for all of us.
“We had some exceptional candidates but Ernest won our hearts. He has the musicianship, heart, and leadership skills to bring us to the next level as a musical and community focused organization.”
Harrison will begin working with the chorus in December. His first main-season concert will be “The California Sound” at the Alex Theatre in Glendale in April.