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Arts & Life

Leader of Kansas City's Heartland Men's Chorus steps down after 25 years

About 100 people in Heartland Men's Chorus are singing. They stand on raised podiums in front of rainbow colored lights. In the front, there is a woman playing piano and two men playing conga drums. An ASL interpreter stands to the side.
Heartland Men's Chorus
Heartland Men's Chorus performing for GALA, a global alliance of queer choirs.

Rick Fisher has served as the executive director of Heartland Men's Chorus since 1997 — before it was officially out as a gay chorus. Now, Fisher says he's ready to move at a slower beat.

Rick Fisher has served as the executive director of the Heartland Men’s Chorus Kansas City — a volunteer chorus of queer people — since 1997. After 25 years at the helm of the organization, he’s officially stepping down.

“You know, 25 years is a long time, and no one else in the world has managed a gay chorus for that long,” Fisher said.

The chorus concluded its season with performances of Unbreakable June 11-12. The musical tells the stories of LGBTQ+ people in the last 12 decades, detailing the evolution, losses, and triumphs of the community. That same weekend the chorus marched in the Pride parade.

The concerts were a poignant moment for Fisher. The chorus put together a video tribute to celebrate what he’s given to the group.

When Fisher started as director, the Heartland Men’s Chorus wasn’t officially out as gay. But in the early 2000s, the group went through an organizational coming out process.

“That set us on a trajectory for our work and growth. I'm very pleased now that there's great diversity in the organization and the membership,” Fisher said. “We have several trans members, a female member, young people, old people, we have a number of straight men that sing with the chorus or have sung with the chorus. It's just a tremendous community resource.”

That growth has expanded the chorus to more than 125 regular members. Fisher hopes the organization continues to grow its audience and community presence. The chorus’ voice is still needed, and he says the work for acceptance of all people isn’t done.

“I'm happy to be able to leave at a time when the organization is very strong and positioned for the future. I'm very proud of the work that we've done here in Kansas city,” said Fisher. “The chorus is entering its 37th season, and it's just been a great run for me doing something that I've been able to be passionate about and really makes a difference in the world.”

Randy Hite, a founding member of Heartland Men’s Chorus and Fisher’s spouse, is in the chorus. Fisher says the group is an important part of his family and he intends to be a regular audience member.

Most of all, he is excited to take time and figure out what’s next for him.

“After the pandemic, when we weren't as busy, I found a sort of different pace of life and I thought, you know, I'm ready to slow down. I don't want to work this much anymore. That was really the driver that it was kind of time to step aside and be able to move into a different pace of life.”

Fisher will continue in his other position as director of music at Grace United Methodist Church in Olathe, Kansas, which he says is his creative outlet.

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