Des Moines Gay Men’s Chorus brings Christmas classics to First Christian


Ian Steenhoek / Iowa State Daily

The Des Moines Gay Men’s Chorus filled the East Village with music. In this song, they are singing with a few drag queens.

Talon Delaney

Whether it’s a Christmas special, a food pantry benefit or a governor’s inauguration, it seems there’s nowhere the Des Moines Gay Men’s Chorus hasn’t performed.

On Dec. 15 and 16 the forty-man troupe sang Christmas classics such as “Santa Baby” as well as their own special rendition of “I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus” at Des Moines First Christian Church.

“The churches have been so accepting,” said Doyle Monsma, second-tenor and original member of the Des Moines Gay Men’s Chorus (DMGMC). “I’ve been with the chorus since it’s onset [in 2001], and we’ve gotten lots of positive reception in the community.”

He detailed the early days of the chorus, which emerged nearly 10 years after the diffusion of the Des Moines Men’s Chorus in 1992.

“It started with just a group email. Word started getting around and there was probably 50 of us in that original group,” Monsma said.

DMGMC gave their first performance at Cottage Grove Presbyterian Church in 2001.

Joe Freund missed their first concert, but he’s since performed at every concert DMGMC has put on. Freund is a family practice doctor with more than 30 years of experience, and for him, DMGMC is his only outlet to indulge in his love of singing.

“I sang in high school and college, as well as a couple other groups. I didn’t come out until I was in my 40s, and this group has been a natural fit for me. I feel I can really be myself here,” Freund said.

He also spoke of the emotional impact he’s witnessed at concerts.

“At almost every concert we see tears come down people’s faces, lots of laughs and smiles, it’s a lot of fun,” Freund said.

Monsma, Freund and others in the chorus talked about how after 16 years, DMGMC still surprises people with their performances.

“Certain people don’t get what they’re expecting. When they see us perform they realize we’re more or less just a normal chorus,” said Craig Otto, president of the DMGMC board. Otto joined the chorus in 2008 after he moved to Iowa from Houston, Texas.

“Lot’s of churches are very accepting, some haven’t been, it’s really a case-by-case thing,” Otto continued.

“The chorus is my musical family. We’ve had professionals and amateurs all singing together, all with the same goal of providing people the highest caliber of music we can,” Monsma said.

The strong feeling of familial community seems universal throughout the chorus.

“For most of us it’s an extended family and a good way to promote harmony as a whole,” Otto said.

Monsma and Freund fondly recalled a groundbreaking performance early in the chorus’s history: The inauguration of Gov. Tom Vilsack in 2003.

“We had to be one of the first openly gay groups to perform at a governor’s inauguration,” Monsma said.

Freund remembered that concert as well.

“We really surprised some people then,” Freund said. “We even got invited back in 2007 for Governor Culver’s [inauguration].”