Finale for Renaissance City Choir artistic director Jeffry Blake Johnson
Jeffry Blake Johnson will soon take a final bow.
His last performances as artistic director for the Renaissance City Choir are 4 p.m. June 1-2 at East Liberty Presbyterian Church’s Courtyard.
He’s been with the group for seven seasons. A search for his replacement has begun.
“It’s time,” he says. “My husband and I want to experience new adventures. We want to travel. Music will always be a part of my life, just not my regular job. I will always stay connected to music.”
He says he hopes along the way he has helped shape the choir with his vision, but he knows the choir is strong enough to keep going and performing amazing music, because it’s the choir’s choir.
Johnson has been making music since he was 9 years old. He started playing the piano and sang in various productions and church performances. He was part of a band growing up and has been doing involved with music professionally for 30 years.
“This is an amazing group of people, who love singing and enjoy being with each other,” he says. “I will definitely miss everything, from rehearsals to shows to just being in the choir’s presence.”
About the choir
Renaissance City Choir is Pennsylvania’s only LGBTQA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Allies) choral group, according to its website. It says the group strives to promote a positive image of the LGBTQ+ community and be a leading contributor to the cultural life of the tri-state area.
The programming blends challenging contemporary music, commissions of new works, an ambitious traditional repertoire and music from various world cultures.
June is “Pride Month” and for this year’s pride concert the program will bring together music that the community has called upon in the past and calls on today to celebrate the uniqueness and diversity of the group of individuals in the choir, the website says.
The list of songs for these final two shows of the Renaissance City Choir 2019 “Pride Concert: A Celebration of our Community of Singers” was carefully chosen by Johnson to represent who the members are, such as “Born this Way,” he says.
“We have a right to be who we are,” says Johnson. The song “We are Family,” is about a connection and “You Will be Found” is a profound song reaching out to people who feel alone, Johnson says.
“We are sharing our voices out there to those who want to hear our message of inclusiveness and togetherness,” he says.
He says the music they have done over his seven seasons represents what the group is about.
“With my departure, it’s a time of transition for the choir,” he says. “The direction may change once I leave, but looking ahead the core is still the same – we are a community that sings and supports one another.”
For these two performances members will wear white shirts and khaki pants and are invited to add a pop of color to the outfit — from a bold blue tie to a pink undershirt – to personalize the look.
“Our choir honors so many diverse walks of life and accepts each other without prejudice,” he says. “This choir offers a place of freedom to be who they are, and there is an element of comfort and solace in being together. Music is something you can gather around, like a fire.”
Tickets are $30, $25 in advance.
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 412-320-7889, [email protected] or via Twitter .