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Fort Macleod singer takes center stage at Madison Square Gardens in New York


Josh O’Sullivan and the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus at center court in Madison Square Gardens in New York.

Josh O’Sullivan is from Fort Macleod but now lives in New York City.

Growing up as an athlete in Fort Macleod Josh O’Sullivan dreamed of performing in iconic stadiums.
The 31-year-old O’Sullivan realized that dream earlier this year in a way he never imagined possible.
O’Sullivan added his voice to the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus when they performed the U.S. national anthem March 30 at Madison Square Gardens in New York.
“Like any young athlete, I dreamed of playing at world famous venues like Madison Square Garden,” O’Sullivan said. “Did I ever think that my moment at center court would be singing the national anthem? Absolutely not in my wildest Whitney Houston dreams.”
That experience was topped last month when the choir performed at the famed Carnegie Hall in New York City.
“It was incredible,” O’Sullivan said. “I’ve been lucky to have done a lot of things in my 31 years but that truly was one of the greatest experiences of my life.”
O’Sullivan left Fort Macleod for a modelling career that took him to 10 countries before enrolling at the University of Pennsylvania where he obtained a degree in social justice and human rights.
Following graduation, O’Sullivan worked in non-profit development and management.
At present, he is manager of strategic initiatives at CAI Global, a New York non-profit dedicated to improving the health care and social services delivered to vulnerable populations worldwide through education and research.
O’Sullivan manages projects that build the capacity of organizations to better provide services in the fields of HIV/AIDS prevention, sexual and reproductive health, trauma-informed care, and behavioral health.
Singing was not something O’Sullivan pursued while growing up in Fort Macleod although he developed an appreciation for singers and performers and would sing along with the radio.
“I always wanted to sing but growing up in a small town as a young gay boy was difficult enough, so it was easier for me to push away the things that I desired, whether they were hobbies, extracurriculars, career paths, or love interests that threatened my not-so-convincing cover-up. In my case, I was lucky because I was good at sports. That didn’t make the internal struggles easier, but it did help me evade the rumors, bullies, and reality for a little longer.”
O’Sullivan, who lives in New York City with his partner Eduardo, auditioned and earned a spot in the chorus in September 2018.
He saw joining the chorus as a way to get out of his comfort zone and experience the thrill of performing in front of an audience.
It’s a competitive process to join the chorus including an application, audition, vocal range test and interview with the artistic director, assistant conductor, accompanyist and section leaders.
“From there, they decide if you should be in the chorus and which section to place you in. I’m an upper baritone,” O’Sullivan said. “I went into the process completely blind, knowing almost nothing about choral performance, music, or singing, but thankfully some friends on Broadway gave me a crash course and helped me prepare.”
“For me, it was a terrifying, humbling, and incredibly rewarding experience, and I’m beyond grateful to be one of the 300 voices that make up the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus.”
O’Sullivan also joined the chorus as a way add his voice to the fight for equality. A long-time advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, he knows the chorus enjoys a captive audience that is willing to listen.
“Every time we step on stage there are people of all ages and all backgrounds in the audience or watching on TV who have struggled and may still be struggling with accepting themselves or others. We stand 300 proud, LGBTQ+ identifying people strong and we deliver messages of hope and resilience through song. We face our fears and those who fear us directly, and in doing so we hope to inspire others to do the same.”
The New York City Gay Men’s Chorus has performed at Madison Square Gardens in the past but it remains an occasion when 40 gay men line up at center court and hear the announcer introduce them to sing the Star Spangled Banner.
The chorus received a warm reception from the crowd of about 20,000 gathered for an NBA game between the New York Knicks and Miami Heat.
It was a similar scene at Carnegie Hall for the World Pride event and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots.
“The music we were singing was so powerful,” O’Sullivan said.
That show was titled Quiet No More: A Choral Celebration Of Stonewall, and features the world premiere of music by LGBTQ+ composers, including Julian Hornik, Our Lady J, Mike Shaieb, Ann Hampton Callaway, Michael McElroy and Jane Ramseyer Miller.
The New York City Gay Men’s Chorus is a nonprofit organization. The performances can be found on Youtube.

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