Strait Men gets a makeover

After a 33-year career in law enforcement, including a five-and-a-half-year stint as the

Sequim Police Department chief of police, Byron Nelson said he does not tolerate discrimination.

He was shocked, then, when he was wearing his jacket touting the Strait Men Chorus when a hotel clerk assumed it meant there were no homosexuals allowed in the group.

"We welcome any men who want to sing and have a good time," Nelson said. "Something we cannot and will not do is discriminate because of sexual orientation."

As president of the chorus, Nelson decided to bring up the idea of a possible name change to the rest of the group, most of whom, he said, agreed it would be for the best.

All the men in the group were able to provide suggestions and Nelson said there were about 60 suggestions submitted. From there, the voting began and the possible names were whittled down from 63 to one: the Olympic Peninsula Men's Chorus.

According to Nelson, the name change is more suitable for the singers, who hail from Forks to Port Townsend.

"It really fits because we do cover the peninsula," he said.

The name change is not without glitches - Nelson said the group has to spend " a lot of money" on new items from stationery to jackets and also has to notify the state and national chapters, including the umbrella organization of the Barbershop Harmony Society. Still, said Nelson, the change in name is beneficial to the group.

"This is a good thing," he said.

Along with changing the name, Nelson said the group is trying to "invigorate" the music as well, while still being true to the barbershop style. The chorus is particularly targeting younger singers to try to "get some new blood in there."

The group is hosting an open house, during which any interested male in the community is invited to see what the group is about. Nelson said he encourages any men coming to bring their sons and grandsons, no matter how old or young they may be.

"You don't have to be able to read music, we help you out," he said. "It's a great adventure and we're excited about where we're going."

The open house is being held at 6 p.m., Tuesday, May 13, at the band shell at Carrie Blake Park. For more information, contact Nelson at 683-3918.
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