The Great Northern Union Chorus (GNU) was chartered as a chapter of the Barbershop Harmony Society in 1986. We won our first regional championship that same year. Since then, we have appeared on the BHS International Chorus Contest stage more than 20 times and placed in the top ten each time, including 12 top five medalist finishes and two silver medals.
For 35 years, our goal was for men to use exquisite harmony to cooperate unselfishly and express their authentic selves, as an antidote to toxic masculinity. Our typical annual calendar included spring and holiday concerts, tours of greater Minnesota, youth outreach workshops, charitable appearances and barbershop singing contests.
In January 2020, a global search led us to hire Mo Field, the first openly gay, gender fluid woman to direct a high-level BHS male chorus, as our Artistic and Musical Director. With Mo, we embarked on a deeply reflective visioning process, and realized that our greater purpose is to use harmony as a healing practice and connector for all individuals and communities.
A new vision was born: Harmony In Union With Humanity.
Today, the Great Northern Union is profoundly re-imagining and rebuilding how we connect with communities through the arts.
Close vocal harmony is an ideal vehicle for creating a culture of belonging and safety for people who need creative spaces to express themselves, to bring unique aspects of their artistic identities forward, and to create a platform for their voices and stories. It requires deeply interacting with other people. We are building a grassroots community of artists who seek to be affirmed, through music, and contribute to a collective expression.
We took an ambitious step to realize the vision in January 2022, when we moved beyond our legacy as strictly a men’s chorus, to a choral organization welcoming singers of all gender identities. This is a revolutionary move in the traditional world of barbershop singing.
Removing our tradition-bound decades-old gender-identity restriction, and creating an all-voice chorus is a direct invitation to all singers and sets the stage for creation of an entire intersectional community of harmony.