SLMC’s Artistic Director, Dennis McCracken, started conducting choirs at the startling age of 3, when he’d stand in front of the television and “direct” the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s weekly broadcast. (Does that make him the only person known to have directed both the Mormon Tabernacle Choir AND the Salt Lake Men’s Choir??)
His professional career began at 16, when he was first hired as a church organist, a position he’d hold for most of his career. And along with his deep appreciation for liturgical music, is his love of musical theater, which resulted in—or resulted from—his directing some 35 shows over the years.
He currently serves as the Administrator at First Baptist Church in Salt Lake City; he’s also the assistant director and accompanist of the Mountain Chorale. He holds a Master Director Certificate, along with a degree in Liturgical Planning, from Harmony College in St. Joseph, Missouri. Dennis stage manages performances for the Mountain Jubilee Chorus, along with other performing groups. He is also a certified competition judge, serving at piano, organ, vocal and musical theater competitions throughout the Northwest.
Dennis attended his first rehearsal as SLMC’s artistic director in 2006 with about 23 members in attendance. He remembers a concert when there were more people in the choir than in the audience. He knew he had his work cut out for him.
As a result, he’s worked hard to build the chorus, which has more than tripled in size since he came on board. He’s spent many hours in rehearsals with the choir, helping to bring our organization to a higher level of skill and performance. But he credits the choir’s improvement to more than his skills as director. He says joining the choir was like getting a big new family — as everyone in the choir can attest. “That’s really important,” Dennis says, “and that’s why we sound the way we do.”
When asked what he’d most like to change about the choir, he said he’d love to see us reach 100 singing members, and have the resources to do more traveling together.
Dennis emphasizes that the Salt Lake Men’s Choir is a safe and accepting place for all men who wish to sing. He very much welcomes non-gay singers to participate, “as long as they understand we’re predominantly a gay choir and they’re ok with that.” One of the best things about the choir, Dennis says, is that “it gives men a place to be who they are, without any judgment, without any reason to explain.”
He describes sometimes feeling like a ‘den mother’ to choir members. He has listened to their struggles, offered friendship and hugs to as many as have knocked on his door, and has taken phone calls in the middle of the night. He accurately sums up the the way the choir functions: “We just take care of each other.”
Needless to say, we are so grateful for Dennis with the leadership, talent, and heart he brings to the Salt Lake Men’s Choir.