Sad news: Gay Men’s Chorus singer dies onstage

A member of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus collapsed and died on stage during a break in the choir’s Friday night performance.

Ryan Nunez, 39, lost consciousness while standing in one of the choir’s upper ranks.

Chorus members who are medical personnel attempted for an hour to resuscitate him.

Ryan was the choir’s administrative coordinator.

An appeal has been posted for his funeral expenses, raising $21,000 so far.

Tim Seelig the chorus’s artistic director, writes:

One of our singers, Ryan Nunez, collapsed on the risers during intermission of our concert last night and, after an hour of CPR, administered mostly by chorus brothers, was pronounced dead by paramedics. They had been unable to move him from the stage, so he died on the spot where he had sung the first half. The singers waited backstage and the audience waited in their seats with me keeping them occupied with life stories getting periodic updates to “stretch.” When we got the final word, we let the audience go, with our apologies for not being able to continue.

At that point, the singers gathered in a small room and began the grieving process. I have not experienced such shock or soul-shattering grief as that. Ever. The process will continue today as we sing two more concerts – all about paradise – on the very spot where Ryan left us. A task that right now seems completely impossible to do. We are all grasping for solace.

Ryan was not only a singer, but was the Administrative Coordinator on the SFGMC staff. He was our voice to the world. Filled with humor and huge hugs for all – he just took care of everyone – first.

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    • I’m not sure that that comment was intended to be offensive, and, in fact, I suspect that it was not, but it’s an unfortunate way to express yourself. Perhaps it didn’t sound quite so crass in the original Japanese (I am giving the benefit of the doubt that English is not your native language). First, it’s odd to identify somebody first and foremost by reference to his sexual orientation. Secondly, many gay men consider the use of ‘gay’ as a noun to be offensive (as in, ‘My new boss is a gay’, or, ‘A couple of gays have moved in next door’).

      • Actually (and I say this for Fukagawa’s benefit, on the assumption that she did not mean to be offensive and would prefer to avoid giving offense in the future) it’s offensive to refer to anyone by using their race or religion as a noun, as well as their sexual orientation. Using her example, or any of yours, and replacing “gay” with “Jew” or “Black” makes that pretty clear.

        • Yes, I agree that I would not say “a black” or “a white”, as I do not consider “black” or “white” to be nouns, although they are sometimes used as such. I’m not so sure about “a Jew”. I have been told before that it is offensive to use “Jew” as a noun, but I remain unconvinced. One can quite legitimately say, “I am a Catholic”, “he is a Muslim”, “my wife is an Armenian”, “I sat next to two Russians on the plane”, “Emily’s new boyfriend is a very handsome Czech”, “the police have arrested three suspects, two Caucasians and an African American”. It sounds rather archaic now, but I would not object the term “homosexual” as a noun. Only a couple of years ago the British former MP Harvey Proctor said, “I am a homosexual”, not, “I am homosexual”, “I am gay”, or, “I am a gay man”. Quentin Crisp certainly used to talk about “homosexuals”. The real objection these days would be that the term itself is outdated, not that it cannot be used as a noun. Funnily enough, we would not object to saying, “she is a lesbian”. “Jew” is probably a special case on account of the way in which the German equivalent was used in the 1930s and 40s. Even so, one might say, “our dinner party was a multifaith affair: we comprised two Anglicans, two Hindus, a Sikh, and a Jew”.

          • Funnily enough, we would not object to saying, “she is a lesbian”.

            “Hope this dead lesbian rests in peace in heaven.” Hmmm, I’m not so sure that that doesn’t sound offensive, however well-meaning it may be. But maybe that’s just me.

            It’s a matter of tone and context, I think (as well as, sometimes, a tone-deaf insistence that tone & context don’t matter).

          • Of course one would not say, “Hope this dead lesbian rests in peace in heaven.” It sounds very odd and somewhat offensive. However, one might say, “The leaders of both the Scottish Conservative party and the Scottish Labour party are lesbians”. The context is all. In the context of somebody’s death it is odd to focus on that person’s sexual orientation. They could be a rare instance in which it was appropriate to focus on the deceased person’s religion: “Father Murphy asked his friend the rabbi whether it would be appropriate for him to offer prayers for a dead Jew. Rabbi Cohen replied he never failed to pray for a dead Catholic.”

  • My condolences to his chorus friends who will find it so difficult for a while to sing their programs without strong grief-filled memories surging back as they think of him. I enjoyed my one time attending one of their concerts when in the US.

  • Wonder, how the auditions go for a gay men’s chorus. I mean, do they make sure about your sexual orientation?

    • Many gay men’s choruses state explicitly that being gay is not a prerequisite for membership. The SFGMC doesn’t state this on its website, but according to Wikipedia, “Despite popular misconceptions, the group does not require that members identify as gay or bisexual.”

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