Chris knows who he is, and embraces it. He is a singer whose expertise lies in the literature of specific composers such as JS Bach and Benjamin Britten. He is a teacher of collegiate vocal students who delights in his students’ successes. He is a friend who is consistently attending to others’ needs. He is a son and brother from a very conservative family who has come to accept its past and present.
Chris starts his days by cursing his alarm clock (which he sets for well earlier than the time he actually needs to get out of bed), going to the gym, and going to Starbucks for his daily Americano. He gets to know the baristas at his local Starbucks (whether it’s his current Salt Lake City location, or previous ones in Alabama, Chicago, and Germany), and they get to know him. Chris revels in the fact that, wherever in the world he is, for those minutes that he is in Starbucks, he can feel like he is wherever he wants to be.
Chris grew up in Ohio as one of three sons (the other two being twins, and completely dissimilar to Chris). His role in the family is what he lovingly refers to as “Julie the cruise director”. He is “the one who smiles...who remembers everyone’s name...who keeps the line moving...who tells you where the deli spread is”. He recounts stories of trying to help one of his brothers with his social skills and etiquette, and as he explains, his eyes glimmer with affection. Chris is comfortable with that role, though it does not by any means encapsulate him.
As an adolescent, Chris did not get to choose when he came out to his father, who had been monitoring him without Chris’ knowledge and discovered the truth that his son is gay. Holding very fundamentalist dogmas, he drove Chris to an empty park and confronted him with shame and denials of who Chris actually was. He demanded that Chris go to conversion therapy, which Chris evaded twice and refused a third time, and the two of them never spoke of those events again. What stands in stark contrast to this silence, however, is Chris’ openness about that relationship. He still has not forgiven his father, but he has come to peace with the past. His father has since passed on, and Chris does not give in to the temptation of whitewashing that relationship postmortem. He does, though, view all of his family members with genuine compassion. He has let go of his anger about what transpired, and willed himself to move beyond it.
We celebrate Chris for his fortitude, his vulnerability, his musical gifts, his care of others, his quick wit, and his quirkiness.