givetwig year 2, week 22: this week i'm gonna... build community through music.
A few weeks prior to their tour in the Middle East, Craig Coogan, Executive Director of the Boston Gay Men's Chorus (BGMC), received a text from the Istanbul executives asking if they were willing to perform as 'The Boston Men's Chorus.'
The chorus had plans to sing at the Zorlu Performance Center in Istanbul and their approaching visit had received major attention in media outlets across Turkey. Conservative Islamist papers described The BGMC as “perverts,” and thousands of people signed a Change.org petition calling on Zorlu’s owners to cancel the show because it would take place on the 10th day of Ramadan. Zorlu responded by suspending ticket sales.
Coogan remembers, "My reply (to the text) was short and to the point: 'No.'" He adds, "I don’t even want to think of the message we would have sent to Istanbul’s small but passionate LGBTI community if we had agreed to take the stage as the Boston Men’s Chorus, let alone the message we’d send to our members and supporters."
The BGMC was committed to performing. They found an alternate performance location and hired private security for their time in Turkey. And before flying out, they spoke directly with the Istanbul Consulate General, Charles Hunter, about numerous threats, which escalated daily as the concert date approached. Hunter and his security director assured Coogan that they were aware of and monitoring the threats. Hunter also said that he had informed the national Turkish government and municipal authorities in Istanbul that he would be attending the concert and sitting in the front row.
On the day of the concert, more than 5,000 people jammed into the performance space, including students in rainbow garb and families with children. Coogan remembers, "They danced in the aisles, cheered, and reveled in what was, ultimately, a rare expression of LGBT culture in a Muslim country, proving once again that stories of love, pride, and acceptance -- communicated through song -- resonate despite cultural and language barriers."
The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus (BGMC) creates musical experiences to inspire change, build community, and celebrate difference. The BGMC is one of New England’s largest and most successful community-based choruses. Founded in 1982, the 175-voice ensemble is celebrated for its outstanding musicianship, creative programming, and groundbreaking community outreach. Under the dynamic leadership of Music Director Reuben M. Reynolds III, the BGMC sings a wide spectrum of classical and popular music and creates social change by providing a positive, affirming image of the gay and lesbian community. The BGMC is heard live by more than 10,000 people each season and thousands more through recording, television, and internet broadcasts. In June 2015, the BGMC became the first LGBT chorus to tour the Middle East.
To hear more about the BGMC and their Middle East tour, please watch the video below.
The day after their successful concert, the BGMC was scheduled to march in Istanbul's Pride festivities. Reuben M. Reynolds III, the Music Director of the BGMC, said, "When we got there, we were met by police with riot guns who said that we should turn around and leave immediately because the pride parade had been canceled."
Then, in images broadcast around the world, the riot police disrupted the parade with tear gas, rubber pellets, and water cannons.
Some of the BGMC members witnessed unprovoked violence and aggression toward Pride march participants. "It’s the kind of thing that somehow in the back of your mind you think this happened 30 years ago in America and here it was happening to us right now," Reynolds said. "We had young members of the chorus who never experienced anything like this. But it brings to mind that there’s always a fight going on. Sometimes we get too complacent and then bam, here it is again. We have fought those fights and will fight whatever needs to be fought today ... We will always stand up for who we are and what we are."
The BGMC will embark on a tour of South Africa in June 2018. “South Africa is a country of rich musical and choral traditions, so we’re very excited to perform for audiences there and to honor those traditions,” Reynolds said in a statement. “Because protest songs were an integral part of the anti-apartheid movement, South Africans believe deeply in the transformative power of music and its use as a tool to effect social change. BGMC was founded on those same beliefs and we hope our concerts will be received in that spirit.”
Notes for this week:
- June is Pride Month! Celebrate diversity and share some rainbows.
- The Boston Gay Men's Chorus is holding their 35th Anniversary concert on June 4th; for details and tickets please click here.
- Our collective givetwig donation will help sponsor the BGMC 2018 South African tour.
- For more information regarding the Boston Gay Men's Chorus, please check out their website.
this week i'm gonna donate to the Boston Gay Men's Chorus.