The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus are cultural ambassadors – changing hearts and minds around the world through song. Next stop: South Africa.
Fear, injustice and inequality are growing throughout the world. Differences between people have deepened to the point of division and strife. Misunderstanding and distrust results in increased violence. Immigrants are marginalized and their safety is at risk. LGBT people face deeply-rooted stereotypes and discrimination, making them a target. While there has been progress legislatively with LGBT rights, there is an ongoing need to build bridges on issues of inclusion and acceptance in the gay community. It’s a matter of human rights. It's a matter of decency.
40,000 Bostonians marched against fear and bigotry this summer. We’re proud to represent the message of love and acceptance. It is who we are. It is what we do.
The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus (BGMC) embark on a tour of South Africa in June 2018, a trip that will further the group’s mission to create musical experiences to inspire change, build community, and celebrate difference. In townships and parts of the major cities there remains much work to be done for inclusion, and acceptance – especially as it relates to LGBT refugees from neighboring African countries.
Each concert on the tour is paid for by BGMC so that the ticket sales can benefit a local LGBT organization.
· In Johannesburg the first concert is in the Soweto Theatre to benefit local HIV/AIDs organization.
· The second concert in Johannesburg will be held at Wits University to benefit GALA – Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action, the centre for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) culture and education in Africa.
· The 120 traveling members of the chorus will experience an overnight in the safari park in Pilanesberg
· In Knysna (home to the country’s largest indigenous forest with sandstone cliffs that dramatically separate its tranquil lagoon from the pounding surf of the Indian Ocean) the concert will benefit the Pink Loerie Foundation, producer of South Africa’s pride festival.
· The first concert in Cape Town is in partnership with Khumbulani Pride and co-presented with Mother City Queer Project.
· The final concert in Cape Town is at ArtsCape, a state-of-the-art venue. Concert to benefit LGBTI refugees and asylum seekers through partnership with organizations such as PASSOP and OutRight.
BGMC’s international tours are an integral part of the chorus’s mission and its pioneering history.
During the 2005 European tour, BGMC’s concert in Wroclaw, Poland was nearly derailed by a massive protest organized by a right-wing group outside the venue. The chorus was escorted to the venue by police in riot gear, but the concert sold out nonetheless. The story was international news (a common headline was “Music Triumphs Injustice”) and sparked important global conversations about LGBT rights.
The Chorus’ 2015 performances in Israel and Turkey marked the first time a gay chorus performed in the region. The tour attracted worldwide media attention after a Turkish venue cancelled a performance because of vehement opposition from the Turkish government. The performance was held elsewhere with an overflow crowd.
The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus is a powerful and innovative communicator and change maker. Music builds bridges, enhances communication, breaks down stereotypes and humanizes the "other" in powerful ways. It has the power to transcend boundaries and create connection among people from different backgrounds, languages and beliefs, and has long been a central part of social justice movements, especially the protest songs that were an integral part of the anti-apartheid movement.
“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,” said Reuben M. Reynolds III, BGMC music director. “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.”
In 1994, South Africa became the first country in the world to explicitly protect gay people from discrimination with its post-apartheid constitution. Gay people are free to marry and adopt children jointly, and employment discrimination is banned. Yet, societal acceptance has been slow and LGBT South Africans suffer from high rates of murder, sexual assault and other bias-related violence. Men who have sex with men also face much higher rates of HIV infection than the general population. Even so, South Africa is a bastion of relative safety for LGBT people compared with neighboring countries. As a result, the country is grappling with an LGBT refugee crisis as those fleeing persecution based on sexual orientation and gender identity relocate to South Africa, often without resources for support. With its mission to change hearts and minds through music,
BGMC has a long history of engaging diverse audiences through local and national outreach concerts. In April 2015, the chorus performed at the College of the Holy Cross, marking one of the first times a gay men’s chorus has performed at a Catholic institution in the US; concert-goers described the experience as “revolutionary.” In January, 2015, BGMC sang at the Inaugural Celebration of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, becoming the first gay chorus to perform at a gubernatorial inauguration in New England, and the first gay chorus nationally to perform at a Republican gubernatorial celebration.
“BGMC has never been afraid to engage in difficult conversations and music is a universal language,” said Craig Coogan, executive director of BGMC. “Our concerts are about sharing our stories and our humanity through song, enabling others to find common ground in our experiences. This is how change happens—when we see that there is more that unites us than divides us. We look forward to continuing these conversations, be they in South Africa or in schools, houses of worship, and community centers across Massachusetts.”
About the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus Boston Gay Men’s Chorus 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 Chorus is heard live by more than 10,000 people each season and thousands more through recording, television and internet broadcasts. CBS-WBZ named The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus one of the top five choruses in the city of Boston. In June 2015 BGMC became the first LGBT chorus to tour the Middle East.