The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus (BGMC) will embark on an historic tour of the Middle East this June, travelling with more than 100 members. In doing so, BGMC will become the first gay chorus to perform across the region, with performances in Istanbul in Turkey, and in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ein Gedi in Israel. While in Turkey, BGMC will also participate in the country’s Gay Pride celebration, which has grown since 2003 to become one of the largest displays of LGBT culture in the Muslim world.
The tour will take place from June 18-29, 2015 with performances:
- Saturday, June 20 at Avni Auditorium in Ein Gedi, Israel;
- Monday, June 22 at Mary Nathaniel Golden Hall, in Jerusalem, Israel;
- Wednesday, June 24 at Evita in Tel Aviv, Israel
- Thursday, June 25 at the Suzanne Dellal Center in Tel Aviv, Israel;
- Saturday June 27 at Zorlu Center Concert Hall in Istanbul, Turkey.
BGMC will meet with local Jewish, Muslim, and Palestinian groups and artists throughout its two-week tour, including several members of the Jerusalem Youth Chorus. Any proceeds from performances by BGMC during the tour will be donated to local LGBT groups.
In a bit of serendipity, on June 18, the day BGMC will depart Boston for Turkey, an ensemble of Jerusalem Youth Chorus members will perform at the Massachusetts State House at noon. Founded in 2011, the Jerusalem Youth Chorus features Israeli and Palestinian youth, many of whom are LGBT and who speak Arabic, Hebrew, and English. It is the only mixed Israeli-Palestinian choral group in Jerusalem.
BGMC commissioned a song about peace for the tour by Joshua Shank. Lyrics for the song were crowdsourced from Chorus members who provided memories to Shank of when they felt most at peace.
“We are particularly excited for the opportunity to perform before audiences that have never before heard music by a gay choral group, and to perform “Peace.” We live in an extremely complicated world, and there are many ways that cultural groups can seek to effect change,” said BGMC Musical Director Reuben Reynolds III. “We performed at one of the first legally-recognized same-sex weddings in the United States. We travelled to Poland in 2005 where our performance as an out, gay chorus drew headlines around the world. Throughout our history, the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus has never been afraid to engage in difficult conversations, and the way do it is through the transformative power of music.”
BGMC’s tour of the Middle East comes 10 years after the chorus completed a European Tour in Berlin, Germany; Wroclaw, Poland; and Prague, Czech Republic. The 2005 tour was an historic intersection of the Chorus’s artistic and public service mission, drawing massive audiences and bitter anti-gay protests, which garnered international media attention (a common headline was “Music Triumphs Injustice”) and sparked important global conversations about LGBT rights.
BGMC is one of the largest community-based choruses in New England and has garnered numerous artistic distinctions and awards. Most recently, BGMC was selected, after a highly competitive process, to perform at the June 2015 conference of Chorus America, which will be held in Boston and hosted by Handel & Haydn. In January, 2015, BGMC sang at the Inaugural Celebration of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker at the Boston Convention Center. The occasion marked the first time that a gay chorus had performed at a gubernatorial inauguration in New England, and the first time nationally that a gay chorus had performed at a Republican gubernatorial celebration.
“BGMC uses art to fulfill its mission of service which includes performing outreach concerts throughout Massachusetts in schools, houses of worship, and community centers. Proceeds raised from outreach performances are donated to local school-based Gay Straight Alliances, and other lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender organizations,” said BGMC Executive Director Craig Coogan, who also added that nearly $500,000 has been raised and distributed in local communities throughout Massachusetts.
On June 18, 2014, BGMC held a reception to formally launch its Middle East Tour. The event was attended by Consul Ronit Nuddman-Perl from the Israeli Consulate; Anita Walker, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council; Ken Brisette, City of Boston’s Director of Tourism, Sports and Entertainment; and Michelle Wu, Boston City Councilor at Large. BGMC’s video “Making History,” which was narrated, in part, by Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, was screened at the event.
BGMC will be posting tour updates via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It will also post video to its YouTube channel, YouTube.com/BGMC1982, which has already had 250,000 views this year. Join the conversation by following the handle @BGMC1982 on Twitter and Instagram, and the hashtag #BGMCTour on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.