By: Lauren Walleser/TRT Assistant Editor—
BOSTON, Mass.—The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus (BGMC)—whose mission is to create musical experiences to inspire change, build community and celebrate difference—will present their annual holiday show, “Haul Out the Holly,” throughout the month of December at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall.
“The Chorus’ role is to share the stories of our lives,” said BGMC Executive Director Craig Coogan. “Music builds bridges, enhances communication, breaks down stereotypes and humanizes the ‘other’ in powerful ways. Hearing a song about inclusion sung by 175 men can often help change hearts and minds. Music is the soundtrack to our lives and is how many of us express emotion. By communicating in the language of music, we can reach people who might not otherwise be open to the message of love, acceptance and inclusion.”
“In the early years, as people were just beginning to come out, it was almost a novelty to see a chorus willing to stand up on stage and call themselves the Boston GAY Men’s Chorus,” —Music Director Rueben M. Reynolds III.
Music Director Rueben M. Reynolds III described their holiday show, which mixes traditional favorites with new classics.
“One of my favorite lines in the whole concert is from the opening number, Joyful and Triumphant: We are singing for our family!” said Reynolds. “I like to think of our holiday concert as a group of family and friends who get together to celebrate. We have music from all traditions. We have song and dance. We [have] reverent music and boisterous music! There is truly something for everyone!”
Reynolds also shared his thoughts on why The BGMC is an important part of the New England LGBT community and what impact the group has made.
“In the early years, as people were just beginning to come out, it was almost a novelty to see a chorus willing to stand up on stage and call themselves the Boston GAY Men’s Chorus,” Reynolds said. “With the advent of the AIDS crisis, we became caregivers to those brothers who had no one else and we did countless concerts aiding money for research. In the last years, we have been leaders in the same-sex marriage movement and now are working with the Family Equality Council producing concerts for families of same-sex partners. Twenty five years ago when I started on this voyage I would have never believed how far we would be able to go in such a short time!”
Nick Panagiotou, a BGMC member, said he has been with the Chorus for about two years. Besides connecting him with people of all ages and background and feeling “a strong sense of family and camaraderie,” he said the Chorus has allowed him to make a difference.
“I honestly have never been much of an activist, living very comfortably as an openly gay male in the liberal city of Boston,” said Panagiotou. “Being a part of the Chorus keeps me aware of what is going on outside of this small city and gives me an opportunity to make a difference while doing what I love on stage.”
Izzy Berdan, another BGMC member, said he joined 14 years ago.
“I had moved up to Boston from Texas, and a dark place in my life filled with self hatred, and it was a step for me to become part of a larger community of gay men for change,” Berdan said. “Admittedly, the first couple years it was actually about the limelight and showcasing my talent—I was 21—but as I grew older and was able to look at the bigger picture, the reason I stayed with the Chorus was for all the lives they have changed using our music and outreach.”
The BGMC has been involved in many community projects and partnerships over the years. Through their outreach program, they perform in local communities, at schools, houses of worship, and community centers, raising funds for their beneficiaries, including GSAs, diversity clubs, and other programs that help LGBTQ people. According to Coogan, they have raised more than $110,000 to date. They have also donated tickets to their shows to gay and lesbian student organizations and people living with HIV. This year, they are partnering with Family Equality Council on their first-ever Kid Size show of “Haul Out the Holly.”
“The BGMC does what few other organizations can: we’re a premiere artistic organization with excellence in our performance product while being an extraordinary agent for social change,” said Coogan. “Our impact is that we can’t affect social change without our music, and we can’t create our music without making social change.”