By Mandie Curtis Banks, Joseph J. Buches, and Stephen DiDomenico
The Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus held its first concert on April 25, 1982. The Gay Chorus movement was the foundation and bridge for a disenfranchised community during the early years of the AIDS epidemic. The PGMC was this crucial bridge and foundation for the Philadelphia gay community at that time.
For over 41 years PGMC has been entertaining audiences, supporting communities, and fostering acceptance through exceptional musical performances. We seek to create a community that celebrates differences and to be a chorus that inspires change. The Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus performs three mainstage concerts each year, as well as a combined choral concert with other Gala choruses in the Philadelphia area.
The PGMC’s youth engagement program is central to the chorus’ mission. Since 2014 the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus partners with community organizations to perform concerts in local schools, fostering understanding and personal growth in our teenage audiences. Since then, we have reached over 13,000 students at numerous local high schools and universities. We continue to support the LGBTQ+ community and empower young people by providing them with an opportunity to enter into a safe and affirming environment free from the threat of harm regardless of how they self-identify.
For the 41st Season, Artistic Director & Conductor Joseph J. Buches decided to focus on raising our voices in song against the “Don’t Say Gay” bill proposals that are popping up around the U.S.
“We all need to stand up and fight against these proposals to protect all members of the LGBTQ+ community,” Buches said. “Silence speaks loudly. A law restricting discussion of LGBTQ+ issues would send a clear message to students that it’s not okay to explore and express their true identities.”
To voice our opposition to these proposals, PGMC’s seasonal theme focuses on the title of our upcoming March 17-18 concert: JUST SAY GAY! Celebrating Queer Identities. The concert’s first half will feature Tyler’s Suite, an acclaimed choral piece dedicated to the memory of Tyler Clementi, a talented young musician who died by suicide after being bullied by his roommate during his first weeks of college at Rutgers University. The concert’s second half will feature other songs of love, empowerment, and support, including “You Will Be Found” from “Dear Evan Hansen”, an arrangement of “Take Your Mama” by The Scissor Sisters, and “Raise You Up” from Broadway’s “Kinky Boots”. Jane Clementi, Tyler’s mother and the Co-Founder and CEO of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, will be joining PGMC for all 3 concerts. The Saturday March 18 matinee concert will feature students from local schools taking the Tyler Clementi Foundation Upstander Pledge on stage.
A talkback is also scheduled after our matinee performance, which will feature Jane Clementi and a panel of Philadelphia-based professionals, including Madelyn N. Morrison, Director at The Bryson Institute of the Attic Youth Center; Celena Morrison, LGBT Executive Director from the Office of LGBT Affairs for the city of Philadelphia; Dr. Michele Angello, who offers education and training on a variety of issues of sexuality and has presented internationally on her work; and Kati “Jazzy” Gray-Saddler and Tia Saddler from the organization Fifty Shades of Purple Against Bullying. Students are invited to attend the matinee performance for free as well as join PGMC for a pizza party and the talkback after the concert. Support services will be shared for the LGBTQ+ community in the Philadelphia area.
In order to prepare for this important concert, a special task force of chorus members was formed to provide further creative and educational support with the planning and implementation of the music and themes of Tyler’s Suite. This group brought together some of the collective expertise of our diverse membership. Their charge has been to help coordinate with the Tyler Clementi Foundation and, most importantly, to collaborate on a range of educational and community-centered resources that would deepen understanding of what this concert is about, both for our members who must come to terms with performing such emotionally-gripping material as well as for our audiences who will be looking for education about relevant community resources and for ways to take action. It is these types of tasks and resources that our chorus has prioritized in order to most effectively – and sensitively – pay tribute to the stories told through these pieces as they relate to Tyler Clementi’s ongoing legacy.
To purchase tickets for “Just Say Gay: Celebrating Queer Identities,” visit our website at pgmc.org/. The concert will be held on March 17 at 8:00 pm and March 18 at 2:00 pm & 8:00 pm at the Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion on 2110 Chestnut St. Use the code PGMC5 for $5 off front-level ($45) tickets. For free student tickets, click here.
Mandie Curtis Banks is Engagement Manager for PGMC; Joseph J. Buches is Artistic Director & Conductor for PGMC; Stephen DiDomenico is the Just Say Gay Special Task Force Chair for PGMC.