Verdugo, along with artistic director Dr. Timothy Seelig, announced that the chorus would be canceling its planned 40th anniversary international tour, and instead undertaking a “Red State Freedom Tour” in October 2017, to promote understanding and fight discrimination.
The 10-day whistle stop tour is set to zigzag through the nation’s southern states, a region where some fear that the LGBTQ community is at risk of being further marginalized over the next four years.
“We felt like we could have the most impact in the South,” said Verdugo. “Certainly, there are parts of California that are red, but they don’t have anti-LGBT discriminatory laws on the books. California doesn't have religious freedom acts or bathroom bills.”
According to Verdugo, the chorus is planning four large concerts and a handful of smaller ones. Possible locations include Jackson, Mississippi; Birmingham, Alabama; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Athens, Georgia.
“We wanted to go to locations in states that have this kind of discrimination ingrained in their constitutions, to support our LGBT community in those states," he said.
Since making the announcement, the chorus has already raised over $80,000 of its $150,000 goal to finance the tour, Verdugo said. Of the chorus’s 300 or so members, 250 have signed up to participate in the "red state" tour.
The funding "is all grassroots,” said Verdugo. “It’s not any corporations or foundations—it’s simply been people making donations.” Other groups and organizations, including the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, will be supporting the tour as well, he said.
50 members of the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir will be joining the Gay Men’s Chorus on the "red state" tour as their special guests. The world-renowned choir is intended to mirror the diversity of the City of Oakland, with 65 members across many races and 14 faiths.
“It’s in line with who we are and the message that we bring,” said the choir's executive director, Mark DeSaulnier. “We're pro-human spirit—we accept each other for who we are.”
DeSaulnier said that he hopes that both the choruses and their audiences will have their worlds opened up and expanded by the tour.
“That’s what it takes—better understanding all around," he said. "Our work now is to have conversations with those people, and learn how to agree to disagree and to get along.”
Want to see and support the two choruses before they tour the South? They're hosting holiday concerts tomorrow in San Francisco and Oakland, respectively:
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