Boston Gay Men’s Chorus: “We are not worried, we are excited”

First their concert at Zorlu Center was cancelled. When the concert was moved to Bosphorus University, another university’s chancellor reacted on social media.

Source: Şafak Timur, “Boston Gay Korosu’nun Türkiye Konseri: “Endişeli değil, coşkuluyuz”, (“Boston Gay Men’s Chorus: “We are not worried, we are excited”,”) BBC Türkçe, 23 June 2015, http://www.bbc.com/turkce/haberler/2015/06/150623_boston_gay_erkekler_korosu

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The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus, which has been performing for 33 years in the USA, says they are not worried about the reactions to their first-ever concert in a Muslim majority country. On the contrary, they are excited to be coming to Turkey.

Reuben Reynolds, the music director of the chorus for 18 years, laughs when I ask him “Are you and the chorus members worried?” and says, “We talked a lot about this. We have no worries, we are filled with excitement to be there.”

The chain reaction in the media began when Yeni Akit published a news article [“Pervert Chorus Coming to Turkey!”] last month. Zorlu had not cancelled the concert yet.

After Zorlu Center cancelled the concert, Yeni Akit and Yeni Şafak claimed that the concert was cancelled by Zorlu Holding’s Chairman of the Board Ahmet Nazif Zorlu.

Reynolds says they were informed of the cancellation but were not provided a reason.

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Reynolds says, “I’m not quite sure [of the reason]. We have heard rumors that it might because of the political tensions during the elections.”

Zorlu Performing Arts Center has not provided a response at the time of publication of this article.

Once the news that the concert would take place at Bosphorus University, Medeniyet University’s Chancellor İhsan Karaman described the concert as “vile” on his social media account, accused supporters of being “enemies of morality” and called on the responsible institutions to cancel the concert.

Reuben Reynolds says he does not care about the protests:

“We have been protested against since I started working in this chorus 25 years ago. The first protestors were protesting against our effort to create awareness about AIDS and to raise money for people who were dying of AIDS. Since then, we have constantly been protested against and we have come to a point where I no longer listen to the protesters because they only spread hate against something they do not understand.”

Once the concert at Zorlu was cancelled, the Bosphorus University student group Boğaziçi LGBTI Club opened their doors. The group got in contact with the chorus and according to Reynolds, told them “Our doors are open” and they were pleased.

“We did not have to do anything. They came to us and they said they’d be honored to host us. The university said ‘of course’,” says Reynolds.

Beren Azizi, a student in the Faculty of History and board member of the Boğaziçi LGBTI Club, explains why they opened their arms to the chorus:

“Our by-laws state that we are a club against homophobia and sexism. In this way, we actually fulfilled our activity. Beyond this, what’s important for us is the reason for the concert’s cancellation. This homophobic censorship is the result of the hate media making it into a target. The concert was cancelled not because of any kind of organizational issue but because of dark propaganda and hate speech. If we let this be, we know that this censorship will lead to hate crimes.”

Azizi says that the reactions from [Medeniyet] University’s chancellor and the fact that Turkey does not have a hate crimes law [protecting LGBTs] constitutes a threat to LGBT people. Therefore, they are worried about the concert and have taken the necessary precautions.

The slogan for Trans Pride, which took place last week, was “We Need a Law” to prevent hate crimes.

LGBT society in Turkey is “full of love”

Reynolds described Turkey’s LGBT society’s attitude towards them as “full of love.”

He says, “We are working as hard as we can to make sure the concert is successful because this is very important for them to open up to society and to say ‘We are also like everyone else’.”

“We do not tell anyone what they need to think, we just sing about our lives.”

Reynolds explains that when the chorus started, LGBT rights in the USA were at a level similar to today’s Turkey and says,

“People could not come out, they did not want people to know that they were gay. The gay rights movement was just starting and a group of gay men going on stage and singing and saying ‘We love men, we are gay and we are like everyone else’ was very radical. This was us taking power into our own hands, to sing about our lives, to be honest, and not allow anyone to take this honesty from us and to allow people to know who we really are.”

About the Chorus:

  • The chorus is composed of 200 people. 100 people will go on stage in the Turkish tour.
  • The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus is interested in nearly all kinds of music. They have prepared a repertoire of American music, especially Broadway and pop songs for Turkey.
  • The chorus consists of diverse members. The youngest member is 21 and the eldest is 75.
  • The chorus gives 10 small and 3 large concerts, meeting 15 thousand people [each season].
  • They rehearse for three hours every Wednesday. They rehearse every night if there is a concert that week.

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This article appeared in Turkish on BBC Türkçe and was translated by LGBTI News Turkey. The Boston Gay Men’s Chorus will perform at Bosphorus University’s South Campus Parking Lot [Boğaziçi Üniversitesi- Güney Kampüsü- Otopark] on Saturday, 27 June at 18:30. 

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