The annual celebration of Pride has evolved substantially over the years, from a march to a parade, from a weekend to a weeklong roster of activities. In many cities, Pride now encompasses the entire month of June. The barrage of events can be overwhelming, and there’s a temptation to forgo the entire shebang rather than taking the time to focus on one or two things to attend. That said, a lot of effort goes into planning for Pride, and it’s a great time of year for relevant communities (and supporters) to remind themselves of how far they’ve come. In the end, it’s about being comfortable in your own skin and showing yourself to the world as you are, without pretense and without shame. Who can’t get behind that spirit?
The Buffalo Gay Men’s Chorus is performing during Buffalo’s Pride Weekend celebration for the first time in years; while the group’s spring concerts tend to get scheduled around this time, they have not been able to directly align with Pride for quite some time… and they’re mighty excited about it.
BGMC’s 2018-19 season, The Stories We Weave, was conceived as a response to current issues with an accent on inclusiveness. These final concerts, “Singing with Pride,” aim to end the season on an up-note, mixing pop songs with standards, showtunes and neo-classical pieces to produce a well-rounded vision of Pride as told in song.
The word ‘pride’ is often used negatively in modern culture – a reference to a stumbling block or clouded judgment. But pride is also something hard-won for folks that have struggled with issues of acceptance, both externally and otherwise. Particularly when balanced with a degree of humility, it’s to be celebrated. And in the case of BGMC, to be sung about.
We spoke with Garrett F. Martin, BGMC’s current Artistic Director, about putting this weekend’s concerts together and what the annual ritual of Pride means to him.
BR: What does Pride mean to you – as an annual celebration?
GFM: To be honest, pride did not mean much to me before I came to Buffalo. But as I entered my 30’s I started to notice families that brought their kids to the pride parade —not because the kids have same-sex parents, but because they wanted to teach their children about the pride movement and the importance of loving everyone, even if they are different from you.
BR: When preparing the repertoire for these shows, what sort of guidelines did you use? Was it difficult to narrow down?
GFM: It was easy to dream up a beginning list, but very difficult to whittle the list to a cohesive program with variety, depth, and appropriateness for Pride. The inclusion of songs from Queen as well as the theme song from Queer as Folk, “Proud”, round out the program and strengthen our bonds to the LGBTQIA+ community.
BR: Is there one particular song that signifies the spirit of Pride to you?
GFM: There’s a song by singer-songwriter Matt Alber called “Handsome Man”, and the text speaks of two guys just living their daily lives. I think that’s what we all want, as members of this community, is to live our life in safe spaces where we can truly be ourselves.
BR: These shows feature special guest QED Vocal Ensemble, in residence at Westminster Presbyterian. What does this group bring to the table?
GFM: Again and again, I have been impressed with the work that QED is doing in Buffalo, especially their eclectic programming as well as their diverse roster. This will also be a historic moment in the history of the BGMC since we will have cisgender women singing a good portion of the program with us, both as soloists and as ensemble members. As an organization, we’ve often discussed how our diversity and inclusion must go beyond ourselves and our own community. With that in mind, this is where the rubber meets the road from our mission statement and history to our programming.
The Buffalo Gay Men’s Chorus proudly presents Singing with Pride on Friday, May 31, at Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum and Saturday, June 1, at Temple Beth Zion (as part of their 2019 Stained Glass Concert Series). Both performances begin at 7:30 and feature special guest(s) QED Vocal Ensemble. Tickets are $20 and are available at: buffalogaymenschorus.com/event/singing-with-pride-730-pm/.
Lead image: Garrett leading BGMC