Boston Gay Men’s Chorus: Connecting during COVID

This weekend, WCVB Channel 5 will air “Home for the Holidays,” a 30-minute showcase of holiday songs from the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus. The special production will feature past performances of beloved Christmas carols, festive favorites, and modern classics from BGMC’s holiday concerts intercut with scenes of local holiday traditions like ice skating at the Boston Common Frog Pond, BGMC’s international tours, and reflections from chorus members on the meaning and magic of the season and its songs. Hosted by BGMC Music Director Reuben M. Reynolds III with an introduction by Randy Price, the country’s first openly gay TV news anchor who recently retired from WCVB-TV after many years, “Home for Holidays” is the culmination of BGMC’s efforts to remain connected with the community despite not being able to take the stage to perform. 

“Like every other performing arts organization that had to cancel its spring season and all subsequent performances in 2020, we immediately began looking for creative ways to remain connected not just with our audiences, but also with our members,” says BGMC Executive Director Craig Coogan. “We have more than 200 performers and the chorus is much more than an outlet for creative expression. We’re family.” 

Just four weeks after the public health emergency was declared, BGMC released “From Our Homes to Yours—Everything Possible,” a virtual video dedicated to essential workers who are risking their own health and safety to ensure that people continue to have access to food and healthcare during the pandemic. The video has amassed over 100,000 views across BGMC’s social platforms. 

BGMC subsequently launched [email protected], a curated collection of new and archival digital performances that includes “Up on the Housetop,” playful rendition of the second-oldest secular Christmas song,” “Power of Protesting,” a montage of interviews with BGMC members describing their participation in Black Lives Matter protests to advance racial equity and justice, “Born This Way: Virtual Boston Gay Men’s Chorus, a virtual message of love for LGBTQ people of all ages who are struggling to feel connected amid the COVID-19 pandemic, “Celebrity Spotlight,” featuring never-before-shared archival content of guest performers Nick Adams, Laura Benanti, and Alex Newell, and the Member Spotlight video series, which showcases the diversity of the chorus itself.  

“Creating these videos has given the guys a creative outlet. We continue to meet via Zoom. Keeping up that connection is so important. But it’s also been important to keep creating. It’s essential to who we are and it’s what our audience wants from us,” Coogan says. “We know this because the response has been great. People are emailing us and leaving incredibly generous comments on social media about the videos.” 

Sample feedback? The LGBTQ newspaper Bay Windows recently editorialized that BGMC’s online offerings are making “life a bit more bearable during this interminable era of illness, death, cancellations, and closures.” And in its year-end issue, Boston Spirit magazine said that in 2020, “BGMC stepped up to deliver one powerful, thoughtful, timely video after another. 

Comments from fans in response to the videos include: 

  •  “Thank you so very much! Mom and I really needed this. Happy Holidays to you and yours!”
  • “Thank you for brightening our spirits!”
  • “Absolutely loved it! So creative and just plain fun!”
  • “I’ve missed your energy this made me smile.”
  • I love this series [Member Spotlight] and meeting all of the different people in your chorus.” 

But Coogan warns that arts, cultural, and humanities nonprofits can’t keep doing this alone. Referring to a recent survey by the Mass Cultural Council showing that arts nonprofits have sustained $478 million in revenue losses since March, Coogan says, “The arts are core to what people love about Boston and Massachusetts. All of us are working harder than ever to keep people connected. It’s what we do. But if we expect to have an arts community that is anything like what we had before the pandemic, we really need more help.” 

“Home for the Holidays” will air on WCVB Channel 5 on Saturday, Dec. 12 at 11:35 p.m. and again on Sunday, Dec. 13 at 1 p.m. The program will also be available to watch Saturday, Dec. 12 on MeTV at 5:30 p.m, YouTube at 8 p.m, and OnDemand via cable providers.

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published this page in Connecting During COVID-19 Stories 2020-12-07 17:24:10 -0500

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