June is Pride Month, and during this first weekend the Cincinnati Men's Chorus is kicking things off with two free concerts at Walnut Hills High School.
Chorus President Michael Hoffman tells WVXU the group of 60 performers will sing a range of songs to commemorate the month meant to raise awareness about the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities. June also marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City, which many cite as the start of the LGBTQ movement.
Called "Stonewall Transformation," the first half of the roughly two-hour performance begins with a work by the New York City Gay Men's Chorus and the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles called "Quiet No More." "It's a choral work that goes through the actual riots, the time leading up to it and including now and the significance of that event," Hoffman explains. "The second half is all about transformation and the power of transformation. We're honoring the trans people of color who were very much significant in part of the Stonewall riots that started the LGBT movement after that night (in June 1969)."
The performance also will include some familiar works like "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" by Sylvester, Judy Garland's "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" and "Reflection" from Disney's Mulan.
The latter song holds special significance to the trans community, Hoffman says. "The lyrics go, 'When will my reflection show who I am inside,' " he says. "When trans people hear that they identify with it. Some trans members suggested we do it and we agreed."
Later this month, the group of volunteers will perform again during the celebration that follows the Cincinnati Pride Parade on June 22 -- though "celebration" may not exactly be the right word, Hoffman says.
"Yes, we're celebrating and we're having a good time during Pride parades and performances but there is also some serious work that needs to be done and will have to be continuously done," he says. "Thinking back 50 years ago, it's amazing where we are today, but those rights are very fragile, as we know. Just when you think you're done, you find out that you're not and I think Pride Month is a very important time to reflect on where we've been, where we are and where we want to go."
The family-friendly concerts take place Saturday, June 8, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, June 9, at 2 p.m. Both are at the auditorium of Walnut Hills High School.