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Washington Chorus forges ahead amid pandemic

New livestream productions planned for fall

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‘We decided to continue making art and expand access to what we do,’ during the pandemic, said TWC’s executive director Stephen Marc Beaudoin. (Photo by Kenton Waltz courtesy Oh! Creative)

Unlike many arts organizations that have opted to sit out the pandemic, The Washington Chorus (TWC), the DMV’s only two-time Grammy Award-winning choral ensemble, is seizing the moment to create innovative work and remain connected to their audience. 

From his home in Arlington, TWC’s executive director Stephen Marc Beaudoin explains how the upcoming season has unfolded: “After our new artistic director Dr. Eugene Rogers came on board in February, TWC quickly began developing a new season on the assumption of being able to produce live concerts. But then COVID-19 slapped us upside the head. By mid-March the concert at the Strathmore in Maryland was abruptly cancelled, and things changed dramatically.” 

Together, Beaudoin and Rogers (TWC’s first African-American conductor) quickly concluded that closures would not be short lived. “We discussed whether we do something, or take a seat,” says Beaudoin, who is gay. “Many choruses decided not to do much of anything during this time beyond sharing archival stuff. Following Dr. Rogers’ lead, we decided to continue making art and expand access to what we do.”

After innumerable calls and texts between Beaudoin and Rogers, who is based in Michigan where he is also director of choral activities at the University of Michigan, the pair moved forward implementing the upcoming season, TWC’s 60th.  The first big event is “Cantata for a More Hopeful Tomorrow” (Saturday, Nov. 14, 7:30 p.m.), a live-streamed world premiere commissioned work by composer Damien Geter and filmmaker Bob Berg. It the tells the story of one individual’s journey as he grapples with recovery from COVID-19. 

Following “Cantata” is TWC’s annual beloved “A Candlelight Christmas” (Friday, Dec. 18, 7:30 p.m.), a live-streamed online performance featuring about a dozen singers distanced on the Strathmore stage. 

Comprised of 170 singers, the chorus presents many traditions, styles, and composers, ranging from Brahms’ Requiem to Carmina Burana to the holiday pops with the National Symphony to a concert of St. Patrick’s Day music to singing at the Kennedy Center honors for composer Philip Glass a year and a half ago.

As the chorus’ executive director, Beaudoin bears the responsibility of business. It’s up to Beaudoin to meet and exceed revenue for concerts, to collect individual contributions and grants, organize special events, and ensure that TWC grows and retains a talented staff. He’s also responsible to manage and motivate the board of directors. And because he’s a musician and trained singer, he likes to collaborate on the chorus’ artistic vision. Beaudoin says, “I’m a creative individual first, last, and always, and as such I like to be a supporter and partner to the artistic director and production and the artistic side of things at the end the day our job is to create art and foster community.”

TWC’s acclaimed conductor Dr. Rogers was a unanimous choice after a long search for a new artistic director. 

While TWC didn’t set out specifically to find a person of color to fill the position, they wanted to open the opportunity to everyone who was qualified: “We didn’t begin with the idea to cast a particular color or gender in this role but we did set out very intentionally to center equity and inclusion in the search and in the process, we had a terrifically diverse candidate pool. Over 40% were women and/or folks of color. We wanted to talk to the best of the best, and we did.”

Washington Chorus, gay news, Washington Blade
The Washington Chorus Artistic director Dr. Eugene Rogers came on board in February, just before COVID restrictions began. (Photo courtesy Sundeep Studios)

Prior to his role with TWC, Beaudoin served as executive director of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra in Hagerstown, Md. He describes his arrival at TWC as a bit of kismet. A talented singer, Beaudoin had stepped away from singing for a while, but after a vacation to Amsterdam where he experienced a thrilling musical festival along the canals, he wanted to reconnect with music. When he returned home, he successfully auditioned with The Washington Chorus. Soon after, while seated next to a fellow tenor at rehearsal, he learned that TWC was looking for an executive director. He subsequently applied and was hired. 

Working at home with his partner of five years Joe, an employee at the Defense Department, he finds things very manageable. The couple enjoys cooking and spending time with their beloved Sheltie Tessa and watching some TV, especially “Love on the Spectrum,” a four-part documentary series following young adults on the autism spectrum as they explore the unpredictable world of love, dating and relationships. All things considered, it hasn’t been too bad, says Beaudoin. 

Still, things are tough professionally. Looking forward, he thinks perhaps venues might reopen next summer. In the meantime, the show goes on. 

“What’s most challenging is we have to think differently about production. It’s hard to continue to foster a sense of community when we’re all at home for the most part. It’s hard financially – we’re used to clearing a good amount of money from our big concerts. And how many of those people will come to see digital livestream and pay $10 or $15 online? If 10,000 people from around the world pay to watch online, that would be great, or maybe it will just be 100 people? We just don’t know.” 

Even with support from D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and some funding from U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, it isn’t easy, he says. “Still, with whatever challenges we’re facing, we know it pales in comparison to the challenges faced by families who have lost loved ones or are suffering financial hardship. And we acknowledge that the pandemic is disproportionately affecting people of color.

“Hopefully, through a lens of inclusive excellence and storytelling, we can help. We think brining new work to music lovers is the most important thing we can be doing this fall.”

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Arts & Entertainment

Rapper DaBaby pulled by Lollapalooza over homophobic comments

“Lollapalooza was founded on diversity, inclusivity, respect, and love. With that in mind, DaBaby will no longer be performing.”

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Screenshot from Rolling Stone Magazine's YouTube Channel

CHICAGO – In an announcement Sunday morning, the organizers of Chicago’s Lollapalooza Music Festival said they had pulled artist DaBaby from tonight’s closing show after a series of public homophobic remarks by the rapper last weekend in Miami at the Rolling Loud music festival.

On Twitter Lollapalooza officials wrote; “Lollapalooza was founded on diversity, inclusivity, respect, and love. With that in mind, DaBaby will no longer be performing at Grant Park tonight.  Young Thug will now perform at 9:00pm on the Bud Light Seltzer Stage, and G Herbo will perform at 4:00pm on the T-Mobile Stage.”

The Grammy-nominated rapper’s comments onstage at the Miami festival last weekend brought swift condemnation from other artists in the music industry including British Rockstar Elton John and Madonna among many others.

In the middle of his set last weekend in Miami the rapper told the crowd, “If you didn’t show up today with HIV/AIDS, or any of them deadly sexually transmitted diseases, that’ll make you die in two to three weeks, then put your cellphone lighter up! Ladies, if your pussy smell like water, put your cellphone lighter up! Fellas, if you ain’t sucking dick in the parking lot, put your cellphone lighter up!”

DaBaby later issued an apology via Twitter that read, “Anybody who done ever been effected by AIDS/HIV y’all got the right to be upset, what I said was insensitive even though I have no intentions on offending anybody. So my apologies” However, the addendum in the same tweet of; “But the LGBT community… I ain’t trippin on y’all, do you. y’all business is y’all business.” was immediately decried as further proof of the rapper’s intolerance of the LGBTQ community.

Michael J. Stern, a Los Angeles attorney and a former federal prosecutor who is now a noted featured columnist for USA Today blasted DaBaby’s ‘apology;’

In his response to Dababy’s remarks Elton John, who founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation in 1992, a nonprofit organization which funds frontline partners to prevent infections, fight stigma and provide care for the most vulnerable groups affected by HIV, responded in a lengthy series of tweets:

Madonna took to her Instagram telling the rapper to “know your facts,” before spreading misinformation. 

“AIDs is not transmitted by standing next to someone in a crowd,” she wrote on Instagram. “I want to put my cellphone lighter up and pray for your ignorance, No one dies of AIDS in 2 or 3 weeks anymore. Thank God.”

This year’s Lollapalooza festival, which is one of the first major festivals to return in full force since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, concludes Sunday with headlining performances by musical acts Brockhampton, the Foo Fighters, and Modest Mouse.

Dua Lipa ‘Horrified’ at DaBaby’s Homophobic Remarks at Rolling Loud | RS News 7/28/21

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Music & Concerts

Greyson Chance releases ‘Trophies’ in time for Pride

Chart-topping singer-songwriter pushes envelope on musical boundaries

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Greyson Chance (Photo by Broderick Bauman)

As the tall slender dark-haired young musician prepares for a sound check on stage preparing for his Oklahoma City Pride debut, back in Los Angeles his team released his highly anticipated new album via all digital and streaming platforms.

Greyson Chance, a critically acclaimed, chart-topping and singer-songwriter, with this new album Trophies- a follow up to his 2019’s critically praised ‘portraits’ EP, continues to display sharp writing chops, as well as his ability to push the envelope on his own musical boundaries.

From his recently released, dance-inspired hit “Hellboy” to his latest uplifting anthem “Nobody,” to the beautifully arranged, emotion-provoking ballad “Violet,” the piano aficionado openly takes listeners on a tour of his life. 

Friday is also the day Chance gets back on the road for his Trophies World Tour, starting in his hometown with the headlining spot at Oklahoma City’s Pride Festival.  Additional summer dates include shows in major cities across North America, as well as, European and South American dates to follow in the fall and winter of this year.

Chance will also embark on a second round of North American dates set for January 2022; full tour schedule below for reference.

TROPHIES releases after a long-awaited break for Chance. He last released his current single and dance-inspired anthem “Hellboy” after a strong slate of single releases through the pandemic, including well-received titles “Boots,” “Dancing Next To Me,” the revealing “Bad to Myself,” in which Chance opened up about his battle with an eating disorder, and this past January’s “Holy Feeling.”  Chance’s last EP was 2019’s critically acclaimed portraits, which to date has accumulated over 40 million streams, and topped #5 on iTunes’ Pop Charts, #1 on Apple’s Music Breaking Pop Playlist, and #3 on Apple Music’s Best of the Week Playlist upon its release. A portraits Word Tour followed that included 50+ sold out dates in North America, Europe, SE Asia, and China.

TROPHIES is available now on all streaming platforms. TROPHIES North American tour dates:

July 07 – Tampa – Crowbar

July 08 – Orlando – The Social

July 09 – Atlanta-  Masquerade

July 10 – Charlotte – Neighborhood Theatre

July 15 – Richmond – Canal Club

July 16 – Washington DC – Union Stage

July 17 – Nashville – The High Watt

July 23 – Indianapolis  – The Irving Theatre 

July 24 – Detroit – Magic Stick

July 25 – Grand Rapids – The Stache at Intersection 

July 29 – Des Moines – xBK Live

July 30 – Milwaukee – Miramar Theatre

July 31 – Minneapolis – Studio B – Skyway Theatre

August 4 – Chicago – Lincoln Hall

August 5 – Lawrence – The Bottleneck 

August 6 – Austin – The Parish

August 7 – Dallas – Trees

August 11 – El Paso – Ricky D’s

August 12 – Phoenix – Crescent Ballroom

August 13 – Salt Lake City – The Complex

August 14 – Denver – The Bluebird

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Arts & Entertainment

Demi Lovato comes out as gender non-binary in Twitter announcement

In 2017 Lovato had invited Danica Roem, the 1st openly trans lawmaker in Virginia to the American Music Awards to speak out against bullying

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Photo by Kathclick BIGSTOCK

STUDIO CITY – In an announcement Wednesday, two time Grammy nominee, actor and singer-songwriter Demi Lovato revealed that they are identifying as gender non-binary. Taking to their Twitter account, the 28 year-old Lovato said; “The past year and a half, I’ve been doing some healing and self-reflective work. And through this work, I’ve had this revelation that I identify as non-binary,” they said in the video. “With that said, I’ll officially be changing my pronouns to they/them.”

They went on to note, “I feel this best represents the fluidity I feel in my gender expression and allows me to feel most authentic and true to the person I both know I am and am still discovering.”

 

They continued in the thread adding; ” I’m doing this for those out there that haven’t been able to share who they truly are with their loved ones. Please keep living in your truths & know I am sending so much love your way xox”

Lovato also expressed gratitude to the various LGBTQ advocacy groups for their support; “Thank you for your love & support today. Here are a few great organizations and leaders who actively offer education and support:”@glaad, @HRC. @TrevorProject, @LALGBTCenter, @alokvmenon, @mattxiv, @them.

In November of 2017, Lovato invited Virginia Democratic State Delegate Danica Roem, the first openly transgender person seated in a state legislature, to walk the American Music Awards red carpet with them to speak out against bullying. Lovato and Roem were brought together as part of GLAAD’s Together initiative, a campaign for all marginalized communities to stand together.

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