This weekend, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington D.C. used music to drown out a group of homophobes protesting their performance at a Pride event in Tennessee.
The incident occurred on Saturday while the group was performing at the Knox PrideFest in Knoxville as part of its Southern Equality Tour.
According to chorus artistic director Thea Kano, about eight people were protesting with signs by the Pride stage when the choir arrived. After the performance, the singers got on the tour bus to head back to their hotel, but noticed that the protesters were still by the stage harassing Pride attendees.
That’s when Kano asked the driver to stop the bus and let the choir out. She then gathered the singers into a circle around the demonstrators to create a powerful musical blockade against the vitriol.
— GMCWashington (@GMCWashington) June 17, 2017
“This particular protester started walking across the street and shouting at us, so I blew the pitch pipe and told [the members] what we were going to sing and ushered them into a big circle, and we sang maybe four songs,” said Kano. “He was walking along and shouting in our faces and we kept singing.”
The GMCW drowned out the bigots with renditions of “We Shall Overcome,” “Make Them Hear You” from Ragtime and the national anthem. The music inspired passerby to join ranks with the choir in shutting down the protesters.
“As we were singing the national anthem, this woman who wasn’t with our group broke into the circle with a big rainbow flag,” Kano recalled. “It was love drowning out hate, and we did it peacefully and with harmony.”
LGBT chorus organizations across the country have been using music to spread messages of inclusion and equality in the wake of Trump’s election last fall. The Gay Men’s Chorus of San Francisco, for example, is set to embark on a tour of red states this year and the Gay Men’s Chorus of New York City teamed up with El Coro Gay de Ciudad de México for a joint concert in celebration of diversity this March.