Pioneer Valley Gay Men’s Chorus says diocese barred them from concert

  • The Pioneer Valley Gay Men’s Chorus performs at a holiday concert at Edwards Church in Northampton in 2018. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/PIONEER VALLEY GAY MEN’S CHORUS

  • The Pioneer Valley Gay Men’s Chorus performs at a holiday concert at Edwards Church in Northampton in 2018. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/PIONEER VALLEY GAY MEN’S CHORUS

Staff Writer
Published: 1/7/2020 3:46:05 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — The Pioneer Valley Gay Men’s Chorus is speaking out after the group says the Diocese of Springfield barred them from performing at a holiday concert at St. Theresa’s of Lisieux Parish last month.

When the chorus was invited to participate in the church’s “Lessons and Carols” concert, its members were somewhat apprehensive due to the Catholic Church being “not as progressive as some of the other churches,” said chorus member George Yeramian. But ultimately, the chorus, which formed 26 years ago, was excited to participate and spent weeks preparing for the Dec. 15 show.

Then, about two weeks before the concert, the group was informed that Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski of the Springfield diocese would not allow them to perform, according to Yeramian.

“It’s so backwards,” Yeramian said. “It just doesn’t make sense, here in the Valley and the way things are today, and you want to make things better.

“Even the pope said to reach out,” he continued, referring to Pope Francis encouraging the church to welcome and be compassionate toward gay people, “and this is the turn Bishop Rozanski makes.”

Yeramian added dryly, “We’re singing, not recruiting.”

The Diocese of Springfield did not respond to phone or email requests for comment on Tuesday.

St. Theresa’s Parish was supportive of the chorus’s participation, Yeramian said, but seemed to have little power in the matter. Parish priest the Rev. Michael Twohig could not be reached via phone on Tuesday.

Troubles did not arise until flyers for the event were printed, according to Yeramian. He said at least one person complained to the diocese about the event including the Pioneer Valley Gay Men’s Chorus, though he does not know who the complaint came from.

Henry Gibson, another member of the chorus, who joined in 2007, said that he has never seen the group rejected in this manner.

“That’s one of the reasons it was so shocking,” Gibson said. “We’d been invited to many churches throughout the Valley, and this was totally the opposite of the reactions we’ve had at other places.”

Gibson also said that St. Theresa’s did not object to the chorus’ inclusion in the event.

“The church was very supportive, (Twohig) was very apologetic and came to us personally and said there really wasn’t much he could do about it … and was embarrassed and very upset himself,” Gibson said.

Other singers slated to perform in the program were also supportive, Yeramian said.

At one point, he said someone suggested that the groups sing as “friends of the church,” rather than the Pioneer Valley Gay Men’s Chorus, but this option did not feel right either.

“We weren’t going to go back on who we were,” Yeramian said.

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.

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