Louisville choral group sends off KY Supreme Court plaintiffs with marriage-themed concert

When VOICES of Kentuckiana choir began preparing for their spring concert a few months ago, discussing themes and messages, they didn't realize how perfectly timed their performance would be. The show, entitled "Marry Us...Today!" will be held this week, on April 17 and April 19, just about one week before the United States Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the freedom to marry in a legal case emanating from the very town where they rehearse - Louisville, Kentucky.

The group of nearly sixty singers, a mix of LGBT and straight singers from “Kentuckiana,” the Louisville metropolitan area that covers parts of both Kentucky and Indiana, rehearses weekly, raising their voices in song and building a supportive, welcoming environment among themselves and in their broader community.

The choir is excited to cheer on the plaintiffs and legal team members from the Bourke v. Beshear and Love v. Beshear cases, which will be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court alongside cases from Tennessee, Michigan and Ohio. The plaintiffs are represented by Fauver Law Office, Clay Daniel Walton & Adams, Stanford Law School's Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Freedom to Marry connected with Jeffrey Buhrman, the Artistic Director of the choir, this week to discuss the concert, his hopes for the future of the freedom to marry, and the power of music in changing hearts and minds:

Q: What’s special about this spring’s VOICES of Kentuckiana performance?

Even before we knew that the Supreme Court was going to tackle this in mid-April, we decided to present this concert. It’s called ‘Marry Us…Today,’ and it’s a celebration of the universality of love. We’re going to share lovely, happy, AND precious moments of the journey that love takes us on. There are songs about the desire to find love, about going on a blind date, falling in love, making the commitment, and then getting married.

Our concert is very timely [with the Supreme Court case coming up]. And it’s even more touching that we have straight allies in the chorus who join with the lesbian and gay singers to present this important concert.

Q: How has the LGBT Choral movement left an impact on the broader LGBT movement, and the national efforts to win the freedom to marry for same-sex couples? 

Our mission here is to create change, change hearts and minds. That’s what we do. Winning the right for gay people to marry has not been easy.

It’s been a journey for 40-plus years, and you can document the journey in many ways – and I don’t think anyone does it better than the LGBT Choral movement. There have been LGBT Choruses for over 40 years, and we use music to share our stories and our truths to get people to a better place of understanding.

If we don’t tell our stories, who will?

Q: You have years of experience in the LGBT choral movement – will you share more about what you’ve learned, and how your time with VOICES of Kentuckiana has differed?

I’ve was the artistic director of the Gay Men’s Chorus in Washington, D.C. for 14 years – and I was with them for 25 years.

There, we always sang songs about from the male perspective. With VOICES, it’s fascinating to sing some songs from the perspective of two women, some from two men, and some from a man and a woman. There is this universality of love and our inclusive chorus is a great place for understanding and unity. Our singing needs to be a reflection of our lives.

In our choir, there’s just an acceptance of people – it doesn’t matter what your sexuality is, or what your gender is. We’re all the same. It’s a bit different for me than having worked with a men’s chorus for so long. This puts a greater focus for me on the fact that we are the same.

Q: How has your own personal story as a married person impacted VOICES of Kentuckiana’s presentation of this material for the spring concert?

My husband Roger and I got married in California because it wasn’t legal in Washington, D.C. at the time. We got married, came home, and it wasn’t recognized at that time.

Then we decided about a year ago that we wanted to find somewhere else to live that didn’t have the level of stress that DC has. I loved what I was doing with the Gay Men’s Chorus, but Roger and I knew we both wanted a change of pace. Having been with the Gay & Lesbian Association of Choruses, I was looking for Chorus jobs. I knew VOICES of Kentuckiana, had seen them, and liked their work. So we moved, and now here in Kentucky, we’re again not recognized as a married couple. 

I think there’s a universal understanding in the lesbian and gay community to know what it feels like to be denied the freedom to marry. There’s an understanding that these laws are arbitrary – you move from state to state, country to country, and your marriage status changes. For example, we are now in a pocket in the country where if one of us gets injured and goes into the hospital, we may not be able to share in the freedoms that came legally and naturally to married people, as it was when we lived in Washington, D.C.

VOICES feels a responsibility to share our stories and tell our truths [with this concert’s marriage-focused theme]. I think the fact that we are supporting the efforts of the men and women in the four states who are appearing before the Supreme Court is really important.

What they’re doing will change our country. We are all anticipating a positive outcome and looking forward to the day when there is true equality in this state and this country.