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First came the call inviting the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington to participate in ”We Are One,” the opening ceremony of President Obama’s days-long Inauguration event, held Sunday, Jan. 18, at the Lincoln Memorial. Then came the news of who would round out their performance: Grammy-nominated Josh Groban and Tony Award-winner Heather Headley. ”There are many people in the chorus who are huge fans of both,” says Jeff Buhrman, the chorus’ artistic director. ”They were thrilled. [Groban and Headley] were the icing on the cake.”
And while many in the GLBT community were disappointed that there was no announcement to the audience that it was this particular — and particularly — gay chorus backing Groban and Headley, Buhrman says it was only a trivial slight where chorus members are concerned.
”It was disappointing that the only chorus recognized onstage was the Naval Academy Chorus, but it doesn’t diminish the importance of our participation in the event, putting a face on our dream for equality,” he says, adding that it was of greater relevance for the GMCW contingent of 110 — about half the full chorus — to sing ”My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” making a forceful statement for inclusivity.
Sunday’s presentation also marked only the second time – the other being the Kennedy Center Honors – that Buhrman joined the chorus as a singer, rather than serve as their director.
Although chorus members were given no specific memento by which to remember their participation, many took photos backstage with celebrities performing in ”We Are One.” Still, says Buhrman, ”this will remain in the hearts and minds of our members for a very long time.”