In an inauguration filled with firsts, local gays and lesbians also have their notable moments in the spotlight as Barack Obama is sworn in as president.
”It’s historic,” Jeff Buhrman says of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington’s upcoming gig, performing Jan. 18 for President-elect Obama during opening ceremonies at the Lincoln Memorial of the days-long series of events marking the Inauguration.
Two days later, members of the D.C. Different Drummers will also make history as part of the 155 members of the Lesbian and Gay Band Association performing in the Presidential Inauguration Parade.
”This is the first time there’s going to be a real focus on a gay band, from an international perspective,” says DCDD trombone player David McBee.
While members of the DCDD have performed as pre-parade entertainment during both Bill Clinton inaugurations, Jan. 20 will mark the first time the band marches in the actual Inauguration Parade.
”We’re really excited that we’re representing GLBT people from around the country in this parade.”
Members of DCDD joining the LGBA contingent, an international coalition of GLBT concert and marching bands, have U.S. military orders to follow. Musical selection must be screened. The gait of marching steps is dictated with military precision. Still, DCDD Marching Band Director Zachary Parker says it’s a small price to pay to be included in arguably one of the most important parades in history.
”If I were running the show, I’d make it a little more relaxed, but unfortunately with the guidelines that we’ve been given, there are certain things we have to do.”
But even the strict guidelines can’t subdue the spirit of the performers, Parker says.
”We’re still going to be gay and fabulous and all that other stuff as well.”
Gay and fabulous may be easy to pull off thanks to band members’ outfits, including silver baseball jackets that Parker hopes will stand out among the other bands’ traditional attire.
”Since we’re from all over the country, with the LGBA… we had to really try to work to find [music] that would represent all of us,” adds Parker.
If music and attire aren’t enough to ”gay up” the performance, the color guard marching with LGBA plans to carry an American rainbow flag, says McBee: ”Pretty much everyone understands what that means.”
It certainly doesn’t mean that style will win out over substance.
”This is not a Pride parade with drag queens in the backs of cars and whatever else,” he says with a laugh. ”Our focus is going to be performing well.”
While only 22 DCDD members have been selected to march, Parker notes that the whole organization is chipping in.
”There are tons of people who, unfortunately, were not selected to be in the parade, who are opening their homes to visitors and helping us during rehearsals.”
Similarly, with the GMCW at the Lincoln Memorial opening ceremonies, the chorus had to whittle down their 225 singers to a select 100 to perform in the show, to be broadcast later that day on HBO.
While there’s always the possibility of a change in the opening lineup, the GMCW is the only gay chorus performing at the Sunday ceremony.
”GMCW is honored and proud to represent the 200-plus choruses in the gay and lesbian choral movement,” Buhrman says. ”We take immense symbolic satisfaction in the fact that we will sing at the Lincoln Memorial, where so many others have spoken and sung to achieve equality.”