“The more we can touch people’s lives via music and via art, I think it increases the opportunity for people to really, truly understand our story, our struggle, and where we are today,” says Ashley Smith.
The president of the Capital Pride Alliance will help D.C.’s Different Drummers in that regard next weekend, when he will serve as master of ceremonies for a pride-themed concert paying homage to the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots that sparked the LGBTQ movement. The event features the Capitol Pride Symphonic Band, the Different Drummers’ largest ensemble, led by Anthony Oakley.
“Music can evoke emotions like pride [as well as] images and colors,” explains Adam Sulewski, a percussionist with the band who also helps out with logistics and publicity. Rather than a program focused on LGBTQ-identified artists or LGBTQ-themed compositions, the group has opted for a more novel approach. “It’s a more conceptual show [where] each song is going to evoke one of the colors of the pride flag,” he says.
The concert includes Bach’s Fantasia in G, representing the color Indigo, which is tied to the value of Harmony, Barber’s “Sure On This Shining Night,” a song about Healing as reflected by the color Orange, and Bernstein’s Slava!, “an incredibly lively and spirited piece” that reflects the Spirit and the color Violet.
Sulewski says the Capital Pride Alliance was an obvious choice to partner with for the concert, “to help demonstrate how you can evoke pride through the medium of music. It’s really interesting to support and cross-promote each other — there’s not necessarily enough of that in the LGBTQ community.”
Smith is a particularly good fit as concert emcee, having grown up the son of a preacher, immersed in the performance of music, from singing and directing choir to playing trumpet and piano. He’s a firm believer in the power of music and art to unite people and advance equality — going so far as to suggest that today’s DCDD is doing right by the Stonewall forebears.
“Those who started Stonewall were fighting — maybe not directly, but indirectly — to create the safe space where we can actually have an organization that consists of predominantly LGBTQ members, who come together, unite, and are able to perform music that relates to pride,” he says. “If people can come with an open mind, I’m hoping everyone will leave with a different perspective on how music can impact our lives in so many different ways. And how and what this struggle and this movement has done. and how many people it’s touched.”
Pride In Concert is Saturday, April 6, at 7 p.m., at the Church of the Epiphany, 1317 G St. NW. Tickets are $15 to $25 plus fees. Call 202-403-3669 or visit www.dcdd.org.