Nashville in Harmony (NiH) is hitting the road once again. As part of their spring 2011 concert season entitled "A Home for Us All," Middle Tennessee’s only city chorus comprised of GLBT people and their friends will be traveling by bus over the first weekend in June to Chattanooga and then on to Birmingham. There, they will perform with sister chorus Magic City Choral Society on June 4.
This will be the second road tour for the chorus following last year’s concert in Louisville. Nashville in Harmony then returns to Music City on June 9 to perform "A Home for us All," their season finale concert event at Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s (TPAC) Polk Theater. This will be NiH’s third performance at TPAC.
NiH has seen tremendous growth in the last several years in both membership and audience size. They recently had the honor of performing with the Nashville Symphony at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in February for a three-night production of “Broadway Rocks!” and were invited to perform again as part of the Regions Free Day of Music on May 22.
Nashville in Harmony continues to receive generous grants from The Franklin Brooks Philanthropic Fund of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, the Tennessee Arts Commission and the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission. "A Home for Us All" was chosen as the overarching theme for this season because the chorus wanted to consciously reach out to groups that might not be aware of Nashville in Harmony or its mission – using music to build community and create social change.
Most of NiH’s 100+ members are from the GLBT community and, though much ground has been gained in the fight for acceptance and equal rights, many of them have experienced non-acceptance and isolation as a minority group first hand. They wanted to reach out to other minority groups such as the homeless, immigrants, African Americans and others that have or may be currently experiencing similar non-acceptance.
"[We wanted] to intentionally connect with and take our music to people in our community who are marginalized or disenfranchised," says director Don Schlosser.
This connection is being made in several ways. During the month of March, Nashville in Harmony’s membership participated in a community service project to help 18 men move from homelessness to affordable housing by filling welcome baskets to the point of overflowing with household items for their new homes. That same month, NiH invited members and former members of the homeless community to speak to the chorus during regular rehearsals to raise awareness of what it’s like to be a member of that minority group.
The months of April and May saw visits by members of the immigrant and African-America communities as well. Nashville in Harmony is also taking its music to these groups starting with a performance for the homeless at Room in the Inn where the chorus performed a 40 minute set before dozens of enthusiastic listeners. During the singing of "Lift Every Voice and Sing," known as the Black National Anthem, a homeless African-American man stood up, placed his hand over his heart and quietly mouthed the lyrics, his eyes moist with tears of pride.
"It was an incredibly moving experience to make that connection with him," says chorus member Bill Richeson. “Afterward, he hugged almost every one of us."
The chorus will be returning to Room in the Inn later in the season. They will also be participating in the morning worship service at Southside Baptist Church during their trip to Birmingham. Southside is a grand, 120-year-old church committed to "building an inclusive community of grace." Partnering with different groups fosters learning and understanding and builds bonds between groups that may not know each other very well.
“As we sing and listen to [each other’s] stories, we honor those who are different from us and in the process, find out how much the same we really are," says chorus member Janet (JT) Collins.
“Through these acts of listening, singing and building community, Nashville in Harmony’s music is sweeter and our resolve firmer that we can be an instrument of social change in Music City and beyond," adds chorus member Laura Valentine.
Through their music, their outreach and community service, Nashville in Harmony lives by example the values and power of diversity. They truly make the community a better place and are doing their part to make a home for us all.
"I think it’s safe to say most music groups exist to perform…their art is their mission," says Schlosser. "For Nashville in Harmony, art is not our mission. Community is our mission – art is our strategy. NiH is a … group with a purpose larger than our lives."
For more information about the chorus, concert events and tickets, visit www.nashvilleinharmony.org.