Gay Chorus Deep South, the powerful new documentary feature chronicling The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus’ life-changing Lavender Pen Tour through five southern states in the fall of 2017, will make its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on Monday, April 29, 2019 followed by a special performance from members of The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.
In this groundbreaking documentary, director and writer David Charles Rodrigues, writer and editor Jeff Gilbert, producers Bud Johnston and Jesse Moss, and director of photography Adam Hobbs followed the 300 members of The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus—along with special guests from The Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir—as they embarked on an unprecedented bus tour through the Deep South, celebrating music, challenging intolerance, and confronting their own dark coming out stories to confront a resurgence of anti-LGBTQ laws.
Led by Gay Chorus Conductor Dr. Tim Seelig and joined by The Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir; the tour brings a message of music, love and acceptance to communities and individuals confronting intolerance. Over 300 singers travelled from Mississippi to Tennessee through the Carolinas and over the bridge in Selma. They performed in churches, community centers and concert halls in hopes of uniting us in a time of difference. The journey also challenges Tim and other Chorus members who fled the South to confront their own fears, pain and prejudices on a journey towards reconciliation. The conversations and connections that emerge offer a glimpse of a less divided America, where the things that divide us—faith, politics, sexual identity—are set aside by the soaring power of music, humanity and a little drag.
On the Lavender Pen Tour, the group made 23 appearances across Mississippi (Hattiesburg and Jackson), Alabama (Selma, Montgomery, and Birmingham), Tennessee (Knoxville), South Carolina (Greenville), and North Carolina (Greensboro and Charlotte) from October 7–14, 2017. The tour helped to share the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus’ mission of community, activism and compassion throughout the South, supporting its LGBTQ brothers and sisters and promoting acceptance and love through music. SFGMC also joined with local non-profits and LGBTQ groups to help raise much needed funds in support of their vital work to dismantle biased and discriminatory laws.
The tour received its name from the actions of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay candidate elected to major office in the U.S., who has often been referred to as the patron saint of the SFGMC. In 1977, a year before his death, Milk sponsored a landmark gay civil rights bill. Mayor George Moscone signed that bill into law with a lavender pen given to him by Milk. The lavender pen remains a symbol of the fight for equality for all and the reason for the tour’s name. For more than 40 years, the SFGMC has served as the international standard bearer for a mix of performances, human rights and community activism, empowerment and inclusiveness, establishing it as an icon among LGBTQ organizations. Founded in 1978, it was the first organization of its kind and is credited with starting the LGBTQ choral movement, galvanizing and changing the course of LGBTQ history.
Under the leadership of Artistic Director Dr. Timothy Seelig, SFGMC has established a heightened level of performance standards bringing renewed audience and choral industry acclaim. In 2019, SFGMC acquired a new facility that will act as both its permanent home for rehearsals and offices. The building will also serve as the first-ever National LGBTQ Center for the Arts and a community space for San Francisco LGBTQ artists.