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Boston Gay Men’s Chorus finds triumph, conflict in Istanbul

Boston Gay Men's Chorus rehearsing in May in preparation for the group's tour of the Middle East.

Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Boston Gay Men's Chorus rehearsing in May in preparation for the group's tour of the Middle East.

On its historic tour of Israel and Turkey, the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus took an unexpected turn on Sunday. After performing in Istanbul without incident on Saturday, the 100-plus members had planned to participate in the city’s Pride festivities the next day. They were turned away by riot police, who disrupted the parade with tear gas, rubber pellets, and water cannons in images broadcast around the world.

In a statement posted on its Facebook page on Monday, BGMC’s executive director, Craig Coogan, noted that the turn of events only solidified its mission to foster compassion.

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“Some of our members witnessed unprovoked violence and aggression toward Pride march participants,” Coogan wrote. “That is why cultural exchange means so much to audiences in places like Turkey and around the world where the promise of full equality still lies in the distance, and events from political action to cultural experiences can inspire hope.”

Coogan pointed out that it was a surprising end to what had been a celebratory moment in Istanbul.

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“Our performance at Bogazici University was a joyous and boisterous occasion that saw concert-goers dancing in the aisles, including Charles Hunter, US Consul of Istanbul, who joined us on stage for our last number,” Coogan wrote. “The concert was not just a great night out, it was an example of how music is a universal language that inspires change, builds community, and celebrates difference.”

The Globe was not immediately able to reach Coogan or the chorus’ press contact, both of whom are traveling with the BGMC. The group also posted a video with highlights of its 10-day trip, during which it made history as the first gay choral ensemble to perform in the Middle East with five concerts in Israel (Ein Gedi, Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv) and Turkey (Istanbul).

James Reed can be reached at jreed@globe.com.
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