Pensacola Christian College canceled a performance by the Grammy-winning a cappella group because select members are gay
The King’s Singers, a British a cappella ensemble formed in 1968, was recently completing their most recent tour of the United States. The last stop was at Pensacola Christian College (PCC), in Florida, a venue at which they have performed previously.
Two hours prior to the start of the concert on February 11, the King’s Singers were informed that the performance was canceled, citing an ensemble member’s “lifestyle” as its reason for canceling.
The King’s Singers later said that “it has become clear to us, from a flood of correspondence from students and members of the public, that these concerns related to the sexuality of members of our group.”
Two members of the a cappella group are gay and it has been reported that PCC received complaints from some students, parents, and staff that this violated the school’s Baptist values.
“Pensacola Christian College is a religious liberal arts institution founded upon and guided by the Bible, as reflected in our Articles of Faith,” reads a statement released on February 13 from the school. “The college cannot knowingly give an implied or direct endorsement of anything that violates the Holy Scripture.
“PCC canceled a concert with The King’s Singers upon learning that one of the artists openly maintained a lifestyle that contradicts Scripture,” the statement continued.
Besides weather, the recent pandemic, or war, this was the first instance in The King’s Singers’ 55-year history that a performance of theirs was canceled. In response, the group released a statement.
“Our belief is that music can build a common language that allows people with different views and perspectives to come together,” they continue. “We are disappointed not to have been able to share our music and our mission of finding harmony with over 4000 students of the college and the wider Pensacola community. We hope that any conversations that follow might encourage a greater sense of love, acceptance, and inclusion.”
“We look forward to seeing our friends in northern Florida again soon, in a context where we’re celebrated for who we are, as well as for the music we make.”
News of the cancellation has sparked an outpouring of backlash against Pensacola Christian College.
“This is outrageous!!” writes Dame Sarah Connolly, an English mezzo-soprano. “Homophobia of this sort should not exist behind closed doors. It’s cowardly. TOIS for the rest of the tour.”
“This is disgusting — and the absolute antithesis of what we as an industry should stand for and tolerate,” The Violin Channel CEO, Founder, and Editor in Chief Geoffrey John Davies said. “Patrick, Edward, Julian, Christopher, Nick, and Jonathan bring your girlfriends, boyfriends, and/or significant others and come and sing for us on The Violin Channel anytime.”
The King’s Singers is comprised of countertenors Patrick Dunachie and Edward Button, tenor Julian Gregory, baritones Christopher Bruerton and Nick Ashby, and bass Jonathan Howard. They have received two Grammy Awards, an Emmy Award, and a place in Gramophone magazine’s inaugural Hall of Fame.
Combining British choral tradition with new repertoire, they have performed at venues such as Carnegie Hall, Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Mozarteum Salzburg, Tonhalle Zurich, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Helsinki Music Centre, and Sydney Opera House.
Having worked with orchestras previously, their recent project included specially commissioned work by Sir James MacMillan with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra at the Edinburgh International Festival.
They have also commissioned 200 works by composers such as John Tavener, Judith Bingham, Eric Whitacre, György Ligeti, Luciano Berio, Krzysztof Penderecki, and Toru Takemitsu.
Formed in 1968 when six recent choral scholars from King’s College, Cambridge gave a concert at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, the group originally consisted of two countertenors, a tenor, two baritones, and a bass. The group has maintained this formation ever since that debut.