New Jersey’s Grace Episcopal Church celebrates diversity through song


New Jersey’s Grace Episcopal Church will showcase music dedicated to the LGBT community with “Our Stories in Song: Music of LGBT Composers.”

“The event shows that the church supports the [LGBT] community,” Joseph Arndt told 429Magazine. “We have a lot of gay male parishioners and we celebrate the contributions they have given to society.”

Located in Newark, the Church is the first established faith-based congregation in the area that has also partnered with the Harvey Milk High School.

Arndt said that members of the LGBT community lose their faith and notes that their church is welcoming.

“We show there is an alternative to love,” said Arndt. “We have a different view on sexuality and love that’s welcoming.”

The Church’s mission statement reads: “Our congregation is friendly, welcoming, and diverse. We are African, Caribbean, Caucasian, African American, and Hispanic. We are young and old, married and single, gay and straight.  We are eager to welcome others into the parish community.”

The program will prominently feature Pulitzer Prize, Grammy and Academy Award-winner John Corigliano’s music and other LGBT composers like Mark Adamo and Conrad Cummings.

Noteworthy performers will also include Pianist Bryan Wagorn, Baritone Timothy McDevitt, Soprano Amelia Watkins, Mezzo Soprano Lacey Jo Benter and Soprano Abigail Hayes Lennox.

“It’s fantastic that these performers are giving their time,” Arndt said. “They are really great performers.”

 It is the first time the Church has planned an event like this with many of the performers either faculty members or attend Julliard School. Evan Fein, a Juilliard doctoral fellow, helped recruit a large portion of the performers.

It is our first time. It’s very interesting to see the responses,” said Arndt. “So far it’s been positive and shows that we are supportive on this issue. Non-profits essentially have to network with the communities and we need to be involved. It helps that we support the [LGBT] community.”

Concert proceeds will benefit Hetrick-Martin Institute and the Music Society of Grace Church. The Institute is a Newark-based organization, which provides legal assistance and counseling to LGBT Youth.

Arndt noted that the proceeds help a lot of LGBT youth that face many problems like homelessness, prostitution, lack of education, and difficult family situations.

The programs provide after school programs like tutoring, counseling, social events and anger management. 

For Arndt, he sees it as an opportunity for these youths to have “a space for themselves.”

The event will air on May 5 in Newark, New Jersey with general admission tickets for $25 and premiere tickets for $75. The latter included a pre-concert champagne reception and preferred seating.

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