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Catholic church cancels ‘incompatible’ concert by Dublin gay men’s choir

Priest wrote to choir to say event was ‘not compatible with our mission as a Roman Catholic parish church’

The Dublin Gay Men’s Chorus is Ireland’s only all-male gay choir. Photograph: Richard Corcoran

St Andrew’s Church on Westland Row in Dublin has cancelled a concert by the Dublin Gay Men’s Chorus on the grounds it believes the recital was to be “a Pride Festival event”, which it said “is not compatible with our mission”.

The group, which is Ireland’s only all-male gay choir, said it booked the Catholic church for the June 23rd event over the phone. It received email confirmation of the booking on April 10th.

The group’s chairman, Patrick McNamara, said the concert was entitled Pride in the Name of Love, so-called after the U2 song of the same name.

However, a follow-up email from a priest at the church on Tuesday informed the group that the booking had been cancelled as it had “learned that in form and content it is being presented not as a simple choral recital but as a Pride Festival event”.

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“I am writing to advise you that the parish is not in a position to make the church available for the concert that was planned to be held on Sunday, June 23rd,” the priest wrote. “The parish is happy to welcome groups from all backgrounds to perform concerts in the church as you know from your concerts here as a musical director on many occasions.

“However, the parish is disappointed that the nature of this event was not made clear at the time of booking.

“We have learned that in form and content it is being presented not as a simple choral recital but as a Pride Festival event in a context which is not compatible with our mission as a Roman Catholic parish church.

“In the circumstances the parish is unable to facilitate the performance on June 23rd.”

Mr McNamara said the booking was made “under the name of Dublin Gay Men’s Chorus”, and added the group had “no reason to suspect they were not aware of who was making the booking”.

He said the choir was “deeply disappointed” by the decision, which he described as “deeply hurtful”.

“June is Pride month across the world and the celebration of having pride in one’s self and community should be permitted,” he said. “While we made it clear this event is not associated with the official Dublin Pride festival once St Andrew’s made its concerns known, the church was unwilling to change its position.

“St Andrew’s Church previously permitted another Dublin-based LGBT+ choir to perform in 2023, yet has seemingly made this decision due to the event’s title and its perception of its association with the festival.

“To be in this situation now just 10 days before our concert is quite stressful and difficult for us as a choir,” he said. “It is something we have never experienced previously.”

While the choir has not performed in St Andrew’s Church previously, Mr McNamara said it has performed in other churches, some of which are Roman Catholic.

“For community-based choirs like ourselves, churches are the most used venues within the Greater Dublin Area because of acoustics and cost-wise,” he said. “They can also facilitate the kind of crowd that we have without us having to step into the really large spaces that we wouldn’t be able to afford as a community-based choir.”

He said the group had already sold more than 300 tickets for the annual event, but it would work to secure a new venue and would contact ticket holders in due course.

St Andrew’s Church and the Archdiocese of Dublin have each been contacted for comment.

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter