CHARLOTTE — On Friday, One Voice Chorus will take part in a time-honored tradition they’ve participated in plenty of times before — the singing of the National Anthem. This time, however, the chorus will make history, step out onto the ice of the Charlotte Checkers hockey team and become the first LGBT/ally chorus to sing the Anthem at the opening of a Charlotte sporting event.
“I think it is a step forward,” One Voice Fundraising Director Jerry Gardner says. “It is absolutely encouraging that a sporting team is willing to work with us but also be so upfront to help and participate.”
The Charlotte Checkers, a minor league team, is “relatively low on the hierarchy” — they aren’t the Panthers or the Bobcats, Gardner says. Regardless, he’s excited all the same.
“They might as well be the Panthers, because it is the first time, it is so different and so groundbreaking,” he says.
One Voice Director Gerald Gurss shares in Gardner’s excitement. He believes the chance to sing at the Checkers game will serve as good outreach to the community.
“The National Anthem is something everyone connects with,” Gurss says. “To share that with someone who has a different viewpoint than you is an instant bond. It will open up our audience base and people are becoming more and more comfortable with LGBT people. This may be a winning situation with us.”
The chorus’ appearance at the Checkers game is more than a chance to sing. The group is also selling discount tickets and $6 of every purchase will be donated back to One Voice.
One Voice Chorus and the Checkers have worked together before. Last year, the team donated memorabilia for the chorus’ silent auction. That initial outreach by Gardner eventually led to the invite to sing the Anthem at this Friday’s game. In talking with Checkers staff, Gardner made it clear they were an LGBT chorus.
“They called back, said they went on our website and saw what we were about and they just loved it,” Gardner recounts.
As One Voice gets ready to celebrate their 20th anniversary, Gardner thinks the Friday appearance will help them continue to fulfill the mission for which the chorus was initially founded.
“We’re gaining exposure for the LGBT community for Charlotte and the surrounding community,” he says. “We’re letting the public know that we share common values with you and enjoy the same things you do. We’re here to sing at a sporting event and might break some stereotypes. I’m very proud One Voice gets to be the organization that does that.”
The Checkers game starts at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 5 at Time Warner Cable Arena in Uptown Charlotte. To buy tickets through One Voice, visit onevoicechorus.com/checkers.htm and follow the instructions.