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A Cappella Group Says Concert at Florida Christian College Canceled Over Member’s ‘Lifestyle’

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In the half-century history of a cappella vocal group the King’s Singers the acclaimed British vocalists have only cancelled shows due to bad weather, the pandemic or war. But on Saturday (Feb. 11), the choral singers say that they were informed that the final show on their four-city U.S. tour, at Pensacola Christian College in Florida, was scotched with just two hours’ notice due to what the school said was its concerns about the “lifestyle” of the group’s members.

“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 member of our group,” the six-member group said in a statement. The letter on the Singers’ site noted that they have performed at PCC before and that they signed a contract to play there again “in the knowledge that this is a fundamentalist Christian institution,” adding that their belief is that “music can build a common language that allows people with different views and perspectives to come together.”

In an email statement to Billboard, the college — described as a “religious liberal arts institution founded upon and guided by the Bible, as reflected in our Articles of Faith” — said that it cannot “knowingly give an implied or direct endorsement of anything that violates the Holy Scripture, the foundation for our sincerely held beliefs. At the same time, the college also recognizes everyone is created in the image of God and should be afforded the dignity of kindness.”

The statement added that PCC cancelled the show “upon learning that one of the artists openly maintained a lifestyle that contradicts Scripture,” though it did not specify that the decision affecting the all-male group who perform pop, classical and sacred music was based on at least one unspecified member’s sexuality. “The highly talented musicians were treated with dignity and respect when informed of the cancellation,” it continued. “The artists stated their understanding and acceptance of the change and were given full remuneration.”

The school’s articles of faith contain a section specifying that they believe that “God has commanded that sexual activity be exclusively reserved to a man and a woman who are legally married to each other,” adding that scripture forbids, “sexual immorality including adultery, fornication, homosexuality, bestiality, incest, and use of pornography.”

According to the New York Times, the singers had led a workshop on campus before the scheduled show and had begun rehearsing for the event expected to draw 5,000 students when they were “pulled aside by college officials and informed of the cancellation.” The paper also noted that member Jonathan Howard confirmed that two of the group’s singers are gay, though the statement only alluded to one.

In addition to noting that only catastrophe and war have caused cancellations since the group’s founding in Cambridge, England in 1968, the Singers said that they were disappointed that they could not share their music and “our mission of finding harmony with over 4,000 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.”

The Singers are continuing their North American tour and said they look forward to making their way back to northern Florida soon, “in a context where we’re celebrated for who we are, as well as for the music we make.”

The two-time Grammy-winning group has received an outpouring of support on their socials, including Facebook comments on their statement in which fans wrote, “Appalling! I’m so sorry to read this, I really hoped that people could be more accepting in this day and age. I’m sorry for all those loyal fans who didn’t get to enjoy your wonderful music making,” as well as, “We love you exactly as you are. I’m sorry this happened to you all and I’m sorry for the people who for no acceptable reason missed the opportunity to hear you sing” and “May your music continue to be the uniting bond of people through generations, regardless of race, religion, or identity. Love is the only answer.”

Billboard reached out to both the Singers and PCC for additional comment, with both responding with links to their official statements.

WEAR News reported that the cancellation has provoked a fierce debate on campus, with a student who preferred to remain anonymous telling the outlet, “It’s a pretty toxic situation right here currently. It’s just getting very stressful with this situation going on.” The student added that there have been arguments and “mini protests” since Saturday and that “it’s just been a very hostile environment” since.

Supporters of LGBTQ rights have grown increasingly concerned over what appears to be Gov. Ron DeSantis’ hostile stance against the community. The state’s Republican leader — widely expected to take on one-term former president Donald Trump for the GOP nomination in the 2024 presidential race — signed a bill in 2022 commonly referred to by opponents as “Don’t Say Gay” that prohibited any classroom discussion or instruction about sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten-third grade.

GLAAD also noted in January that DeSantis sent a survey to his state’s 12 universities and 28 state and community colleges asking which of them provide services to transgender students asking which are “spending on any transgender services, information including student ages, hormone descriptions, and medical procedures including surgeries.”

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