The Quire tells the story of Bayard Rustin through song and narration

The Quire, an LGBTQ+ choir group performed at the First Presbyterian Church in Iowa City, joined by Iowa City mayor Bruce Teague.

The Quire composer Steve Milloy/Contributed

The Quire composer Steve Milloy/Contributed

Ashley Dawson, Arts Reporter

Updated:

Members of the Iowa City community came together at the First Presbyterian Church in Iowa City Friday to welcome The Quire, an LGBTQ+ choir group, as they told the story of Bayard Rustin, the chief organizer of the March on Washington in 1963, through song and narration.

The Quire was joined by Iowa City mayor Bruce Teague, who stood at the front to take on the narration duet, as well as four hair-raising solos.

The Quire was joined by instrumentals, including a bass guitar, saxophone, piano, clarinet, and drums, creating an all-around rich sound throughout the Presbyterian chapel.

Consisting of 14 songs, composed and arranged by Steve Milloy, The Quire’s show lasted approximately an hour. The stage was crowded as choir members told the story of the events leading up to the March on Washington, and Rustin’s role in the organization.

Rustin was born in 1912, just 47 years after the 13th amendment was passed and slavery was abolished. His name, however, is not as widely known as that of Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks. At the time, homosexuality was considered illegal and punishable by imprisonment or capital punishment. This did not stop Rustin from being open to his grandmother about his sexuality.

Because of Rustin, The Quire’s composer, Milloy, based his entire composition around Rustin’s life and story.

“In my early 30’s, I watched “Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin,” and I thought to myself, ‘now there is someone who I can look up to who looks like me,’” Milloy said during an interview with The Daily Iowan.

Now, celebrating their 25 year anniversary, The Quire continues to share Rustin’s story.

Beginning at 8 p.m., The Quire members began their set with a slow, jazzy piece entitled, “The Man Behind The Dream.” Members wore all-black apparel with pops of color on their ties, scarves, jewelry, and even some members’ hair.

“They’re spreading the message of love and hope and equity for all,” said Milloy.

The storytelling concert included audience participation, as the crowd clapped along rhythmically to their high-spirited songs.

“Would you all join me in standing for the national negro anthem?” Teague said after the third song.

The crowd rose to their feet as the music for “Lift Every Voice and Sing” began. Audience members sang along to the projected lyrics as the choir led.

During the ninth song, “Stick in the Wheel”, Teague unveiled his tenor talent with a smooth, rich solo.

Continuing with the concert, Teague and Sharon Hunter shared the narration stage as they went along with the musical storytelling.

Teague completed two more solos throughout the concert — one in “Spiritual Medley,” and the other in “March On,” the closing piece.

“March On” included influential quotes from Rustin himself and Martin Luther King Jr.

“Has It’s a movement, not a moment — one human family,” The Quire sang. “When all people stand together, we will know equality.”

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