John Bradford Bohl LGBT Community Choir tribute keeps Flint native's love of music alive

Published: May. 25, 2019 at 12:11 AM EDT
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(05/24/2019) - An emotional evening in Flint as a mother honors the life and legacy of her son, by keeping his love of music alive.

John Bradford Bohl got his start as a rising star on the sacred music scene right here in Flint.

He passed away last August, but his parents Dorie and Brian Barkey, along with conductor David Lindsey wanted to continue his vision of creating an LGBT choir.

On Friday night, the John Bradford Bohl LGBT Community Choir performed its first concert at the Court Street United Methodist Church on what would have been John Bohl's 38th birthday.

The tribute was a celebration of his life, which he chose to devote to music.

Bohl's love of sacred music began around the age of four.

"Little red baby grand piano," his mother Dorie Barkey explained, "it was a toy we bought him for Christmas, he used to pretend he was playing church music on it."

In the photo Barkey shares, you can see a grinning toddler with his grandmother's Methodist hymnal placed squarely on top of his toy piano.

Fast forward eight years, and the twelve-year-old was known for his role as the assistant organist at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in downtown Flint.

"He was a child prodigy," said David Lindsey, the choir's conductor,

"very much like what you would consider Mozart."

Bohl studied music at Indiana University before pursing a career as an organist and music director.

His first job was in Baltimore, where he served as an assistant music director for two years.

He then moved to Washington, DC where he worked as an organist at St. Paul's on K Street, he later became the interim music director.

His next career move was Albany, New York.

He sang for Presidents and performed with the National Cathedral choir as a counter tenor during his time in the nation's capital.

"He worked so hard at it," Lindsey recalled,"sometimes to the point of his own exhaustion, using music to create an impact within the church community, within the greater community."

Bohl was on his way to a music conference in Pennsylvania last summer when he suffered organ failure due to alcoholism.

But before that trip, he had come back to Flint and discussed what the future might hold with his mom.

"We were just talking one day and I said why don't you start a gay men's choir," Barkey said,"and he said 'I could do that'."

Friday night's performance by the John Bradford Bohl LGBT Community Choir and supporters is a realization of that vision.

They performed everything from the Broadway show tune, "What I did for Love" by Marvin Hamlisch to sacred music, which is where Bohl concentrated most of his energy throughout his career.

Members of the Court Street Chancel Choir joined in the performance of "Child of God" by Mark A. Miller during Friday's tribute.

"We just want them to come and feel loved and welcome," said Barkey,

"so they're a part of something."

Brian Barkey, who sings in the choir he helped form, said it was really important for him to "do something" following the loss of his


He said he hopes to see the choir grow.

While the choir is taking the summer off, rehearsals will resume at the end of August.

The group is open to anyone in the LGBT community and its supporters.