SALEM — Gordon College, a small Christian school in Wenham, thought it had booked a two-person acoustical group to perform next week at Old Town Hall, a facility it runs for the city of Salem.
Then the emails started to arrive from people protesting that the group it had hired, Death in June, is a “notorious neo-fascist folk group” on a U.S. tour that uses Nazi imagery and symbols, according to one email.
It didn’t take long for concerns to spread about the sold-out Thursday, Sept. 19, concert at Old Town Hall, an 1816 brick building that once hosted President James Monroe.
On Wednesday night, Gordon College Vice President Rick Sweeney said the college has “strong reservations” about an event it does not feel is “compatible with the educational, civic and cultural focus that characterizes Gordon’s relationship with Old Town Hall.”
Gordon College is in the sixth year of a contract with the city to manage the historic building.
Yesterday, after meeting with city officials and a concert promoter, Sweeney said the college is examining the terms of its city contract and the rental agreement, and “looking at our options.”
Another Gordon official said the college was misled and would never have signed Death in June for a venue it usually rents for wedding receptions, chorales and chamber music.
“The individual who made the reservation was very careful not to reveal who the performer was,” said David Goss, director of the Institute for Public History at Gordon College, which is responsible for the management of Old Town Hall.
“He did say there would be a musical performance and he wrote down ... an acoustic guitar and a drum, which really does not raise any eyebrows...”
Booking a musical group involved in past controversies linked to Nazi symbols is “a very negative association for a Christian school to be involved with,” Goss said.