Conducted by Steve Ramsey of Viva Brighton Magazine, August 2012
Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus was originally founded in 2005 and currently has around 65 members. They achieved national recognition when they appeared on the BBC’s Last Choir Standing in 2008. The Chorus since became formally registered as a charity in 2010 and regularly performs around the local area.
Is Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus a social group or a music group?
George Leach: Right from the outset it was both. For example, it’s built into the rehearsals that we have a ‘tea break’, a time for people to chat and socialise. Anyone who tries to shorten the tea break too much is in trouble, because the Chorus is about Socialising and Support as well as Singing – our “3 S’s”. It’s a big element of why people are there.
Adam Betteridge: And we go to the Brighton Tavern after rehearsals, and both the Chorus and members organise other social events such as trips to the cinema and nights out. We also recently arranged a group to go see the Golden Handbag Awards (which is kind of like the local gay community Oscars) where much to our delight we were voted up Runner Up as Brighton’s Favourite Community and Social Networking Group! It was a great fun night
Do you need to audition to join?
AB: No. There aren’t any auditions. You just get voice tested to see which section you should sing in: bass, baritone, tenor 1 or tenor 2.
GL: People are very surprised sometimes at the ability they find within themselves once they get into the flow. If you’re singing in a group of people who are singing the right note, it’s actually quite hard to sing the wrong one.
AB: Also, not all our members are always gay; it’s actually for gay and gay-friendly men.
GL: We don’t audition how gay they are!
Does it help that the performers are friends?
GL: It gives the songs a kind of depth that they wouldn’t have if we were just a group of professionally recruited singers doing a technically flawless job.
AB: If a mate of yours is standing next to you and singing really well, you can’t help but go ‘wow’. Equally, if they’ve just messed something up, you’re going to nudge them in a good humoured way and help make light of it.
Have there been any funny incidents on stage recently?
AB: We performed to a packed house at the Dome at Christmas, and the choreography went a bit astray. The Chorus was swaying in one direction but there was a small group swaying in completely the opposite direction. You could see the audience starting to giggle. Seeing our plight, and like a true professional, our musical director Marc jumped up off his podium mid-song, and grabbed the people who were swinging in the wrong direction until they started swinging in the right direction. The audience loved it!
I understand there are four gay choruses in town
GL: Some people say ‘why can’t you all be in one big gay chorus?’ Well, there are something like 26 NON-gay choruses, so I think four in a city like Brighton isn’t too many. And they all have their distinct sound.
AB: Yes there’s a lot of diversity within the gay community so the more the merrier really. It also gives us shows to watch, as we obviously can’t go and watch ourselves perform! We also arrange a joint show annually for World Aids Day with various other gay Choruses and music groups, which we feel helps develop a kind of camaraderie.
What are your shows like?
AB: It’s almost like going to see Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus: The Musical. The songs are linked together with scripted scenes that tell a story in a witty and often moving way. These scenes are adapted by our own Chorus members and are usually inspired by real events in their lives.
GL: For example, a guy in the chorus was once married and has grown up children: some of his experiences of coming out to his kids are very moving, very funny, and we adapted them for our summer show last year. This year, the Chorus is seven years old, which is obviously quite a long time for someone to be in one place, one group or one relationship. So that has inspired our next summer show which is called ‘The Seven-year Itch: No Rash Decisions’.
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