I’m packing my bag and ready to go for my early departure to Prague in the Czech Republic. I’ll be singing with the London Gay Men’s Chorus at the Fifth Pride Celebration with a concert in the National Concert Hall, The British Embassy, some flash mob sings around the city, and on the Pride Parade. But I’m thinking about my summer of queer song that has seen the spread of European LGBT choirs south into Spain and Italy. I’m so proud that GALA Choruses has been encouraging and offered some sponsorship at every Festival.
The summer kicked off in May with the First Spanish Festival hosted by the Mallorca Gay Men’s Chorus on the sunny island of Mallorca in the Mediterranean. The opening concert was an open-air concert held in a castle set amongst stunning scenery with a warm breeze. The sun set between rows of palm trees as 5 choirs from London, Paris, Barcelona, and Mallorca had an official reception with the officials of Andratx. Three days of song and camaraderie culminated in an evening of electrical atmosphere at the Trui Theatre in Palma.
At the end of May, Bologna in Italy was the destination for the first Italian Festival Cromatica, with 6 choirs from Italy and the guest choir Podium from Paris. The “Red” City reflects the colour of the brick in the hot Italian sunshine and the radical nature of its politics. It has been a driving force in Italian gay politics. I was joined by fellow board member Gianluca Ragazzini from Ottawa.
The first evening was a radio programme with phone-in and studio guests, including me. I talked about the role of music in gay politics. By working in harmony together, we can be more effective not only at home in Europe and the USA, but also across the World, where queer people are often persecuted or murdered.
There was a massive concert in the city centre. Sunday saw choirs meeting for lunch and walking around the city into quiet squares or bustling piazzas to sing. Finally, All came together in the main square under the Fountain of Neptune to sing “Bread & Roses,” the festival song featured in the UK movie Pride. What a magical end to a lovely visit.
Mainz is on the Rhine. It is a beautiful South German city and was the location for the ‘Queertakte’ (meaning Gay Bars), the biannual South German choir festival. Sixteen Choirs and 400 Singers came in June to sing, socialise, and learn together. With city sings and two evenings that presented a colourful diversity of all the different choruses, it was a sound carpet weaving, which offered something for everyone. This was an acoustic adventure with wild females, cool ladies, He-Man, (almost) serious gentlemen, and of course lots of…divas. Quite simply: Queer bars! My German speaking is not up to much, but it was a fun weekend by the lovely River Rhine and closing event singing in the beer cellars was very memorable.
Brighton, south of London in the UK was the city of choice for the UK and Ireland’s biennial festival in June. Seventeen choirs came to strut their stuff at the Dome where ABBA shot to fame by winning the Eurovision Contest. There were workshops. One workshop explored a new piece by Odaline de la Martinez, the first woman to conduct at the Proms. Another featured a trans voice workshop, working with the local community. Another was a great flash mob sing and dance along the famous Prom and Pier. Two concerts with a special piece by London GMC “To Russia with Love,” a strong audio visual presentation sung against “Through the Barricades.” The evening culminated with an ABBA medley. It was fun, it was sunny, and it was my home.
Against the backdrop of the Irish yes vote in the Referendum for Equal Marriage, a small trio from Dublin called Tá for Grá (yes to love) gave a moving, but light-hearted, performance of ‘Sew on a Sequin’ reminded us to be fabulous, even when the going is tough. Those boys brought a tear to my eye.
There were other singing festivals around Europe and many wonderful pride concerts and festivals. Of course, the news that Equal Marriage was now in every US state was music to my ears and topped off my summer of song.