Bursting onto our TV screens back in 2008 during the BBC’s Last Choir Standing, Brighton’s Gay Men’s Chorus has gone on to represent Brighton and the gay choral tradition in a number of ways.
Here, on the eve of its Pride performance, Rod Edmunds, the chorus’ chairman, reveals all…
Tell us a little about how Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus started.
Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus (Brighton GMC) sprung into life in 1995. It was the brainchild of a group of former members of the London Gay Men’s Chorus. When they moved down to live in our glorious City by the sea, they were surprised to discover that Brighton did not already have its own gay male-voice choir. Five years on and the Brighton GMC has in excess of 60 members, making us the largest male gay Chorus outside London.
It’s your fifth anniversary, how’s the celebration going?
So far it’s been hectic, but terrific fun; and, surprise, surprise, we have decided to keep on partying through to the start of the next year! We kicked off with a birthday concert, “Now We Are Five”, both a retrospective and also a “first” for us. It marked our first concert promotion as part of Brighton’s Fringe festival: It was a sell-out!
The Last Choir Standing performance was fantastic, what’s happened since?
You are so right – we had an absolute ball! Representing Brighton and the gay choral tradition on prime time BBC Saturday night television, and reaching into the living rooms of 7.4 million viewers, was an amazing experience. And it has brought Brighton GMC any number of wonderful opportunities – some of the these include being invited to support Spymonkey’s national tour of “Moby Dick” when it came to last year’s Brighton Comedy Festival, and sharing the stage at the Dome with “Only Men Aloud” (the winners of Last Choir Standing) were in town. Then, just before last Christmas, 60s Icon Sandie Shaw joined us to be our special guest when we playing to nearly 2,000 people in our Christmas extravaganza, “Make the Yuletide Gay”, at London’s Barbican Hall. We have also been thrilled to be invited to perform live (and on CD) with the legendary 1970s punk band, The Damned.
What do you look for in would-be choristers?
There is no blueprint. If there is one overriding hallmark, then it is a desire to give enthusiastic performances – for, as Russell Watson noted, we are “showmen”. We aim to have fun and transmit that vibe so that we can send our audiences home thoroughly entertained. Our members come from all walks of life and span a broad age spectrum. Part of our mission – enshrined in our Constitution – is that membership should be open to anybody who wants to join, irrespective of musical training or vocal ability.
Pride is just around the corner, anything planned?
Yes, we are hard at work putting the finishing touches to our show, “A Cheap Gay Return!” which will help launch the weeklong Pride celebrations at 8 pm on July 30th and July 31st at St George’s Church, Kemptown. The show follows the staff who work at, and the revellers who pass through, Mrs Bennet’s station tea rooms at Brighton Junction on Pride day itself. The audience will be treated to a range of numbers including, “Bridge Over Troubled Water”; “Angels”; “I Will Follow Him”; and “Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart”. During Pride week we are appearing on the bill of “MindOut for the Laughs”, MindOut’s next fundraiser at the Komedia (7.30 on August 5th). And to round off the first half of our birthday year, we have a stall Pride in the Park (so, come and say hello).
What is it about living and singing in Brighton that is so special?
Ah, there really is nowhere in the UK to match Brighton; the mix of people, the sea, a laid back sense of acceptance. It all makes for something truly special. But important as it is for us to be able to make our distinctive musical contribution as part of this City’s vibrant gay culture and its history, our singing lives are made all the more special because in this City our appeal and our audiences is not confined by any narrow or prescriptive labels to do with sexual identity.
As a choir, you must have a favourite tune…
Put 60 gay chorus members in a concert hall and you are likely to get as many, if not more, nominations for our favourite tune! But here’s a couple of all-time favourites: “Dancing Queen”, Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” and of course, “I Am What I Am”.Share on Facebook