In the first of four posts about our festival Hand in Hand on Saturday 13 July, we begin to introduce our fantastic workshop leaders and give a taste of what’s in store on the day. Workshop #1: Operatastic
We’ll be starting the day with a classical vocal warm-up and a classic Italian opera chorus by Verdi, guided by Maestro James Burton.
James Burton is one of the country’s leading choral conductors, trained at St John’s College Cambridge and the Peabody Conservatory. He is the Music Director of Oxford’s Schola Cantorum and former choral Director of the Hallé. He has extensive experience of working with professional as well as amateur and youth choirs. His workshop will open the festivities, with some operatic singing to rehearse the famous chorus of the Hebrew slaves from Verdi’s Nabucco. Get involved! If you fancy a fun day of vocal workshops in a variety of styles, taught by leading professional musicians, get yourself signed up. And why not bring a friend, too! Workshop tickets are a bargain at £39 (£34 concessions) and include the chance to enjoy (and perform in!) our evening concert at the fabulous Troxy theatre in Limehouse, London. Hurry, as sign-ups close Sunday June 30, 2013.
The World Cup may well be in Rio that year but the real heat will be elsewhere… It is with great pleasure that we can now confirm that the next Various Voices festival will take place in Dublin in 2014, hosted by our friends Glória LGBT choir.
Various Voices is a very important event, allowing gay and lesbian choirs from all over Europe and the world to meet and sing together, promote both musical and queer culture, and have a good time! The Pink Singers have taken part in every single ‘VV’, and this one will be a wonderful occasion to reinforce the ties with our fellow islanders and all our friends from Legato, the association of European gay and lesbian choirs and the organization behind Various Voices.
London’s South Bank Centre goes gay for the Various Voices festival (formerly known as the European Lesbian and Gay Festival of Song); the Pink Singers are one of the festival’s three stakeholder choirs.
It is so hard to describe what Various Voices is to someone who has never been to one. Once every four years, the LGBT choirs of Europe gather to sing to and show each other how far they have come. On the face of it, this is like any other choral festival, but the gays really do have all the fun, and VV is like a massive family reunion with two thousand relatives you actually like.
The journey to VVL has been a long one, and we knew we had a lot to live up to. VV 2005, my first, was expertly put together in Paris by our friends the zany Equivox and the slick Melo’men. At the end of it London and Geneva put bids in to Legato to host the next one, but the award only came a year later. It was then that Team London, the group comprising members from the Pink Singers, Diversity and the London Gay Men’s Chorus, started the wheels in motion. We’ve been meeting pretty much every first Tuesday of the month since, but much more frequently in the last year, and it was wonderful to see members of all the London choirs putting their time and effort in under the guidance of the Festival Director Martin Brophy.
The biggest coup was securing the world-famous Southbank Centre for the four days of the festival. We needed a venue where people could sing and socialize in one space, and there is nowhere so perfect. But that was just half the battle, there was a programme to plan, a registration process to set up and a million other logistical nightmares to sort out. But before I could even blink the information desk in the Clore ballroom went up and the delegates started arriving! It was time to just cross our fingers and pray that all the preparation would see us through.
Of course preparation for the Pinkies’ choral performance was also on my mind. The Pink Singers sent a large cohort of delegates and we were in the opening concert Voices Of Our City on the Friday night. It is always more nerve-wracking singing to other choristers, but we have been tweaking our repertoire since the start of the year and were ready. Besides, you could not have had a more positive audience. In particular Somewhere and Teardrop were spine-tinglingly lush, and our set was greeted with thunderous applause and a standing ovation. In fact, the standing ovation was a regular feature of all the choir performances. VV is not about acknowledging the musical prowess of the established choirs, it is about supporting the smaller, fledgling choirs. We all understand the power of song to move, celebrate and overcome prejudice, and it is choirs like Sing Out Bristol, making their debut at a VV, but especially the women of Le Zbor from Croatia, who put up the most inspiring of shows.
Knowing that the three choirs of London have such differing musical styles, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised by the variety of performances on display. From Der Homophone’s theatrical tale of Cleopatra, to the Vancouver Men’s Chorus’ tightly harmonized Celine Dion, to Rainbow Chorus’ narrative of protest songs, to Canta:re’s exploration of Robert Schumann’s music, there literally was something for everyone. And the music didn’t just stay in the theatres either, it was on the cabaret stages, it was at the bar, it was in the fountain, it was on the riverside. We sang about stopping homophobia, we sang to Remember Justin, but we sang mainly because we love to.
Like Lou T, I aimed to install myself in the Clore Ballroom for the morning vocal warm-ups, followed by the free performances. I caught the musical director of Rozenkoor taking off his shirt as a part of Steam Heat, I saw the girls of Die Rheintoechter doing their sexy, sinuous choreography. I watched our own Tanya and Cilla do their beautiful rendition of Indigo Girls. It was just so much fun!
Two events really stood out to me over the weekend. The first was the Big Gay Sing: imagine 900 gay men and women who can all hold a note, totally up for performing gay anthems, led by a choir made up of members from all the different choirs. I was sitting next to Oliver from Die Mainsirenen and he couldn’t stop singing, even in the parts where we were supposed to listen to the soloists. Our own Thomas performed a jaw-droppingly inspiring rendition of Over the Rainbow with a friend from Diversity, to a truly deserved standing ovation from the audience.
The second event was With One Voice, the performance of the from-scratch festival choir. I sat between Nicholas from the LGMC and Franck from Podium Paris, or “Tatjana” and “Susan” if you went by the names printed on our seat backs! I doubt anyone could have told me just how awe-inspiring it was to be part of a 400 voice chorus performing Carmina Burana in a huge auditorium like the Royal Festival Hall. And we did it all with just 48 hours of rehearsal.
At the end of the day everyone had their own experience of Various Voices. The one moment which encapsulated it for me was when some of the Pinkies, together with Henning from Vox Homana, were in Pizza Express after the closing ceremony, having dinner, feeling a little tired and a little sad that things had come to an end. The women of Gemengd Dameskoor were at an adjacent table. Seeing us they started singing their songs to us in the middle of the restaurant, and we sang our songs back to them, to applause from diners and staff. It is memories like this which make my world a little brighter.
Various Voices is a very special treasure; it has been an honour to be a part of Various Voices London 2009. Roll on VV2013!
It isn’t very often that the Pinkies are at an event both organized by and for us, but that was the slightly odd situation we found ourselves in on Saturday, the 13th of September. We were attending the Various Voices volunteer rally, a chance for the choirs organizing the festival to get a feel for what it’s all about and how members can help. Continue reading “Various Voices update – September 2008”
As many of you will know, I am our choir’s elected member on the Various Voices 2009 Planning Group. To clarify, the responsibilities of Planning Group members are as follows: – to represent the interests of the stakeholder choir to which they belong (whether this is the Pink Singers, LGMC or Diversity) – to act as a conduit for communicating information between their choir and the Planning Group and vice-versa and – to work collectively as a Group to ensure the successful planning and delivery of VV09. Continue reading “Various Voices update – January 2008”