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Queer Choral Communities

Image credit: Pippa Sterk

In September 2018, I sat on a train for an hour and a half. At the time, I thought that I was making the biggest, most embarrassing mistake of my life. I arrived in Euston station and walked into the rehearsal venue, wishing that I could sink into the ground and not experience the next couple of hours. More and more people entered the room, all seemingly knowing each other and speaking in jargon I didn’t understand. After a couple of minutes, we were called to silence and welcomed to the first rehearsal of the Autumn season of the Pink Singers, Europe’s longest-running LGBT+ choir. I’d seen their videos on YouTube and I’d been enchanted by the happiness that seemed to emanate from them. In a wave of confidence (or over-confidence?), I’d signed up to be kept in the loop about auditions for new intakes.

I am a nervous person. I don’t like being in the spotlight. I don’t have a particularly musical background. I don’t like the idea of people judging my singing, because I love singing and I don’t want anyone ruining that. Most importantly, I have an alto voice, so what the hell was I doing auditioning for the opportunity of singing tenor in a choir? The answer is very simple: they were doing something that looked like fun, and I wanted to join in. My eagerness to immerse myself in the joys of singing and dancing won out over my anxiety of making a tit of myself.

I barely remember the audition itself; I just recall leaving with a bittersweet feeling, on the one hand happy, and relieved that it was all over and that I’d gotten to speak to a few really kind people in the choir, who had immediately invited me to go out to dinner with them. On the other hand, I was sad that it would probably all be for nothing, and that my inevitable rejection would mean I’d never get to see these people again.

For a week, I checked my inbox every five minutes, knowing for sure that an email would pop up with the subject heading “what were you thinking???”. However, that email never came, and instead, I was informed that I could join the choir from the next Sunday onwards. Since then, I have performed with the Pink Singers in three concerts, numerous gigs for charities and corporations, at an arts festival and at a football game.

As important as singing is to me, even more crucial are the opportunities to connect with other LGBT+ people through music. Our choir is made up of people of all ages, of all different sexualities and gender identities, and from a variety of nationalities and ethnicities. Current and past members still visit each other and go on holiday together, because “once a Pinkie, always a Pinkie”. Surprisingly (at least, it was surprising to me), there are many, many LGBT+ choirs across the world, and a lot of them are in contact with each other. Knowing that there is a worldwide community of LGBT+ people who simply love singing together, is a soothing feeling in a city that can sometimes feel claustrophobically lonely.

The opportunities to meet other LGBT+ people in settings that are not about campaigning, clubbing, or dating, are scarce. Don’t get me wrong, having LGBT+ spaces for all of these things is necessary, and I am grateful that they exist. However, sometimes it is nice just to practise a hobby you enjoy anyway, but do it around a group of people who share a history with you, who won’t judge you on your sexuality, who will act as a stand-in family to anyone who has had to remove themselves from their biological kin.

When in-person rehearsals were cancelled in March, it was a heavy blow. I’d gotten used to seeing 80-odd friends in person every week, and suddenly Sunday afternoons felt lonely again. However, a choir that has existed since 1983 is not going to let Covid get in its way, and rehearsals and socials were moved online. The pandemic has also given the Pink Singers an incentive to try their hand at a virtual choir, with the first one being uploaded in July, and the second one (featuring both current and past singers) in the making right now.

LGBT+ communities are resilient and innovative. Throughout history and persecution, time and time again, people will come together to improve our lives and others’. Music has always played a significant role in this community-building, and especially in the current era we will continue to find ways to support and love each other.

Edited by Malina Aniol, Sex and Relationships Editor, and Emma Short, Music Editor

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