Tonight Matthew, I’m going to be… Billie Eilish…
Going along to my first rehearsal with Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus (GMC) in January, it’s fair to say I was a little nervous. I had been in a relaxed community choir before, but this felt like a different league.
Two-and-a-half hour rehearsals on a Tuesday night? Tick. 100+ other members? Tick. Christmas shows at the Brighton Dome? Tick.
It’s a big choir with a big reputation and I wasn’t sure if I was ready for this particular jelly. I also had some reservations about the musical repertoire. Like a fair few queer people, I enjoy the odd lip-sync-along to a Madonna classic, but overall my music taste tends to veer more towards the alternative aisle. More Garbage than Gaga. My impression of GMC was wall-to-wall razzle-dazzle gay anthems and that is not my musical bread and butter.
Pssst…don’t tell anyone, but I’m not actually a big Kylie fan.
Walking in to the beautiful, ornate church where rehearsals happen, I tried to put my reservations to the side. Within minutes, I got chatting to another friendly newbie and felt reassured that I wasn’t the only nervy one. I was then introduced to my ‘buddies’ for the evening, a delightful Baritone couple who put me at ease and seemed genuinely interested in getting to know me. By the time we started our vocal warm-up, I was already feeling, well, warmed up.
Four months and many hours of rehearsals later, it’s time for our ‘Diva’-themed shows in the Brighton Fringe festival. I’m in our sweaty dressing room in the interval, surrounded by half-naked chorus members frantically getting into their diva outfits for the second half. Mine is relatively low-maintenance but maximum colour impact:
Neon-green joggers? Tick. Neon-green tie-dye baggy hoody? Tick. Neon green hair extensions attached to a blue wig? Tick.
Tonight, I’m flying the alternative diva flag and I’m bringing some Billie Eilish green realness.
Singing, socialising and support. These three S’s are what the chorus, a registered charity, aims to provide members and the wider community. In the months since I joined, I have been surprised by how much I’ve benefited on all three fronts. Sure, at times the singing part has been challenging, with loads of songs to learn at a pretty galloping pace.
I see challenge as a good thing though, and I’ve developed greater strength and confidence in my singing as a result. It’s the social part, though, where I’ve gained even more. I’ve made several new friends and even gone on an impromptu trip to Belgium with one of them.
Most of all, I feel a sense of belonging to a bigger queer community. Sometimes people assume that if you’re LGBTQ+ and you live in Brighton, as I’ve done for the past nine years, you’re automatically part of a big queer gang. That’s not been my experience and it’s taken me a while to really find my niche. The chorus is now somewhere I can call ‘home’ and that means a lot.
As does discovering my own alternative brand of diva-ness, Billie-style.
Check out: https://www.facebook.com/brightongmc