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London Gay Men's Chorus

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Founded in 1991 by a group of six gay men, the London Gay Men’s Chorus is now, with around 190 singing members and over 230 members in total, Europe’s largest and best known gay choir.

IntroductionEdit

With a widely varying repertoire from classical music to folk, jazz, pop, R&B or show tunes, and often including choreography, the Chorus' aim is to challenge preconceptions - both musical and social - in society, while providing a social network for its members. The Chorus operates an open access policy, allowing anyone to join. New members are simply voice-tested and not auditioned when they join the group.

The Chorus rehearses at Cecil Sharp House, Camden Town and has offices at Hampstead Town Hall Centre, Belsize Park.

The Chorus also provides support for the creation of new LGBT choirs around the UK. The Chorus is a prominent member of Sing Out and Legato and a former member of GALA.

StructureEdit

With approximately 190 voices, the London Gay Men's Chorus has five sections, Bass, Baritone, First Tenor, Second Tenor and SemiTones. Each section is divided between upper and lower voices supported by a music support team drawn from the ranks and a music team. SemiTones are non-singing members who help support the chorus.

A group of twenty-four auditioned members constitute 'Far From Kansas', a small group which works as an ambassadorial and fundraising entity and performs at corporate events and civil partnership ceremonies.

The Music Team including the Musical Director their deputies and assistants are professionals employed on freelance contracts by the Chorus.

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The Chorus also employs a General Manager but mostly draws on volunteer work from its members to support its activities.

As of 2006, the Chorus is governed by an elected steering committee composed of a chair, vice-chair, secretary, and treasurer with eight additional members who share responsibility for the various areas of activities of the Chorus including performance, production, business development, and membership.

Revenue comes from membership subscriptions, ticket and merchandise sales, donations, and performance fees.

The Chorus has had a number of commercial sponsors, both monetary donors and providers of pro bono professional services, including the former pioneering gay website Queercompany, design firm Marsh and Malone who developed a new corporate identity in 2005-6, and fundraising consultants Brakeley. The Chorus also enjoys a commercial relationship with Selfridges, and has sung carols in the store during Christmas week for the past three years.

The London Gay Men's Chorus is a charity (Reg. No. 1092827) and a private limited company registered in England (No. 4390145)

The most recent Chairs, for the past ten years or so, include:

  • David Batten
  • Steve Bustin
  • Martin Brophy
  • Dr Greg Battle
  • Anthony Fordham (Current)

Historic overviewEdit

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After lowly beginnings in 1991 at Angel Underground station (where the station had to be closed due to the crowd that had gathered), the Chorus has performed around the UK and toured overseas in the United States, France, Italy, Canada, Ireland and Australia.

The choir has made many TV and radio appearances including Top of the Pops, So Graham Norton, Loose Ends, Ruby Wax Chritmas special, London Tonight, the Paul Ross weekend breakfast show on LBC, and Comic Relief, and has sung and performed with stars including Sir Elton John, Human League, Heather Small, Damien Hirst, Simon Callow, Alison Jiear, Jocelyn Brown, Toyah Willcox, K.D Lang, Rula Lenska, Sandi Toksvig, Dame Cleo Laine and The Pet Shop Boys.

Over the years the Chorus has raised thousands of pounds for charity (the Food Chain, the Royal Marsden Hospital, Crusaid, the RNIB, Changing Attitude, the Terrence Higgins Trust, the Orchid Cancer Appeal, Cara and others), and sung everywhere from the tube station of its beginnings to pubs and street corners, XXL, Heaven, Trafalgar Square, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Sydney Opera House and the Aussie Stadium, the Millennium Dome in the presence of HM The Queen, La Cigale in Paris, The Kennedy Center in Washington DC, the National Concert Hall in Dublin, the Gianni Agnelli Auditorium in Turin, the London Coliseum (for the centenary of the building) and the Royal Albert Hall.

The Chorus has released five CDs.

Recent historyEdit

In December 2004 the Chorus sold out the Barbican Hall with their Christmas show Make the Yuletide Gay hosted by Simon Callow. This was the fastest ever sell-out concert for the venue. In May 2005, the Chorus took part in the Various Voices festival in Paris. In July of the same year, they gave three performances of You'll Do For Now at the Cadogan Hall, London. The show, devised by a Chorus member, charted the lives of four gay men in London over the second half of the twentieth century. The inclusion of a narrative thread to a show was a new artistic challenge for the Chorus.

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In December 2005, the Chorus returned with an improved version of their Christmas show, Make the Yuletide Gay promoted like the previous year by Raymond Gubbay Ltd and hosted by Rula Lenska who sang and danced as well as hosting the show. The Chorus performed at Symphony Hall in Birmingham, The Concert Hall in Brighton and the Barbican Hall in London. At the same time, they released their fifth recording, and first Christmas CD, Make the Yuletide Gay.

In 2006, to celebrate its fifteenth anniversary, the Chorus organised celebration concerts at the Cadogan Hall, London and in Cardiff in July as well as a party at Heaven, London). The Chorus also took part in the Europride celebrations held in London, and performed at Europride 2006, The Show was produced by Sir Ian McKellen at the Royal Albert Hall in July 2006.

In September 2006, the Chorus was invited to take part in the prestigious international music festival, Settembre Musica in Turin, Italy. The Chorus, still collaborating with Raymond Gubbay Ltd, sold out the Barbican Hall once again with their third Christmas show there (20 December). The show was hosted by Sandi Toksvig.

On 26 and 27 May 2007, the Chorus made its first visit to Scotland with performances at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh and the Strathclyde Suite at the Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow. They were performing with Scotland's LGBT choir, Loud & Proud. The show, directed by Julian Woolford, was titled Bad Boys and compiled rock anthems with classical/operatic pieces. It also featured the premiere of My Friends, a song by Julian Woolford and Richard John, which was performed by Far From Kansas. It is a tribute to those who passed away in the 1980s during the AIDS crisis. There were also two sold out performances at the Cadogan Hall in London on 20 and 21 July.

At the end of the summer season, Charles Beale, the Musical Director left to become Musical Director of the New York Gay Men's Chorus. Andrea Brown also had to leave to Chorus after having been offered a teaching job at Morley College (south London).

On 16 December, the Chorus appeared on the stage of the London Palladium. The show, Accentuate the Positive, directed by Stuart Burrows, marked the 25th anniversary of the Terence Higgins Trust. Alison Jiear appeared on stage with the Chorus.

Future DevelopmentsEdit

Members of the Chorus spearheaded the bid for London to host the European choir festival Various Voices 2009. The festival will take place at the South Bank Centre with the help of other London LGBT choirs, and the support of Visit London, Design for Diversity and the Greater London Authority.

External linksEdit

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