So where was I…
Welcome back to the latest blog – Part 2.
When you left us we had just become ‘Internationally Acclaimed and Multi-Award-Winning Choristers’ – a phrase we’ve been using with a smug level of regularity ever since. But I digress… After the fun of competition Saturday came the rest of the weekend…
Sunday was rather a bump back to earth. We had all been terribly looking forward to playing the ‘Lost Gardens of Heligan’, which is a beautiful venue bursting with plants and wildlife. Unfortunately, the only things that were bursting when WE arrived, were thunderclouds overhead, and the café and award winning gift shop (at the seams) with people jamming themselves in to find cover from the biblical rainfall. The beautifully picturesque botanical backdrop stage so lovingly set up for our performances had to be abandoned, and we couldn’t move indoors for suitability and health and safety reasons.
So, given ten minutes notice and a wild panic we arrived to an (as yet unfinished) outdoor picnic area, and a piano stool on a slope partly leaning into the rain with a bin bag over it. We are game for anything though, and we were on tour, so we happily set to work on wowing a crowd of slicked faces and umbrellas, with our competition repertoire, and a few other crowd pleasers thrown in. Over the Rainbow drew a rather ironic laugh from several crowd members (couldn’t have picked better if we tried!), and we then stuck around for the other performers, and watched a lovely concert from our friends, the Bristol Male Voice Choir. After another concert in Camborne in the evening, we then retired back to the hotel for one of the finest moments of the tour… The unofficial afterparty.
The lovely Fiona had kindly granted us an extension and promised to serve us until midnight, but she ended up having such a laugh with us (while joining in a number of dubiously tuned alcohol-fuelled ditties), that she was still pouring the drinks as we approached 3 am. Needless to say some of the less sensible among my charges were feeling rather the worse for wear early Monday AM, as the coach readied itself with some people still not even awake yet!
I knew nothing of these things of course, having retired to my bed as soon as we arrived back at the hotel with a Horlicks and the latest Jackie Collins.
If you hear any differently then I assure you; you are being duped by scurrilous lies. For instance I vigorously dispute the following:
– I certainly did not stay up until at least 2 am
– There is absolutely not a bizarre video of me on a sofa singing refrains from ‘Hello Dolly’ while attempting yoga poses.
– And I absolutely and positively did not need to pack my case with the coach waiting for me while still inebriated, and forget to take several items of personal value which the wonderful and kind Fiona then had to post back to me.
Not a word of truth there…
We stopped in at the Tate in St Ives on the beginning of our homeward bound journey. A lovely performance space and possibly our best non-competition performance of the tour passed by miraculously (who knew if you just added a lot of alcohol and very little sleep, vocal magic would ensue). We headed back to South Wales having sung ourselves hoarse, but with an absolute bagful of memories to cherish. For me at least, I think all these memories, these little moments, are the good stuff, the bits that make a life worthwhile. There’s a lot of white noise and business as usual day to day, but now and again if we are lucky, we all have these moments. Moments where you feel completely overwhelmed with love, pride or excitment.
My weekend was full of this good stuff. Full of absolute pride in being a part of this group and everyone in it. Full of pride in myself for finally coming along and joining. It was full of pride for how hard these boys worked, not to win, but to do themselves and the gay community justice and fit in as equals. Full of pride that we put ourselves out there as the only gay choir attending the festival, but joined in, made friends, integrated, yet carved ourselves out a space amongst all these other amazing singers, and won so many admirers in the process for just being our best selves (at least at the right times – I was certainly not my best self on Monday morning).
I was particularly proud of our MD Andy. Everyone desperately wanted to win for him to validate how hard he works, and justify how hard he also works these boys. I’m so glad his partner Leon (or Chief WAG as I’ve now affectionately named him) came along and joined us, and got to see how proud we are of him too. I was exceptionally proud of Chris. We are an extremely private couple, who are our own harshest critics, but we always support and push each other to be better. I cried like a baby when he won his prize, because he regularly feels that in a crowded marketplace of exceptionally talented people he isn’t quite good enough. He realised that Saturday that he is, insanely talented, and loved by all the boys, however much they might wish him harm when they see each new and more fiendishly difficult arrangement he puts in front of them.
I was so proud of my fellow Tenor 2s for how hard we had all worked to blend so well together, and how much like a family we have become. I talked to everyone in the choir over the course of the weekend. Everyone. I liaised the hell out of them. And I enjoyed every second of it. It’s like a great big glorious family of eccentric 40% ABV fabulousness, and I love each and every one of them for the way being a part of this group has changed my life for the better. When you reach a certain age, and, particularly when you form a couple with someone, it tends to have a very specific effect on your social life. It becomes about you and them. Couples do ‘couply’ things; they stop seeing their friends. Their circle diminishes, and before they know it; there is nothing but the two of them, and their world has become very small.
If I can recommend one thing above anything else, it would be this. Regardless of your situation, if you fancy becoming a part of any social group, do it. Take up a hobby, get out and about, widen your social circle and make new connections. Humans are a wonderfully diverse lot, but they are all social creatures, and it takes all kinds to make a world. So if you like what you heard here, come and join us. We’d love to have you and we don’t care who you are. If you are straight or bi we’d love to hear from you, and will always be welcome. This should be, and is, a safe space for everyone.
I’d like to leave you with one of my favourite moments from the tour. Not my words now but our fundraising chief Tim’s. He was sat in the audience with a lady who he made a particularly lovely connection with that sums it all up for me. He says:
“I know we all have our special memories from the weekend and hope we keep sharing them on here. I just wanted to share this one:
After we had sung in the competition, a couple of us went back in to hear the last choir. We just sat where we could find space and were sitting next to an elderly couple (who looked pretty much like the majority of the audience). The woman turned to us and said “well done, that was great”. I thought at first she was just being polite, but then she went on to say that her 18 year old grandson is just ‘discovering who he is’ and is having a hard time. She said “and when I saw you all up there I was thinking of him and I thought “THATS what you need!” So I guess there is a young lad somewhere who has a lot to thank us for. His Gran now knows it can all work out ok, even if he can’t see it yet.”
One of our other most bubbly of Baritones (the lovely Nigel) then managed to accost this woman again on Monday, when she came to see us at the Tate in St Ives. They got chatting about the same grandson and he told me he asked her why he was having such a hard time, and she said it was because he was a naturally effeminate guy. He sympathised with her and advised our chorus was welcoming of everyone. She said that was so nice to know, and she would be sharing her happy experience of meeting us and our comments with her grandson”.
So, what better way to end than to pop out that welcoming hand. If you feel lonely or like you don’t fit in somehow. If you don’t enjoy the scene and want to meet people somewhere a bit less intense. If you love music and want to share it with others, then please get in touch. And if you have a friend or family member that you think meets the description above, please send them this blog to read and ask them to check us out. We’d love to make your acquaintance.
Until next time!
The South Wales Gay Men’s Chorus welcomes new members whenever they want to join.
Please drop us a line at email@example.com if you’d like to come along, or just want more info.