Wales and London, a glorious Brotherhood

11425219_786979201417093_4758403475791285004_oSo after months of preparation, another concert date is proudly ticked off on the SWGMC calendar. This time it was a particularly manly affair (although isn’t it always!?) as the boys of South Wales Gay Men’s Chorus took to a stage bedecked with power tools and sports gear for ‘Brotherhood – a Celebration of Masculinity’.

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If you came to see us we hope you enjoyed yourselves as much as we did, and I’m sure you’ll agree that a huge level of credit is due to all involved, especially Andy Bulleyment and the SWGMC music team for their amazing work once again in putting together a fun, engaging and enjoyable concert.


But enough about us. We were also thrilled to welcome to the Gate our guest choir for the evening, the amazing Barberfellas, for their debut performance in Wales. Affectionately known as the Barbies, they are an off-shoot of our London-based friends the Pink Singers (who, if you’ve ever seen them in concert, you’ll know are utterly fabulous!). As well as their stellar performances both the Pink Singers and the Barberfellas run a few websites and blogs of their own, and so – not content with just hearing them sing – we’ve also persuaded them to do a guest blog for us giving their experience of last weekend, as well as a brief history of the Barberfellas and their place in the barbershop tradition. Enjoy!

“The Glory of Wales – London’s Barberfellas join SWGMC for “a Celebration of Masculinity”
By Mark Winter

Barbershop singing with a twist! – that’s what we gave the good folk of Cardiff at the Gate Arts and Community Centre on 6 June 2015. We’d braved the M4 in our canary-yellow minibus as guests of our friends at the South Wales Gay Men’s Chorus for a celebration of all things manly.

Performing in both halves of the show, we shared our unique take on traditional barbershop singing with some classic a capella, close harmony pieces – Under the Boardwalk, The Glory of Love and Over the Rainbow.


Barbershop singing is one of the oldest macho singing pursuits and sprung up in last half of the 19th century where American barbershops often served as community centres, where most men would gather; they would harmonise while waiting their turn, vocalising in spirituals, folk songs and popular songs.

Things have moved on since then and female as well as mixed barbershop singing is gaining popularity, although in national and international competitions male, female and mixed groups don’t compete against each other.

The Barberfellas are here to challenge those stereotypes by presenting the barbershop sound and look, but with a twist. We are probably the only LGBT mixed group that exists anywhere in the world. And we’re certainly the only one in heels!


Our second set of the evening brought a touch of masculine glamour to the proceedings as we donned our stilettos and popped our corks to the sassy strip-tease sounds of Big Spender, U2’s pensive lullaby MLK (written to honour Martin Luther King) and an exclusive arrangement, written just for the Barberfellas, as a homage to every boy’s favourite – the diminutive Miss Minogue.


Thank you to everyone who came to the show and enjoyed our performance and we hope to be singing again for you soon!

Barberfellas: making heels manly again.

So, SWGMC say a huge thank you to Mark for his lovely contribution to our blog, and thank you again to all of the Barberfellas for joining us on stage! It was a pleasure to sing with you and we’re already looking forward to the next time we can share a stage – even though most of us will never be able to pull off heels as well as you did!

Of ‘Mind’ and men

Since last year and re-launching this site, we’ve begun writing blogs to give our audience an insight into what life is like in SWGMC. These blogs have been about the great times we (and hopefully our audiences!) have had at our concerts, about the journeys we’re taking to festivals and other events that we’ve been invited to around Wales and the UK, and about the fun and social side of being in SWGMC and the mischief that we get up to when we’re not on stage (and sometimes when we are!).


Of course our music and our various performances make up a big part of what we’re all about, but we also make a point of doing more and just singing. For example, each year we nominate a charity to fundraiser for, something that has become a fundamental part of who we are as a group, and we’ve learnt a lot from and contributed to our chosen charities since we began. The recent AGM we had back in February was no different, and the charity voted in for this year was Mind Cymru, highlighted in the AGM blog that we posted earlier this year.


In 2015, society and its acceptance of civil rights has made tremendous strides into a more tolerant era, albeit mostly isolated still to the more economically and socially developed countries of our world. The progression these areas of the globe have achieved has not been without its share of turmoil, and you’d think that by now we’d be more tolerant in our view of the unknown.

Only recently, we’ve heard about the devastating plane crash that happened in Europe and the following news headlines attached to this, most of them showing an incredibly negative side of mental health. Our thoughts at SWGMC are with the families affected by this tragedy, but also with the family of the pilot responsible for the crash.

SWGMC and the community we represent are often all too familiar with the mistakes and poor choices the media take in highlighting a small part of someone’s identity and stretching its relevance to sensationalise a story.
As Pink News recently highlighted, being ‘gay’ is still targeted in the media, as was the case in this story. Mind have also released a statement about the media coverage of this event to respond to the negative focus on the man’s mental health – and this sadly is one of many reminders of the struggles faced by Mind and other mental health awareness groups, not to mention those affected by mental illness and their loved ones.

SWGMC are proud to support Mind Cymru this year, because mental health should now, finally, be taken more seriously in today’s world. It brings it home to all the boys, every time we hear of another teen suicide in the LGBT community, or with personal experiences with friends and family. Many of us at SWGMC have opened up and faced some of our own demons, and as a chorus we’ve been there for each other through song and we socialise together almost like a second family. For me especially, SWGMC has been as much of a support group as it has a serious commitment to great musicality and great performance.

Mental Health is beginning to be recognised in many forms, but one which we’d really like to focus on with Mind this year is that which affects men in the UK. Back in February of this year, the BBC highlighted that suicide is one the biggest killers of men in this country, highlighting in particular that “78% of all suicides were in men.” This is indeed shocking and many of us in the choir know of a friend or family member that this has affected. And so we’re looking forward to the partnership and support we can gain by teaming up with Mind Cymru this year and particularly hoping to highlight men’s mental health in our upcoming concert Brotherhood: A Celebration of Masculinity.

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Speaking of my own experience, since the beginning of the year, I made a commitment to myself to set some personal goals. Some were about starting new things, some were about self-improvement and one which I’ve particularly enjoyed was starting to read more. I have one final note to end this blog and one of which I thought highlights our upcoming concert nicely, a particularly poignant quote:

“If expressing what you want and feel means you can’t be a man, then this society has a really ******-up view of masculinity.”
– from “Smoky Mountain Dreams” by Leta Blake

All the men at SWGMC have their own identity and the way we define or even express our masculinity is different, for each of us, but we’re proud of who we are, proud of each other and we stick together as a group.

Thanks for reading – we’re hoping to see you at our upcoming concert and in support of Mind Cymru.