A Magic Weekend Away – Part 2

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 gaychorus@gmail.com if you’d like to come along, or just want more info.

Our Halloween Spook-tacular

Halloween NickSo the dust has finally settled on what I must admit was one of our best concerts yet! Halloween’s ‘A Nightmare on Keppoch Street’ may have come and gone, but the warm fuzzy afterglow from an amazing night is still gently burning on…

What can I say really to describe how it all went? Well, this has to be one of the most enthusiastically prepared concerts we’ve had in a long time. We had great fun setting up the stage and carving some marvellous pumpkins (even if I do say so myself). Halloween Pumpkins
The countdown to the start of the night was a mass of ghastly preparations and lashings of fake cobweb and we were very excited by all the tweeting and support, especially from Stonewall Cymru, our charity for the year who we were raising funds for on the night.

We had the most amazing audience who completely engaged with the night and the sounds of our amazing orchestra as soon as we took to the stage. We were even treated to an array of be-costumed supporters dressed as spooks, ghouls and… dare I say it…clowns (*shiver*).

Halloween ClownsThe music shocked, surprised and delighted the audiences – the gasps and shrieks in ‘Hearse Song’ were especially funny to listen to – and we thoroughly enjoyed treating them to our spooky repertoire.

Halloween on Stage

The Committee and myself were very proud of all the boys who really got into the ‘spirit’ of the concert, working so hard to produce a thoroughly enjoyable evening for all. We were also honoured of course to be joined by our ‘sister’ choir, the Songbirds, who joined the guys for a couple of songs and entertained the audience with a few pieces in their inimitable style. I’m glad we finally got to sing together and I really look forward to doing so again in the not so distant future.

I often find the period immediately following a performance a very odd time as we suddenly find ourselves with an abundance of free time after the intensity of rehearsals in the run up to a show. However, things haven’t quite ground to a halt for us just yet as the festive season is rapidly approaching (I really must start thinking about starting my Christmas shopping (*double shiver!*)). Before a couple of Christmas-related appearances in early December (keep an eye on our events pages for more on these in the coming weeks) we will be marking the annual World Aids Day commemoration with a performance at the Kings Bar on Churchill Way on Sunday November 30th, and we’d love to see you all there.
Halloween - Xmas Advert

Before I finish I’d just like to extend my thanks to a few people for making the concert the amazing event it turned out to be. I am constantly impressed and humbled by the time and effort a lot of people put into making our shows so entertaining and professional. Firstly our music team, who arrange a large amount of the music we sing and help us and the orchestra to achieve our best performances on the night. Also our creative team, who help to stage the performance and organise all the publicity and design elements that go into our shows. And finally, the Committee who help ensure all the myriad bits and pieces fit together….no mean feat I can assure you! To all of you, I thank you!

We’d also like to say a special thanks to Gordon and all the staff at the Kings for the fabulous afterparty and the great support they continue to show us.

Right – onwards and upwards – 2015 looks to be another exciting year for us – more on that to follow I’m sure!

All dressed up in Pride…

© Pride Cymru 2014 - Parade Balloons
© Pride Cymru 2014 – Parade Balloons

Cardiff Mardi Gras, Cardiff Pride or Pride Cymru – whatever you call it, the 2014 incarnation has been and gone and the boys at SWGMC certainly celebrated the weekend in style! We captured some amazing moments on camera so come join us on a visual journey through our time at the biggest LGBT+ event that Cardiff – and indeed Wales – has to offer.

This is the 3rd year SWGMC have taken part in the Pride Cymru Parade through the streets of Cardiff. This year we kicked off the weekend on Churchill Way at a starting line bedecked with ballooned banners in all six colours of the Pride rainbow. Pride means many things to many people and the atmosphere was full of it that morning. As well as being an expression of how you feel about yourself, these days Pride is a bastion of hope, happiness and community in a world often too full of hate. SWGMC are proud that Cardiff has its own parade and we love being part of the huge trek through Queen Street and beyond!

SWGMC Start of Pride Cymru Parade

We assembled at 11.30am all dressed up in pride and pink and ready to march our way through town. Plenty of sunshine and rainbow flags greeted us from up and down the high street as the shops got thoroughly involved in the spirit of the day. The fellow marchers brought a loud and proud festival of sound and the drummers had the parade and the crowd dancing along to the rainbow beat, although some of the boys were too busy following a certain mascot – a Nando’s cockerel! You can imagine the captions on those photos (!).

Nando's Mascot with SWGMC Walking through the streets of Cardiff alongside us were the usual Pride participants, drag queens and the Eagle crew among them, but also delegations from companies including Asda and Nando’s, troupes of incredible street dancers and musicians, some amazing fancy dress costumes and a whole host of fantastic organisations like THT, Stonewall Cymru and LGCM, all walking in pride with families, friends and the like.

 

 

 

 

A fabulous and happy time was had by all and we think the below picture sums it up wonderfully!
stonewall family pride photo

We R family! #balchder #pride @StonewallCymru @PrideCymru pic.twitter.com/X8WnRe92O0

— Andrew White (@AndrewGwyn) August 16, 2014
© Twitter – Andrew Gwyn – Stonewall

 

 

 

 

 

As the parade drew to a close some of our boys went for a food stop, while others dashed for a selfie with the MINION (“it’s so fluffy I’m gonna die!”)!
SWGMC after parade lunchMinion Mascot in Pride Parade

With the first half of the day now over and the great response from the crowd still ringing in our ears we were primed and ready to sing out for the crowds of Cooper’s Field. Before we took to the Cabaret Stage for our main event we visited some of the stalls and shopped around the pride goods area, which included checking out the new sports area in the middle of the field, the Gaydar silent disco tent and even new stall additions such as the Cardiff Gay Men’s Book Club (where our very own Rev. John Webber was getting thoroughly involved!).

With a few drinks for ‘dutch courage’ under our belts we were ready to perform at our best, and our wonderful conductress Vicky Guise and supremely talented Pianist Christopher Fossey led us in a rousing show which the crowd seemed to enjoy! Hopefully we’ll have inspired some of them to join as well!

The end of our set drew the chorus’ day at Cooper’s Field to a close, but the boys weren’t done yet and we all continued to enjoy a great Pride with our friends and families, including some cracking late-night dancing with some of the other acts including the wonderful La Voix (the ladies loved her!).

As Saturday ended and the people of Cardiff crawled into bed, the boys of the SWGMC – being the professionals that we are – were all very reserved and weren’t in any danger of facing Sunday with a hangover (!). Even so, it was lucky we weren’t due to sing until late on Sunday evening, so by the time we’d nursed our sore heads (ahem) and enjoyed a long lie-in we donned our glad rags once again in preparation for singing at the Kings for a mini Stonewall Cymru Fundraiser, singing in the line-up alongside the fabulous La Voix and a host of other talented performers.
Cooper's Field Pride Cymru Performance
Pride Cymru - Cardiff 2014It was something of a tight space inside the Kings following a last minute stage switch (it decided to rain on our parade minutes before we were due to sing outside. – classic Welsh weather at its finest) but we didn’t let that dampen out spirits and to our delight the audience were amazing. We sang for the crowds as volunteers shook their buckets and raised money for Stonewall Cymru, and after our performance and a few more drinks we left the Kings and bid adieu to a great Pride Weekend!
 
Onwards and upwards, we now enter our next season of 2014 and are busy preparing for our Halloween Spectacular – “A Nightmare on Keppoch Street!” We hope to see you all there!

SWGMC First Official Blog

Nick McNeill - 2014/15 Chair of SWGMC
Nick McNeil – 2014/15 Chair of SWGMC

2014 – the story so far…

Hi there, I’m Nick McNeill and I’m the current Chairman of the South Wales Gay Men’s Chorus. I’d like to welcome you to our first official Chorus blog, a new feature of our renewed website, which I hope you will enjoy and come back to on a regular basis.

Since this is our first blog I thought it would be a good idea to tell you a bit about who we are and what we’ve been up to so far this year.

SWGMC formed in 2008 and has rapidly grown, both in membership and support. We’ve entertained a huge number of people in all sorts of places across south Wales (and beyond!). We ended 2013, our fifth anniversary year, on a bit of a high after celebrating that particular milestone, and 2014 has already offered us a new set of challenges and exciting experiences.

5th Anniversary - Rehearsal
5th Anniversary Concert at RWCMD – A final rehearsal on the big day – Oct 5th 2013

We kicked off with preparations for our May concert, Brief Encounters, which let us loose on our more emotional side as we mapped the development and demise of a relationship through music. We challenged ourselves and set the bar high with the choice of music, including a piece written especially for us by our composer friend Gareth Churchill. We were also honoured to welcome to Cardiff Scottish singer Terry Neason, who entertained the audience with her mix of music and poetry.

An after performance get together - Various Voices Dublin June 2014
An after performance get together
– Various Voices Dublin June 2014

Moving onto June, a delegation from the Chorus headed for Dublin and the amazing Various Voices LGBT choral festival. A long weekend ensued filled with stunning music, an array of LGBT people from across the globe (gotta love those crazy German choirs!), a little bit (!) of partying and the fantastic hospitality of our Irish hosts. We are most definitely preparing for the next festival which is scheduled to take place in Munich in 2018.

The summer is usually a time to rest and recuperate, but the Chorus has been as busy as ever! We’ve sung at a couple of weddings (we’re available for bookings if you’re interested!) and we supported our good friends the Pink Singers at the illustrious Hackney Empire for their British themed concert, Notes from a Small Island, where we treated the audience to a few of our Welsh favourites. We’ve also been busily preparing for this year’s Pride event in Cardiff (more of that in our next Blog).

Pink Singers Hackney Empire Concert - July 2014
Pink Singers Hackney Empire Concert – July 2014

As a community choir, SWGMC is proud to do our bit to support local charities. Last year we were privileged to support the Forget Me Nots, a choir for people with dementia and their carers. This year we have come a little closer to ‘home’ as we are partnered with Stonewall Cymru who do amazing work to promote LGBT issues across Wales and beyond. We look forward to working with them at Pride and onwards through the year!

So that’s the first part of 2014 over, but we’re far from done! Our next big venture is our Halloween themed concert on 31st October which we’re all very excited about. Put the date in your diary and we hope to see you for an evening of spooky antics at the Gate Arts Centre in Roath!

Bye for now!