I’m not going to lie to you, between supporting my wife through some pretty intense work stuff and starting a new job myself, January has been a pretty busy month for me. So when I arrived promptly at my usual 19:34 and joined in with Rosie’s warm up at the back of the church, it did take me a minute to clock the ginormous cake at the front of the church and realise what it must represent. Four years of Songbirds choir!
Christmas 2011 was my first out of university. I was right at the beginning of a career as a freelancer and all my university friends were scattering to the four winds. I knew I wanted to stay and make Cardiff my home but three years at drama school doesn’t necessarily give you many opportunities to get to know the wider community. I was broke, lonely and a little bit scared. I joined a choir and, having not sung a note since school, began to feel more like myself again. The MD of that choir invited me and my girlfriend Rachel to the LGCM Carol Service. We saw the boys of South Wales Gay Men’s Chorus perform and she said “we should start a choir for gay women,” And so, we did.
That Christmas, I tried to explain to my parents why I was so excited about it. They didn’t quite get it; they were concerned about why I didn’t feel welcome as a bi woman in my other choir. It wasn’t that, I told them – it’s just that sometimes you just want a space to call yours. Somewhere you can celebrate being you. If no one comes, I said, then that will mean there isn’t a need for it. But maybe some women will come.
Four years later, and women are still coming. I’ve lost count of the songs we’ve learned and the performances we’ve had. When Rachel and I got married last year, there were twelve guests celebrating with us who we’d met through Songbirds. I’ve learnt I don’t always need to sing alto (thanks, Kate!), how to play backgammon (thanks, Netta!) and how to fully embody the role of a lairy sailor (thanks, Les Mis!). I know I’ve made friends for life.
We are a motely bunch, brought together just by our love of music and our love of women. We walk many paths and sometimes I think there are more differences than similarities between us! But, of course, that is our strength. When we make music together and sing “like the skies are shouting,” we make Cardiff our space and we celebrate each other.
Happy birthday, Songbirds! Here’s to all that 2016 may bring.
Oh and yes, the cake was incredible!
– Bethan, Jan 2016