Waiting to go on at Chapter on Friday night gave me time for thoughts like, ‘I’ve forgotten all the songs!’ and ‘What if I blast out a high note all on my own in the wrong place?!’. It was reassuring standing between my first Soprano compatriots. Starting with You’ve Got Time was so cool: Clap Clap, Stamp! – like saying, ‘Shut up and listen everyone, the Songbirds are here!’ After that our voices rang out and if I hadn’t been so busy concentrating on Rosie’s conducting (and great facial expressions!) I reckon I’d have shed a tear for the beauty and strength of the sound we made together. Continue reading Feeling proud (with a small sprinkling of panic) at Pride
The sun is up, Pride is on the horizon.
“Where can I catch those Birds?” I hear you think… Continue reading Catch them Birds: August Performances
Way back in December last year Songbirds were invited to perform at a wedding – the third matrimonial event we were to perform at as a choir. What it is to be in demand!
Having had plenty of notice, we had been learning new material over the spring and were really looking forward to have the opportunity to perform it. Continue reading Treowen Manor: Wedding Serenades and a Wall of Cows
As we nestle in these last few peaceful moments before we thrust ourselves back into our usual routines and take on the bluster of January, I find myself reflecting on the many activities of the last month.
This Christmas it was our pleasure to make a return visit to the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement’s (LGCM) Christmas Carol Service. It provided a lovely opportunity for us to share the stage with the boys at SWGMC and to support the good people of City United Reformed Church and The Gathering. City URC have been fantastic in supporting us on our journey thus far and we continue to be deeply grateful for the use of their beautiful church as the base for our weekly rehearsals. The service was lively yet thought provoking with a number of deft changes of pace between the celebratory boom of carols like the ’12 Days of Christmas’ and quieter reflections from guest speakers on what it means to truly stop and observe Christmas. Particularly poignant were the speeches made by representatives of Displaced People in Action (DPIA), a charity which works with refugees and asylum seekers and who are looking to set up a coffee morning for LGBT* refugees and asylum seekers who may be struggling to find community for many reasons.
On the 14th of December we played host to our own Christmas Concert ‘Sing Noel! With Songbirds Choir’. In spite of the enthusiastic attempts of this year’s triumphant cold virus to flatten our forces, we pulled through as a choir and managed to deliver a buoyant and joyful performance at Jolyons. It was fantastic to sing to a full room and I get the distinct impression that the audience enjoyed it as much as we did! There’s something about a pinch of adversity that brings this flock together and I think the light and strength of our bonds as a community (which doesn’t take itself too seriously…) shone through.
On the 19th we popped up to the second floor of John Lewis on the Hayes to entertain the milling masses with our own brand of festive fun. It was something of a departure from the focused beam of audience attention that we have experienced at our previous gigs as our listeners made their way around the shop to our dulcet chorus, but it was evident from the smiles (and from our own sofa-based family of impromptu supporters) that we were able to add something special to the atmosphere.
At the end of the month we paid a visit to De Courcey’s Manor to sing at our second wedding gig of the year. This was great fun despite the many and varied logistical challenges of getting ourselves back to Cardiff for the 27th. (Thank you to our pianist Rich for rescuing our Musical Director from Newport…). And yes, the bride looked beautiful.
In a way the season saw us come full circle – returning to Jolyons and ending the year by fulfilling the gig we booked in June (or maybe May?) after we were spotted singing at the wedding reception for two of our own ‘Birds. By my watch that makes it the perfect moment to heed the words of my beloved late mentor MG – ‘Respice Prospice’ (Look back, but also look forwards).
And so we launch into 2016 buoyed by the successes of the last year and lifted by the hope of all that is still to come for our community.
Our first stop – finding some more of us!
To this end – on Wednesday the 6th of January we will be holding a New Members session, and you are very welcome to join us.
7.30pm at City United Reformed Church on Windsor Place, Cardiff.
No auditions. Just community and choir fun.
– Jan 2016
Songbirds Choir is a Cardiff-based non-auditioning community choir for self-defining Lesbian, Bisexual, and Trans* women.
After a previous weekend away several years ago, it was decided that we would go away again as a choir. Having been on the previous trip I was very much looking forward to a weekend staying in the fabulous Holt Farm in rural Herefordshire. The farm is very well-suited for our purposes with a large barn for rehearsal and social space, as well as accommodation for over 20 enthusiastic birdies! To top that it is located in a beautiful area of the country with views of the rolling hills and valleys, as well as the occasional badger for company.
We headed up through Friday and were all settled in time for dinner. Replete with our bellies full of delicious chilli (even if I do say so myself), we kicked off the weekend with a nice sit down and a film. For a choir, I don’t think there’s a more acca-awesome choice than Pitch Perfect… and it wasn’t just those who already knew the film who were singing along before the end!
Saturday dawned bright and somewhat breezy, which several early birds took advantage of by heading out onto the ‘lesbian highway’ for a run, while others got the customary bacon sandwiches / tofu scramble going.
After breakfast we started the choir practice in earnest with sectionals and it was great for us to have time as separate sections to work with Rosie on areas that we find more challenging – and allowed us to really focus our attention as a group. We then went into a whole choir rehearsal and spent some much-needed time working on our Welsh pronunciation with support from those who siarad Cymraeg.
We were lucky enough to have a visiting massage therapist – a lovely surprise and treat! Everyone had the opportunity to have a short treatment during the day, and from hearing what others including myself thought, I’m sure there will be some birdy bookings for Francesca.
Next on the menu was lunch, followed by another rehearsal where we covered some up-beat Christmas songs including everyone’s favourite from a Muppet Christmas carol, as well as one for any resident Kelly Clarkson fans. Later in the afternoon Rosie ran a workshop on conducting, giving each choir member the opportunity to conduct the choir. Most people had not experienced this before and it was really interesting in terms of giving us all the perspective of how it feels to conduct a group of people, but also how well we responded as a choir to each other’s interpretations of the songs – well done everyone for really joining in!
With the wind and rain picking up outside, it was a lovely warming curry for dinner which was just what we needed to pick us up after a day of working hard on our singing! Finally, Saturday evening entertainment: cabaret. Or for me, just a normal evening; having Amo (everyone’s favourite exhibitionist) organise this meant that somehow Amo ended up performing five times. Mysterious that everyone approached to perform somehow managed to somehow end up with a guitar-based accompaniment…
However, I certainly wouldn’t have considered performing on my own and having a willing accomplice meant that some more reserved people including myself were able to give it a go. The Cabaret (a.k.a. The Amo Show) was kicked off with a beautiful and soulful cover of ‘Perfect Day’ by Laura feat. Amo, with Selena, Lucy, Sunny and of course our Chief Owl Rosie also all taking a turn to sing. Turning the tempo up a notch was Eve who showed us her flamenco talents, before Julia, concluding the evening’s organised entertainments, took to the floor and channelled the very spirit of Tina Turner. With audience participation at a high level from the excitement of the cabaret, it wasn’t surprising that some dancing, singing and inevitable Kate Bush impersonations followed. While a select few decided to sample the famous Holt Farm hot-tubs, the more sensible among us stayed to polish the evening off with a cup of tea.
After a rather blustery and late night, even with a start that was a tad later than that of Saturday, the less that is said of the ‘hangover rehearsal’ the better really… We had a relaxed lunch and a few people stretched their legs checking out the view from the top of the ridge. Others had one-to-one singing lessions with Rosie before reconvening for the final rehearsal of the weekend where we covered some traditional Christmas songs to get us ready for the festive season. We rounded off the day with some board-games, a jigsaw and a roast dinner (followed by a generous serving of apple crumble and custard) and finished the weekend off with a few renditions of our favourite lesbian classics (Joan Armatrading anybody?). The perfect ending to a lovely weekend!
Kate Bodd, November 2015
Dear Cath (for that is what you will be called until aged 28 when people finally start calling you Catherine),
By now, you will already know that people sometimes mistrust your sexuality. Not that long ago you will have revealed some feelings for girls to your work friends. Because you’ve had a boyfriend previously, they will have assumed you are just being an attention seeker. They will have responded by getting a (straight) woman friend to phone you up in work to ask you out, for a joke. They will have found your reactions to this highly amusing. They won’t have understood that, to you as a young woman trying to come to terms with yourself, it was excruciating. Try to remember that their cruelty wasn’t intentional; because you weren’t capable of articulating yourself to them, they didn’t know better. Don’t worry; you’ll improve at talking about this over time. (Although, if you’re hoping you’ll grow into a quiet, tactful person, forget it; you’ll always be opinionated, and you’ll put your feet in your mouth so often you might as well just keep your socks there.)
You’ll also probably be beating yourself up about now because you fooled around with a boy and not long after slept with a girl and this freaked you out a bit. Try not to be too hard on yourself, you’ll come to realise it wasn’t to do with them as people, but everything to do with how much it made you feel, and how overwhelming that was when you’re still not sure how to describe yourself. It will be a long time before you come across any positive representations of other bi women, so it’s not at all strange that you feel conflicted right now about being bi. I promise you, it doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to have a trusting and fulfilling relationship with someone (read on, honey).
You’ve got a lot of interesting things ahead of you. Next year you’ll go to Uni. You’ll start to see real representations of women in history, literature, politics, for the first time. You’ll realise you’re a feminist, and will pledge to yourself that you won’t ever be with someone who isn’t. (You’ll keep that promise, by the way). You will fall in love with a woman and get your heart broken. (Time for a plea: immediately after said heartbreak isn’t the best time to experiment with a one-night stand, so if you could see fit to avoid that, adult me would be very happy to scrub that particular awful experience from memory.) You will also have a couple of short-term relationships with men. At various points, you will wonder if you’re gay or straight because of the assumptions other people make based on the gender of your partner. Do your best to try to hold on to yourself through it all, even though it will feel almost impossible sometimes.
When you’re almost 23, you will start dating a man you meet in work. It will take you some time to be completely honest about yourself, but he will make it easier to do so. He will react honourably and respectfully when propositioned by a man on a night out (he’s straight). He will introduce you to the novels of Sarah Waters. He will describe himself as a feminist before you say it. He will buy you tickets to see Jeanette Winterson at Hay and won’t care that you are so embarrassingly eroticised by her performance that you still can’t actually talk when you get to the front of the book-signing queue (hey, don’t judge me until you’re there hearing her read, okay). He will treat you with kindness, sincerity and caring. When you finally admit you’re bi, he will be the first person you encounter who doesn’t question if you’re confused or going through a phase or attracted to everyone or fundamentally untrustworthy. Because of all these things and more you will marry him.
You will go through some times where you feel you’ve lost touch with the LGBT+ community. A big part of this will be because your friends assume you’ve chosen to be straight by marrying a man. They will say you ‘pass’ as straight. This will at once both hurt you and make you feel guilty about not having the same everyday challenges same-sex couples have. You will continue to support LGBT+ rights, but it will bother you to feel like you’re on the outside looking in. Living an ostensibly straight life will feel disingenuous because, even though you will have chosen to be monogamous, you will still have feelings of sexual and emotional desire for other men and women.
But I’m writing to you now (aged 40) because I want you to know those feelings get better, that nowadays I don’t feel that way so much anymore. It’s a little early on, but I think I might have found “the ones”; a big, beautiful, sometimes wonderful, sometimes dysfunctional, but always awesome extended LGBT+ family; my choir family, my ‘Songbirds’. I hope it works out with us because it will feel amazing to have a family I don’t constantly have to explain fundamental things to when I want to talk about my romantic and sexual feelings. All I have to do now is tell them that I’m happily in love with a man and hope they accept me… cross your fingers for me, dear Cath.
Sincerely, your future self,
[Image above: “Briefoeffner mit kuvert und hand fcm” by Photograph: Frank C. Müller, Baden-Baden – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons]
I have a lot of contradictory feelings about Pride. The left-leaning corner of my brain can’t help but be cynical as supermarkets and highstreet banks lift a rainbow banner with one hand and place a neat tick in their ‘community conscience’ box with the other. I see members of the public string a boa around their necks, but curl their lips at my tattoos and buzzcut, and I think – what exactly does queer visibility mean here?
But I remember being 18 years old and stepping onto the platform of Brighton station for my very first Pride parade. I had never seen so many LGBT* people in one place, I had never seen such a colourful expression of identity and difference, and I had certainly never seen support for that expression on anywhere near as large a scale.
As an event, Pride is politically complicated, but the fact remains that it is the one time of year when we can see some reflection of ourselves on every street corner. And it is an opportunity to show ourselves, like a message in a bottle to the young people who follow us, and a salute to those who went before; it is our chance to demonstrate our presence, to hold up all the variations and permutations of LGBT* identity, and to show that they are all so very possible.
As a community choir, we are a mixed bag – in age, in lifestyle, in gender identity and presentation, some of us with disabilities, and some of us with families. So when we stand together, we are a bold handful of possibilities; and singing, we can open ears and minds to the complex beauty in the harmony of individual voices.
As August gives way to September and the rush of summer abates, we will go back into regular rehearsals, drawn together by our common love of music, our stories, and our laughter. We will look back with pride on the music we created together, but more importantly on having built a space which embraces many hues and refractions. And we will hope to add to it.
– Amo Rex, Aug 2015
Songbirds Choir meets at 7.30 every Wednesday at City United Reform Church, Windsor Place, Cardiff.