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
This year Songbirds were asked to entertain the masses at the Wales Millenium Centre WOW Festival to help mark WEN Wales’ International women’s day celebrations. As a group of LBT women, we all understand how important and pertinent it is to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women across the world. Whilst there are some significant advances in these areas, we are also reminded that progress towards gender parity globally has slowed in many countries, and that there is a greater mountain to climb for women especially those being oppressed, raped, tortured, segragated, excluded from education work and politics, and those used in modern slavery. Continue reading International Women’s Day 2016: Songbirds on the Glanfa Stage
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! Continue reading Happy 4th Birthday Songbirds!
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
Growing up in a small town in the Valleys in the 70s was not the most conducive environment to come out (think of the film ‘Pride’ but a few years earlier!). The only visible role models were comedic and the likes of Danny La Rue and Dick Emery with, what seemed to me, no discussion of context or the issues involved, just sniggers. So despite having strong feelings towards women and female friends, knowing in my heart of hearts that it wasn’t just crushes, I didn’t. I didn’t share my thoughts with anyone, my parents being fairly ‘old school’ and dealing with my brother’s mental health issues at the time, I think subconsciously I didn’t want to burden them further. I genuinely didn’t know what the consequences of coming out would be, and it was fairly terrifying, and something I took forward for years. This was allied to a fear of losing friends and being further alienated.
Being a tomboy and not having originally been from the area, I stood out and was bullied at school. I changed schools at 14 and boarded in an all-girls school, potentially the perfect environment to come out. Not. In hindsight, I think had in stayed at my old school I may have come out in my teens – already being a bit of an outsider I may eventually thought “sod it”. Although I was much happier in my new school I think that being at an all-girls school actually made it harder to come out, especially as a boarder. Although I had strong friendships, many still so to this day, there was still the fear of rejection and uncertainty and I would have felt uncomfortable for the other girls in my dorm had I come out. I continued to ‘blank out’ my feelings and was quite shy as a result.
After school came uni in London, a fantastic opportunity and I fell in love, fairly quickly…with a guy. My first serious relationship. It was love, but perhaps we were propelled together as we were both fairly shy and lost in the big city. So, in time we married and have two great kids, but all the while I harboured feelings for other women, although I repressed these, and was not a happy bunny, maybe hoping for some romantic encounter over tea and cake at the NCT coffee morning! I did have a few brief semi-platonic affairs with guys, which in hindsight was probably me trying to find myself. I actually came out to my (at the time of writing, soon to be not) husband about 10 years ago and to a good friend, but I guess we never properly discussed the implications or my feelings, or indeed his, and muddled along “for the good of the children”. As time crept on I became increasingly disenchanted with life and gave up my career as I felt that something needed to give, the choice, I felt, being career or marriage (der!) but things still weren’t right and I was growing increasing disenchanted and unhappy and realised I had to resolve things.
Then I had a brief affair with a woman and although we weren’t together very long it was enough for me to realise that I couldn’t ignore myself any more and I had to be honest with myself and others. She was very kind, and a catalyst for me, for which I thank her. At that point I decided to move out of the family home. A hard decision as I couldn’t afford to move anywhere where the children could be with me, but I felt I had to take visible action and a positive step. I wasn’t far and managed to see the kids regularly. However, financial constraints and other factors resulted in me moving back into the family home after two years, but living separately. That has been a little more long term than intended and awkward at times but will resolve shortly and life will become more relaxed for everyone.
My friends have been very accepting and supportive throughout, some saying they were not surprised, others not quite understanding how I can have been married, had kids and be gay. I think that this is a common thread for many people, and also has implications for how lesbians previously in a relationship with a guy are perceived, sometimes regarded as ‘’not proper lesbians’’. Pahh!!! Since coming out I have realised just how many older lesbians there are who have very similar stories to mine. Being completely honest means that I know who I am, no one can hold any power over me and I am so much more confident as a result. As far as I am aware only one friend has blanked me, but possibly because they were a friend of my husband’s initially, who knows, but it’s surprising how people who seem so generous and broad minded can close down. The upshot is that most don’t and many will surprise you.
To my shame I didn’t pluck up the courage to tell the kids the actual reason why I’d moved out for about a year afterwards. My son (now late teens), was and is pretty cool with it, though my daughter is a different kettle of fish. She’s becoming more accepting, but I guess because it’s her mum maybe she feels a little more uncertain about her own sexuality, which is in no way a criticism of her. Sometimes I do think her offhand attitude is just because she’s a 16 year old girl. I just hope that she learns to talk about her feelings a little more freely, not necessarily with me but someone, as talking about things and sharing how you feel, what you think, etc. really helps to crystalise your thoughts and provide insight and clarity, however difficult or painful that may be.
Coming out has been difficult, but overwhelmingly been a good and positive experience. To really accept myself for me, to know who I am, has made me a much more confident and happier person. It really was a weight off my shoulders. If anyone says ’how do you know’ you’re gay/straight/bi/trans/whatever, you just know. How do people ‘know’ they’re straight? For me, being in relationships with women has been so very different to any other relationship. It’s just ‘right’ and the emotional connection is definitely much, much stronger and can be overwhelming. I do feel that I am able to empathise with people (whoever they are) much more now because I have experienced emotions that previously were unknown to me or repressed.
There are still issues, not least untangling a 30 year relationship, finances, and supporting the kids emotionally but even my parent’s in law seem to accept it (enough) now. Being outed to them is a story for another time! If anyone ever has any doubts about coming out, the fear is debilitating, but the relief of coming out is empowering. There will inevitably be fall-out and consequences, but life is short and unless you know who you are you can’t live it to your full potential. You will always find people who’ve been through similar problems (whatever those problems are and whether they’re gay, straight, trans. etc.) and finding a supportive group is an enormous boost whatever stage of life or coming out you are at. That’s what I’ve found with the Songbirds. A strong family where everyone is welcomed, no one is judged, everyone and every contribution is valued, each with a different story to tell, as unique as the individual but equally valid and accepted.
Songbirds Choir meets 7.30pm every Wednesday at City United Reformed Church, Windsor Place, Cardiff.
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.