Grant Award from the BBC!

We received the great news in December 2010 that we had been awarded grant funding for the choir by the BBC Choral Ambition as part of their Performing Arts Fund! We decided against using it all to pay for a splash out meal and Champagne for the whole choir and instead will be using it to provide musical training instead.

See us

The BBC Performing Arts Fund is a charity that was set up within the BBC in 2003 to help everyone achieve their musical ambitions, from choirs, hip hop artists and musical theatre performers to folk musicians. Since its inception the fund has awarded over £3m to aspiring musicians, performers and groups across a range of genres through funding instruments, training and development. To learn more about what the fund does and how you can apply please visit the website

Hallelujah! It's Christmas

Having already performed at the AIDS memorial 3 Choirs Concert and been invited as guests to a WAD concert we felt that putting on a Christmas concert made more sense so indeed on the 18th of December, 7:30pm we performed at the beautiful, snow and ice bound Saint Nicholas Parish Church in Dyke Road Brighton - a new venue for the choir. Although the snow throughought Brighton (and the South East and Europe!) provided the perfect concert backdrop it meant that Caroline, David, Jen and Sharon were very sadly unable to perform and also people who had intended to come could not attend either. Despite this we felt we gave a very creditable performance of some festive favourites and a rousing rendition of excerpts from Handel’s marvellous Messiah. There was also audience participation in the first half which we know many enjoyed.

Half time was well supplied with mulled wine and mince pies which went down a treat. You can download the programme
here and see some photos here.

Bal Masqué - "Kids' Appeal" charity ball

We appeared at the opening of this celebratory evening of entertainment, singing ‘Masquerade’ from the Phantom of the Opera whilst glamourously dressed women (and one man in a gorgeous red velvet frock coat) moved amongst the guets at The Old Market on Saturday the 5th of December - you can read more about it here. There was food and drink, live music. a DJ, dancing, The Drifters, Banquet and an auction and more! Due to technical reasons we were not allowed on stage until 8:40pm for our brief performance.

Here we were just after our performance.

Masked choristers

Promotional poster

Sussex Ecumenical HIV Chaplaincy event

This was a commemorative service for World AIDS Day. Historically, we have organised our own special event each year for World AIDS Day, starting in 1999. This year though, with the 3 Choirs Concert for the unveiling of the AIDS memorial and an invitation to this WAD event we had decided not to arrange our own.

This service, held at the
Brighthelm Community Church in North Road Brighton on Tuesday the 1st of December at 7:30pm had another choir performing - we sang at the beginning of the service and at the end after the candle lighting. The Mayor of Brighton and Hove was unable to attend but his deputy attended instead and we had the High Sherriff as well!

Click to view
page 1 and page 2 of the programme in a new window. (Errata: Our final song ‘Postlude’ was “Sure on this Shining Night”)

London and Brighton Hate Crime vigils

Here is some of the text from the press release for this event:

"This event has been prompted by the homophobic attack on Ian Baynham which led to his death and is to remember all the victims of hate crime and to show the world that this criminal behaviour has to stop.

The event will commence with music and song, letters of support from The Prime Minister and the Mayor of London along with attendance and support from a host of concerned people including, Sandi Toksvig, Stephen Fry, Richard Barnes ( Deputy Mayor) and hundreds of others from the UK and around the world. The centre of the event will be the laying of 15,000 candles in the square and a 2-minute silence. It is already capturing media attention and prompted the opening feature on the One Show last Friday and was reported in the National Press including the Daily Mail.

We are sending a request for this message to be carried around the world and for others to participate by lighting a candle and remembering. To show defiance against Hate Crime. To testify to what they have done, lighting candles and showing solidarity by posting messages and pictures on to the Facebook page. All singers are invited to join together our voices including the London Gay Men’s Chorus, the Pink Singers and Diversity Choir along with members of the Brighton Choirs, Rainbow Chorus, Brighton and Hove Actually and the Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus and any other singers who want to join us."

Unfortunately, it was not easy for many of our choir members to get there in time for the rehearsals due to work commitments but a few of us did make it and were rewarded with an inspiring, moving and very worthwhile evening. Here are some thoughts from those of us who made it to Trafalgar Square:

"So even after getting home at 00.30, and being up at 6.30 this morning to do a 5hr flu clinic, I'm still incredibly glad I went. I'd really love to think that this vigil helps to change attitudes and more importantly behaviour, for the better."

"This was a powerful and special event in a profound way that many such events try to be but often don't manage. I felt that the 2 minute silence where everyone held their candles aloft was a genuinely poignant moment. The carpet of our candles left at the foot of Nelson's Column and the candles spelling out "NO TO HATE" made a beautiful and powerful sight."

"The speeches from the friends of Ian and the one read out on behalf of Jenny, Ian's sister were wonderful, emotional and empowering. The tenor was so loving and appreciative of Ian's life that it put his killers into the periphery where they belong. His life was celebrated, his diversity was heralded and I can tell you that standing among several thousand men and women with one thought was at once comforting and shocking. Shocking that we would have to gather together like that to say something so obvious after so many years of fighting for it."

"It was obviously a very sad occasion on one level, however the atmosphere was good and … The event itself was very well run, some good speakers and Sandig Toksvig was a class compere. The testimony of the pastor from St Martin's in the Field (an out lesbian priest), was truely horrific - the 10th anniversary of the Admiral Duncal nail bombing attack."

"It was certainly one of the most moving things I've been to recently and felt very fitting. The rector of St Martin in the Fields which was flying a rainbow flag, made reference to the neo-nazi bombs 10 years ago in Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho. I recall when those bombs were set off we went to Old Compton Street to pay our respects and although the vigil on Friday evening sadly reminded me that we still have a lot of work to do it felt very cathartic: in rising up to face our adversaries, this time we will stand taller and command equality and respect..."

You can watch a tribute video

The BBC covered the event
here as did the Londonist. A vigil was also held in Brighton but was announced almost at the 11th hour so unfortunately most of our members knew nothing of it.

Spooky social

Well, it was a bit of a day on Saturday.

There was a midday
attempt to get Brighton into the Guiness Book of Records (and Melbourne out!) by having the most number of people dancing the Time Warp in once place. So, 5 of us from the choir went to boost the numbers down by the remains of the West Pier; dressed suitably of course, we jumped to the left and then stepped to the ri-i-i-i-i-ight, with our hands on our hips. You can see us larking about below and some links to bigger picture videos appear when you get to the end of this short movie:

The result is not yet official as of the date of writing but we're pretty confident :-)

As if that wasn't enough, more joined our well dressed band later to meet for drinks prior to our trip to the Rocky Horror show on stage at the Theatre Royal. To say we had a great time would be an understatement - we were great, as were our outfits as you can see and the show was huge fun with so much dressing up on and off stage. So many suspenders, basques, gowns, gloves, boas, high heels and more.

Here we were during the interval

Here's Frank 'n' Furter himself

And the entire cast (I think)

After the show we went to a nearby restaurant and continued our evening with some lovely food, drinks, conversation and general 'bonhomie'. After that, it was off to the PV at The Jury's Out for a suitably Halloween themed nightcap. Michael even managed to peer into his future with a visit to Madame Fanny but he's not revealed to us what was revealed to him. Yet.

NUT LGBT Teachers' Conference performance

Last year, in October, we performed as guest of the NUT at the Ship Hotel in Brighton. They enjoyed it so much that they asked us back for this ear, but this time to their HQ in London. So, we duly set off in our 'tour bus' for the big city and were welcomed and show to our 'dressing room'. This gave us a chance to relax after the journey and find time for a warm up.

After that, it was time for some lunch in the dining area downstairs, kindly provided by the NUT. There were even cakes too! Then time to just prepare ourselves upstairs before our performance in the Mander Hall. Our performance was a good selection from our Choral Propaganda performance and some other songs.

Our performance went down well as it seems that we were invited back as we were leaving the stage ...

Thanks to Peter Arkell and Nigel Tart for the photographs.

The Three Choirs Concert

A unique event took place in Brighton on Friday the 9th of October: all three of Brighton's gay choirs (us, BH(A)GMC and BGMC) performed together for the very first time to raise money towards the Brighton AIDS Memorial. The poster below said it all really.

The church was packed to capacity and the smell of mulled wine was a constant, if distracting, presence for the entire evening! You can see general photos taken by the REAL Brighton photographers here and of us specifically begin here.

Each choir had a 20 minute slot (well, that was the plan!) and in ours we sang the following numbers:

March of the Women
Solidarity Song
As Torrents in Summer
Say a little Prayer for you
Sure on this shining night
Advance Democracy

After we had finished and as we we the last to sing, we were
joined on stage by the other two choirs for a rousing performance of You'll Never Walk Alone, conducted by James Ledward. After that, it was our chance to take some mulled wine out to the reading of the names in front of the AIDS memorial which had been unveiled by David Furnish earlier that day.

Hotel Seaside Rendez-Vous at Pride

It was a great day on Saturday the 1st, and a big success (watching and listening to the crowds). All of us looked fantastic (well, we reckon so!) and made a really big effort, the music really got the crowds going, the stewards guided us safely to the entrance of Preston Park (making sure that no children went under the wheels), and Gill did a fabulous job by driving us there (massive thanks to Infinity Foods for the use of the lorry).

For your viewing pleasure, here is a picture taken just before we hit the streets with our fantabulosa float (click to see an enlarged version):

You can see more photos from the parade here.

A 'Gay Outing' at Charleston Farmhouse

We were invited to perform at Charleston Farmhouse, near Lewes, on the 28th of July for their event ‘A Gay Outing: The Other Side of Bloomsbury’ as part of Brighton Pride 2009 which lasted from 4pm until 9pm.

We had two performance slots, each of about 20 minutes: the first was outside in the beautiful walled garden

and the second inside one of the spacious barns.

In the former we had to press a member of the audience into service as the wind threatened to blow away Glen's score!

Thank goodness that here was tea and plenty of home made individual iced cakes. As if that wasn't enough there was wine, the garden itself and a lively discussion to end the evening.

We performed:

The Lavender Song
Stevie Smith Number 1
Stevie Smith Number 2
Sure on this Shining Night
As Torrents in Summer
Advance Democracy
Say a little prayer for you

From Wikipedia:
Charleston, the country home of the Bloomsbury group is a unique example of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant's decorative style within a domestic context and represents the fruition of over sixty years of artistic creativity. Vanessa Bell wrote of this time; "It will be an odd life, ought to be a good one for painting."
In addition to the house and artists' garden, there is an exhibition gallery showing an exciting mix of contemporary and historical shows of fine and decorative art, a Crafts Council selected shop selling applied art and books relating to Bloomsbury, a small tea room and a video presentation. Charleston hosts a number of special events throughout the year, most notably the Charleston Festival which is centred around talks and drama relating to literary, artistic and Bloomsbury themes.

Choral Propaganda - singing out about Human Rights!

In our time, we have performed music encompassing many genres and eras, from popular to classical and from the 17th century to the present day. Our identity as a gay and lesbian community choir informs much of our programming, and in this concert we decided to present protest music, mostly from the 20s and 30s but with a small nod to later years.

The struggle for gay rights is part of a wider struggle for human rights and in this programme we looked to a wider musical landscape than last year’s
Fringe performance. The Fringe performance on the 21st of May was an expanded version of our concert which we performed just a few weeks earlier to a great reception, at the Royal Festival Hall on Sunday the 4th of May as part of the extraordinary 4 day Various Voices Festival at the South Bank in London. In addition to the songs we had performed at Various Voices, we performed two new pieces written by our Musical Director Matt Pollard based on two poems by Stevie Smith.

The programme can be viewed

Music is a tool for social change - Gay rights, women's rights and workers’ rights. Suffragette anthems, contemporary folk, rabble-rousing socialist 1930s songs, gay Berlin cabaret - it was all there!

Rainbow Chorus at IDAHOBIT

On Sunday, the 17th of May 2009, Brighton marked International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia with a seaside event which took place at the ‘Kiss Wall’ on Brighton seafront. This date, May 17th, commemorates the day in 1990 the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its list of mental diseases.

In 86 countries globally, homosexual acts are illegal while in 7 of those countries lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and those who identify as trans are often murdered simply for their sexuality or gender identity.

In 2009 the theme of IDAHOBIT is End Transphobia: Respect Gender Identity

Every day people who identify themselves as trans face violence, abuse, rape, torture and hate crimes. And in the first few months of 2009 alone trans women have been murdered in Honduras, Serbia and the USA, this despite most cases of violence not being documented. Trans men also face discrimination and prejudice despite their frequent social and cultural invisibility.

Fitting moments of this year’s event included:

  • The compere for the evening - Michelle Bridgman of the Gender Trust.
  • Trans activists, Denise Anderson of Spectrum London, and Joanna Rowland-Stuart, National Trans Officer for PCS Proud
  • Performances from Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus and the Rainbow Chorus;
  • A minute’s ‘noise’ in partnership with the B&H LGBT Workers’ Forum to remember the international victims of homo, bi and transphobic violence;
  • Speeches from Anthony Hook, Liberal Democrat candidate for European elections; Caroline Lucas MEP, Green Party; Cllr Gill Mitchell, Leader of the Labour Group, Brighton and Hove City Council; Cllr Dee Simson, Conservative Cabinet member, Brighton and Hove City Council;
  • A ‘blossoming of kisses’ to remember victims of violence and inspire confidence in a hopeful future, by making the Kiss Wall sculpture blossom- attendees are encouraged to bring a flower;
  • The release of visually stunning sky lanterns to represent the 86 countries which criminalise homosexuality.

The City Council officially recognised International Day Against Homophobia by flying the rainbow flag from both Brighton and Hove town halls.

Phelim Mac Cafferty of Brighton IDAHOBIT (and Rainbow Chorus!) stated:
“40 years after the Stonewall riots, trans people still face a mountain of prejudice and hatred. On the 17th May this year, join with us as we say ‘no’ to homophobia, biphobia and transphobia! But IDAHOBIT is about a lot more: it’s also about publicly reaffirming our right to live without fear and hatred, which too often still plague the lesbians, gay, bisexual and trans communities…”

You can see photos of us performing joinly with the Brighton Gay Men's Chorus here.

Yey - Awards for All Grant!

The Rainbow Chorus is planning for an exciting year following receipt of a grant from Awards for All, the Lottery grants scheme aimed at local communities. The grant of nearly £10,000 will support the choir in developing our repertoire and creativity as we commission new works and involve professionals in our vocal and musical preparation.

We have already begun this work. Choral Propaganda , which we performed at the Royal Festival Hall and then in the Brighton Fringe Festival (details and photos of both coming to the web site soon!), was our first repertoire where we were able to hire a stage manager to help us interpret our songs visually. Our members had a great time learning the choreography and the results were received enthusiastically by our audiences.

The grant will also help us increase our profile in the LGBT community through its funding of open access events and workshops. While we always want more people to hear us sing, we also want more people to get involved in singing with us. Look out for our events, come along and be part of our celebration of gay culture in Brighton and Hove.

Awards for All logo

Various Voices on the South Bank

Various Voices was an extraordinary LGBT music festival on the South Bank in May 2009 and most of us were able to be signed up to attend from the 1st to the 4th of May. Various Voices had three main aims:

  • To celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) identity through song and to showcase on an international stage to the achievements and diversity of LGBT choirs of Europe and around the world at every level.
  • To foster interaction between choirs and singers, both in singing activities and socially; and to develop new interaction between delegate singers and ensembles in London. Interaction can be between LGBT choirs and also with choirs of all kinds and at all levels. We also want to foster interaction with audiences around London, to signal our visibility loud and proud, across the city.
  • To facilitate growth of all those ensembles and individual singers involved, through motivating their leaders, inspiring singers and through the development of new skills and ideas.

I think it's safe to say that the choir felt it achieved all of those, and provided a huge amount of pleasure and fun.

There are some great photos taken by the organisers which you can (probably) have a look at
here and you can see photos we took on our Look & Listen pages. Members of the choir took part in vocal workshops, the Big Gay Sing (a sort of live Karaoke!) - where Sharon G. from the Sopranos managed to win a well deserved prize, Sing for the Cure, Carmina Burana in the Royal Festival Hall and of course our performance of 'Choral propaganda' on the final day. We were third on stage in our section, directly after our friends from the Vancouver Mens Chorus. At the event there were dozens of choirs from around the world (including our French friends Podium)! Some of the composers whose works we sang were Eisler, Britten, Chumbawamba, and Spoliansky.

In our time, we have performed music encompassing many genres and eras, from popular to classical and from the 17th century to the present day. Our identity as a gay and lesbian community choir informs much of our programming, and in this concert we decided to present protest music, mostly from the 20s and 30s but with a small nod to later years. The songs we sang were:

March of the Women
Solidarity Song
Coal for Mike
The Lavender Song
Advance Democracy

The struggle for gay rights is part of a wider struggle for human rights and in this programme we will be looking to a wider musical landscape than last year’s
Fringe performance. The show had some staging, like West Side Story! but with more movement and 'layout' which is best appreciated in our photos. You can see the poster for this on our Brighton Fringe entry.

Not only was there music to perform, but beautiful choirs to listen to, Scottish Country Dancing with the Gay Gordons, Ballroom Dancing, free performances from soloists and participating choirs, dancing one evening, the delicious
Slow Food Market and even Lesley Garrett opening the event. All in one amazing weekend. This is the kind of event that isn't at the forefront of our minds when we joined the choir but just goes to show where it can all lead!

Vancouver Men's Chorus and Us

As we were to be following the Vancouver Men’s Chorus onto the stage at the Royal Festival Hall on the 4th of May, we felt it would be nice to share a more intimate stage with them and give them a good time in Brighton too. Consequently we organised a closed, but free, concert in the Unitarian Church in New Road. Our audience was the other two gay choirs of Brighton and Hove, namely the Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus and the Brighton & Hove (Actually) Gay Men’s Chorus, which meant that due to the small size of the venue that we couldn’t invite family, friends or partners.

It was the first time that we’d met the VMC and what a lovely lot they were, and very smart in their tuxedos! Their MD, Willi, said, as he looked around the heavily decorated room, that “I haven’t seen this much Canadiana back home!” (There was much more than is visible here ...)

The VMC performed some, but not all, of the songs they were to sing at the Royal Festival Hall which included songs commissioned by them, beautiful ballads from home grown Canadian songwriters and one which went down with a big smile called “Canadian Man” which as you can see below had some choreography.

In keeping with the “Entente Cordiale” spirit, we presented them with a giant “Thank You” card in the form of a Union Jack on which the choir members had written messages and they loved it. Bless ‘em.

The respective MDs, Matt and Willi Zwozdesky, got to have a hug at the end as well. Aaahh.

We performed some old favourites and then mixed it up with the first outings for some songs from Choral Propaganda. The whole evening went down really well, everyone had a great time and it was a real pleasure meeting the ‘Canadian Men’. After the concert, we led our new found friends a short way through the narrow streets of the North Laine to the Brighton Tavern where they had laid on a lovely buffet for us - and there were a lot of us crowded in there, so many in fact that we mostly ended up in the street. It was a wonderful way to lead into what was to be an inspiring weekend at the Southbank in London.

BLAGSS Winter Pride bowling - OMG!

For the 3rd time, we entered the annual BLAGSS Winter Pride Bowling extravaganza at the Marina Bowlplex. This year there were 24 teams taking part.

Here we were ready to take on all comers ...
(Stephen, Adam, Michael, Gill & Liam)

We began in lane 15 and Michael and Gill were doing great stuff with Liam and Adam close behind, doing sterling stuff with strikes and high scores and all sorts of goodness. At the end of our first set of 10 rounds there had been some impressive play, with a scattering of strikes and a quiet warm glow inside that we were doing fairly well.

After a brief pause for a refreshing beer, it was back to the serious business of bowling, only this time we were in lane 3. Things did not begin too well, but after a while scores began rising again and things were looking good.

Things went very spectacular at the end when Gill scored a strike for her penultimate round and then, gobsmacked us all (we expected it really, ahem ...) by scoring 3 consecutive strikes on her final round as you can see here:

Totting up our score and running off to the master scoreboard, it was clear that we were ... err ... in the lead!! We had a one serious rival though in the shape of GIGS. All the results were in bar theirs and at that point we were in the lead but with Stephen frantically pressing keys on his calculator it was clear that they were coming up fast behind us. As they had 8 members it took a while to complete a round and consequently made the finish even more nail-biting.

Finally, the results were in and ... well, there we were as the Winners with 243 points (it’s averaged out so that you can’t win just by having loads of people in your team). As Anna, our chairperson wrote to the choir:

“For those of you not at last night's rehearsal, big congratulations are due to the Rainbow Chorus bowling team, consisting of Michael, Gill (soprano), Liam, Steve, Adam. They came FIRST in the BLAGGS winter pride ten pin bowling competition, beating 24 other teams...are we proud of them or what!!!! Not only that, but Michael and Gill were among the top 10 scorers of the night! Fantastic result, well done you!”

Here we are receiving our prizes - a small trophy, two bottles of bubble and a funky “Winner” pendant each. Sadly, Gill had to leave early so she was unable to bask in the glory on the night, but had deferred gratification at next week’s choir rehearsal.

You can read some more about the event
here and see lots more photos of the entire event here.

Sister Suffragette

In January 1909 the WSPU (Women’s Social Political Union or more widely known as Suffragettes) of Brighton were an active and very vocal group.  They picketed, lobbied, marched and actively sought imprisonment to bring attention to their cause.  It was with great pleasure that in January 2009, women of Brighton & Hove’s Rainbow Chorus attended a talk by Brighton Ourstory organiser, Linda Pointing.  With a sense of history and admiration we sang ‘March of the Women’ a century old Suffragette song.

This song will also form part of our set at the Old Market on 21st May for the Brighton Festival Fringe.