Brighton Festival Fringe

Pop Goes the Rainbow

It was a first for the choir when we performed for two nights on the 6th and 7th of May at the Unitarian Church in New Road as part of the Brighton Festival Fringe, until then we had never performed on of our own concerts twice in the same place (backing Country Queen Tina C doesn’t count here)!

Before the show

In what could hardly have been a bigger contrast from our performance of ‘
Choral Propaganda’ for 2009’s Brighton Festival Fringe with the stirring messages from its Socialist anthems and Suffragette marching songs, this was a concert with a large dollop of good old fun pop! There was some Beatles, ABBA, Kylie and of course in true Rainbow Chorus style, a few surprises in our box too such as Blur, Coldplay and Leonard Cohen in case you thought that might have been getting too mainstream! We all got glittered up in style where there was a serious risk of the men being outshone in the sparkle stakes but things were evened out in the end when a Liberace waistcoat and a silver two-piece skin tight body suit were spotted (it’s there in the photos).

You can see the programme
here and if you want to see how it all went, then nip over here. If you would like to hear some of what we performed then nip over to our recordings here.

We had the lovely DJs Spinny & Susanna playing some dancing tunes too. The event was also Sign Interpreted by our regular interpreter, the talented Marco Nardi which not only benefitted the deaf community but many hearing people have said how much it added to their enjoyment of the songs with Marco’s sensitive and also humorous signing.

Our second night was performed after the momentous event of the election of the first ever Green MP in the world to be elected under a First Past The Post electoral system when Caroline Lucas won the Brighton Pavilion constituency. Caroline had a ticket to come to hear us that night, but a media avalanche on the evening of the concert scuppered her plans! She was however sneakily present in an ironic dedication to her of ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’ and minority parties were incorporated wonderfully obliquely into the song ‘Mrs Robinson’ by Matt and Michael.

We had an absolutely
wonderful time and it looked and sounded as though you did too - so if you were there, thanks for joining in so brilliantly and making it such a great evening!

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!

Tina C in the Udderbelly

Did we have a great time? Hell Yea!
In a new collaboration for the Rainbow Chorus we joined country pop icon Tina C. on her campaign trail to the White House on the 15th, 16th and 17th of May! The images below are from the final Saturday night.

The picture below was actually taken before the Friday night performance when one of our newest members (the bearded Steve, background left) conducted the choir because Matt, our MD was away conducting his
Hangleton Band! Well done Steve for stepping up to the podium ...

We opened the show with a cracking new version of the little known Stephen Sondheim song "Someone's Coming" - and yep, Tina was that someone and she arrived to tumultuous applause and the unveiling of huge banners of her wrapped in the stars and stripes on either side of the stage.

It would be impossible to recount all the nuggets of political insight shared with us by Tina, but be assured, they were many.

She next invited us to join her with a rousing rendition of her campaign song, the title track from her new album "Tick My Box" and as you can see below, we certainly did ...

Our next musical collaboration was "I Am America" on which Tina took the lead and we backed her whilst everyone admired "her perfect formation and her damn fine Grand Canyon". After that we gave a rendition of a 'Patriotic American Song' namely the Shaker song, Simple Gifts giving Tina the opportunity to make an emotional speech to her supporters. Next we we enacted a scene between Tina and her campaign advisers as "America" but with a new set of lyrics followed by a gentle exit from the stage to let Tina spread the love on her own.

From the 180News Fringe Review:
"ABLY SUPPORTED by the Rainbow Chorus, Tina C ran for president in a spectacular show at The Udderbelly. Looking fabulous in sequinned hotpants, Tina involved the audience at every turn, from inviting them to check out her legs to demanding they storm the stage."

We came back at the end to help out with the final song "Ain't nobody do me like Tina" which involved audience participation on stage, a lot of balloons, clapping, swaying and general exuberance - it was a great one with with to finish the evening and you can get a feel from the picture below.

Angela Goodall, one of our Tenors, said:
“I guess all I could say is that I wasn't intending to do any of these nights, and ended up doing all three - I laughed so much, I just had to keep going back! Definitely ticked my box - as in funny bone!”

Secretary of the choir Stephen Watson, also a Tenor, said:
“I really enjoyed the opportunity for us to let our hair down and have some good fun, combined with a quality performance - yes, we can do both! I really appreciated Tina's warmth and kindness to the choir both on and off stage - she made us really feel at ease"

It's safe to say that Tina, the audience and the choir enjoyed the 'campaign roadshow'. Let's hope we don't have to wait until the next US Presidential election to work together again. Hell Yeah!

You can see more and larger images in the photo gallery.

The Romantic Reaction: 20th Century Gay Composers

Over the past ten years, 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 explored music from a specific period – the mid-20th century – written by composers who were gay.

Concert poster

There are interesting parallels to be drawn between the six composers (from three countries) who were represented. Not only were they all gay, they all reacted against the prevailing modernism of the avant-garde that was the dominant musical ideology of the time, and sought to preserve an emotional expressivity in their music. Direct and profound communication of ideas and emotions is found in the socially and politically-aware music of Britten and Tippett, the nostalgic sound world of Barber and Copland, the jazz and Latin influenced works of Bernstein, and the populist approach to religious ritual so brilliantly displayed by Poulenc in his Gloria.

This concert provided us with the opportunity to explore our own gay cultural heritage through the performance of some of the most moving and powerful choral music ever written. To allow the exploration of this theme, all ticket holders were invited to attend a pre-performance discussion with Matthew Pollard, our Musical Director. It was very interesting and although we don't have a transcript of the Q&A session which followed it, I’m pleased to say that we (finally) have the text of Matthew's talk

You can download a PDF of the programme

Just before the performance there are those few moments to either squeeze in a little extra rehearsing or just relax. Here's a few of us doing just that.

Here's Liam, Anthony, Darren and Vijay ...

and Caroline, Sharon and Jen ...

... and finally, Anna and Tanya.

Here we were waiting to come on stage

Waiting for the call
After a beautiful first half and some lovely wine in the interval the highlight of the evening was Poulenc's Gloria which was accompanied by both a guest orchestra and solo soprano Elisabeth Wingfield.

Performing Poulenc's Gloria
Performing in St George's Church in Kemptown was quite a change from our usual Festival venue of St. Michael's - this building is much smaller and has a wooden roof. The acoustic was warmer and more intimate and people we spoke to afterwards found that the sound very enjoyable. It was a lovely warm evening too so our audience (and a few of the choir too) had time to enjoy some delicious organic wine outside under the trees.

It was also lovely to have Marco Nardi, who provided sign language interpretation for our World AIDS Day concert last year, with us again.

This Way for the Gas, Ladies & Gentleman - Brighton Fringe Festival

We were invited again to perform the piece in which we took part for Holocaust Memorial Day earlier this year - see item in January 2007 on this page. The difference is that this time we performed in the UdderBELLY tent (I kid you not) and we performed for 5 nights which was a first for the choir.

There were lots of interesting battles with the sound and lighting. On Friday the video projection was disrupted by a message proclaiming that "Your anti-virus subscription has expired" - still, the show must go on... Then, on the final Sunday performance there was the exciting addition of an evening of torrential rain resulting in water running off one of the main stage lights onto the back of the drummer during the performance!

Concert with Hazel O'Connor during the Brighton Festival

Hazel O'Connor's first album, Breaking Glass, inspired a movie of the same name which she co-wrote and in which she played the lead. The soundtrack with its three hit songs, including Will You?, made her famous in the 80s; the movie brought her to Cannes and she also won the Best Film Actress of the Year award from the Variety Club of Great Britain.

The concert took place at The Old Market in Hove, where we performed a solo spot followed by Hazel and Cormac alone and then an interval. After that we all came on stage and backed her for some of her most well-loved songs.

Hazel was a real treat to work with and we all loved performing with her during the Brighton Fringe Festival at The Old Market in Hove. We had backing from Cormac de Barra on Harp (and vocals), Joss Peach on keyboard, Adam Boshell on percussion and Josie Owens on saxaphone. Her stepdaughter accompanied her on vocals for 'Driftwood'. Hazel had said that she'd always wanted to sing with a choir and we were more than happy to co-operate. So, the women in the choir backed her on Loveable and all of us joined together for another 6 of her songs: Blackman, Eighth Day, D-Days, Driftwood, Strong, and of course, Will You?

The concert was a sell-out - we had two encores, two standing ovations and people dancing in the aisles. Truly an enjoyably memorable evening for everyone involved as you can clearly see here.

Here are some photos from the rehearsal:

Hazel O'Connor on BBC Southern Counties Radio

We performed three songs live in their studio near Brighton station: Strong, Driftwood and Eighth Day. The BBC recorded all of them and interviewed Hazel as well.

Unfortunately, the BBC no longer has any of these on their web sites, but thanks to the wonder of YouTube it is still possible to enjoy
Driftwood, after which the show presenter Heather Driscoll said “Well what can I say to that……. I’m sitting here with goosebumps, which I’m sure you are too.”

Handel's Coronation Anthems

A selection of Handel's well loved Coronation Anthems plus other celebratory tunes were there for the listening during our Brighton Festival Fringe performance at the Church of St. Michael and All Angels.

Vivaldi's Gloria for the Brighton Festival

We had performed two movements a capella from this piece in 2003 and when Matt (our Musical Director) said he reckoned that we could perform the entire piece there were indeed doubts amongst the ranks. However, next May there were were accompanied by the Brighton String Quartet with Ellie Blackshaw & Ester Ward-Caddle and performing the whole piece! This was the first time that Rainbow Chorus had performed with an orchestra - and it was a new experience for us and one which we very much enjoyed, setting the pattern for a number of our future concerts.
Some other pieces we performed were the beautiful Locus Iste by Bruckner, Ave Verum Corpus by Mozart and Ave Maria by Mascagni. You can hear a couple of tracks from this performance

Brighton Festival Fringe Concert

Took place at Church of St. Michael and All Angels, Victoria Road, Brighton

Choir members performing at this concert were:

Jen Green, Rowena Killick

Counter Tenor
Michael Gough

Angela Goodall, Hannah Latham, Tanya Izzard

Russell Brewerton, Adam Clarke, Iain Fleming, Damian Kirwan, Sé Lynch, Basil Richmond, Dave Pitts, Stephen Watson, Paul Woodland

Matthew Cook, Frederick Corneby, David Lilly

Rick Graebner, John Hood, Liam O'Shea, Craig Thomas

Singing in Spring

Held at St. Michael and All Angels, Victoria Road, Brighton

Streets of Brighton during the Festival

The 'Streets of Brighton' takes place every year as part of the Festival Fringe. Street performers run riot all over The Lanes and the North Laine. We 'busked' in both Duke Street (shown below) and at the end of Kensington Gardens.

We're off on the Chatanooga Choo-Choo!

Relaxing in the pub between performances

An entertaining evening of songs as part of The Brighton Festival

Our regular performance featured special guests 'Marimba' - five Brighton women singing lyrical and political songs a capella; sadly no longer performing as far as we know.

The programme can be seen

Sea Sound Sing

As before.

Sea Sound Sing

This was the first performance of Brighton's a capella music festival; firstly busking on our own in the streets, later followed by a performance along with all the remainder of the day's other participants at a church in Brighton.