Basil Richmond, one of the original members of the choir recalled those early days in 1997 …
“The choir was still deciding what to call itself – I think “Gay and Lesbian Sing Out Rainbow Choir” came somewhere on the list! As far as I know, Carl started things off in September 1997 and I came along in December – as a result of my meeting up with Graham Harvey; we had just started working together on setting up the gay and lesbian dance club which opened its doors on January 13th the following year and later became Cheek2Cheek. My first memory is of a very small band of people singing a few rather tongue-in-cheek carols (deck your balls with boughs of holly – that sort of thing) around a few gay pubs over Christmas. I started attending regularly from January 1998 and we met at the gay and lesbian offices/premises at community base on Queen’s Road. There were only a handful of us at the time, as I recall, and everything we did was acappella. One of the first songs I remember was “Keep it Gay” followed closely by “Hand in Hand” – which we once sang in a stair-well to improve the acoustic – and “California Dreaming”. I also remember “Doh, a deer” from the Sound of Music because I was practically drummed out of the choir for not knowing the words! (Clearly my gay credentials were not good enough!) Then, of course, there was “Siahamba”. That summer we sang with the Sydney choir when they came over and we were only 7 strong to their 80+! We did “Rhythm of Life” with them and, I think, “Happy Together”.
In 1998 we had our first ‘proper’ public appearance with a resoundingly successful ‘outing’ at Brighton Pride, followed by a joint concert with the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Choir at the Gardner Arts Centre at Sussex University in Brighton in July and topping it off with a “A Requiem for Those Who Die Young” in December. Not bad for the first year! From that small beginning in 1997, the choir has grown to a current membership of 35 and a “reputation that has spread throughout Britain” (Pride Magazine).
Rainbow Chorus was one of the founding members of Sea, Sound, Sing – the Brighton Festival’s a Capella choral event which is sadly no longer running, but was great fun while it lasted though! We are also one of the founding members of the Association of Lesbian and Gay Choirs in the UK and Ireland.
What are we like?
Rainbow Chorus is a mixed bunch indeed and we welcome LGBT people of all ages and abilities. There are plenty of people who do not read music and learn by ear or from our recorded parts. The main thing is that we all get along well and the whole evening is great fun. People join the choir for reasons other than just singing of course – some want to be an active part of the LGBT community, some want to get out for a drink in the evening, some want to make new friends, and some have even met a future partner!
Of course, one of the things that marks us out from our other two friendly gay choirs here in Brighton & Hove is that we have women! We’re biased of course, but we think it makes for a more varied musical texture and allows us to tackle challenging choral pieces which were originally written by some of the world’s greatest composers for SATB – have a look through our performances over the years to see what we mean. It also gives a different dynamic to the social aspect of the choir which seems to suit us very well.
What sort of things do we get up to?
The main focus of Rainbow Chorus is to give two scheduled concerts per year in Brighton & Hove and other performances as events unfold through the year. We believe that they are varied and enjoyable concerts and that we have become a familiar and colourful part of the LGBT community in the city. Repertoire has ranged through ABBA to African chants, orchestral choral pieces by Vivaldi, Poulenc and Fauré, backing for other performers and sixties and more recent pop (such as Coldplay and Blur) to Victorian parlour songs. We try to balance the familiar and the unusual to keep both us and our audience entertained and delighted with unknown or seldom heard music. Some pieces are occasionally written specifically for us as well. We look for ways to contribute to the Brighton and Hove community by raising money for local charities and participating in community events.
There is an active committee which runs the choir’s day to day business but everyone has a chance to add their voice at these meetings. Different members of the choir sing, conduct, arrange pieces, play the piano, help with staging and presentation, lead rehearsals and very importantly make the tea – so we are a fairly democratic lot, and Rainbow Chorus really belongs to all of us.
Rainbow Chorus was delighted to announce the appointment of a new Musical Director, Aneesa Chaudhry. Her passion for music is evident in that she also works as a professional jazz singer, runs corporate and community singing workshops and teaches singing. She has led a number of choirs over the past 10 years, including youth choirs and small ensembles of 10-18 year olds. She particularly enjoys ensuring that everyone has a chance to use and enjoy developing their voice, whilst making as professional a sound as possible. She was thrilled to have been invited to take on the role of Musical Director of the Rainbow Chorus. Here you can read more about Aneesa Chaudhry.
Aneesa took over from Jacob Swindells, our MD since January 2012 who has now ended a gap year where he observed rehearsals with the world renowned Berlin Philharmonic and Radio Symphony orchestras as well as the Berlin Radio Choir. Jacob has an Associate Diploma from Trinity College London and a Licentiate Diploma from The Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Choral singing is central to Jacob’s musical focus and he is also the director of Music at St Andrew Old Church. In October he left Brighton to begin a Music Degree as a Choral Scholar at Merton College Oxford.