Member blog: Sharing across borders

What’s a great way to form connections across boundaries? We learn about the European Queer Choir from its founder, Martin Brophy.

After over 20 years of singing with the London Gay Men’s Chorus, in 2016 Martin gathered together 20 singers from around Europe. With some committed fundraising, they made enough to pay for a musical director and accompanist to take them all the way to the GALA Choruses Festival in Denver, Colorado. The choir sang in their own concert and at the festival’s opening and closing ceremonies, and were such a success that they set up permanently as the European Queer Choir.

Choir members range in age from 25 to 80 and are scattered across Europe, from Germany and Sweden to Ireland and the UK. The members connect using Skype, Google Hangouts, and Integra Planner. Members don’t need to be able to read music necessarily, but it helps to have some musical awareness and singing experience.

Martin says, “You need to be motivated and self-sufficient, because there’s learning to be done on your own in between meeting online and at performances.” The choir sing in four-part harmony, using voice learning tracks, and meet two or three times a year in person to rehearse, performing pop, classical, folk, and songs in two or three European languages other than English. 

The choir fosters a warm and welcoming atmosphere of equality. Although it’s known as an LGBT+ choir, these terms aren’t used prescriptively, as some people find them restricting. Martin says: 

We aim to be a safe space. People who call themselves by a range of labels, from feminists to socialists as well as allies, are members simply because they feel more comfortable and accepted in this environment.

Gender can be fluid rather than binary, so voices aren’t identified as male or female but rather by part SATB, mixed, or higher or lower. The choir logo itself is inclusive – it uses the European Union flag but the stars are in different colours to represent a variety of identities. But the choir isn’t political, preferring to describe themselves as Europhiles.

Despite continuing Brexit uncertainties, the choir itself is positive about its future. Next year they aim to go to GALA Festival once again – this time with 100 singers.

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