Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus holding out hopes for summer events

Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus are clinging to the hopes of a late-summer performance for 2021, open air if need be.

Thursday, 21st January 2021, 2:00 pm
Joe Paxton

And who knows, they might even be back in the Dome next Christmas.

As chorus director Joe Paxton says, you have just got to be optimistic.

“The first part of this year is going to be a return to what we have had before, but I am slightly more hopeful about the second half of this year. You have got to be. Otherwise it would just be too depressing!”

But the fact is that the chorus, despite all the difficulties, has managed to stay together. It has managed to continue as a support and social focus which has gone beyond music-making, just as it always has done. And it has even managed to attract a few new members.

It is a considerable achievement as the chorus goes into 2021.

“For the first lockdown, we were in the run-up to a Fringe concert on a Eurovision theme. We were rehearsing a lot of Eurovision songs which was great fun.”

But they saw the signs and stopped a week before the actual lockdown: “I work with other choirs and the research was coming out that the virus was just going around choirs, so we stopped – and everyone was in panic mode, maybe a little bit too much. There was a WhatsApp group set up and there were hundreds of messages. It was odd for everybody.”

It became a question of deciding what to do: “Some other choirs shut down because they were made up of older people.

“But there is a huge side to the chorus that is not just about singing.

“There is a support side and a social side that for some members is maybe more important than the rehearsals and concerts. We had a meeting to decide what to do.”

They opted to continue rehearsals on Zoom, far from ideal, but it maintained togetherness, and they even managed to bring out a couple of online videos, including Just Can’t Get Enough.

Rehearsals became shorter, and then people could log off if they wished to or simply stay and chat: “And we got into a habit of sharing different things which was great.”

The year saw no concerts, though. They were able to resume in-person rehearsals for a while with a move to bigger premises – rehearsals with a very different feel.

“Usually everyone arrives and it is all hugs and kisses. It is one big social group with lots of different social groups within it, and quietening them all down at the start of rehearsals used to be quite a task!”

With masks on arrival and social distancing throughout, clearly they were in very different territory – just as they were at Christmas. No Christmas concert. Instead they offered a Christmas advent calendar, daily clips from past repertoire or films members had made specially.

“And now for 2021, you have got to be optimistic really. At the moment we are looking at a late-summer concert. We usually do a summer concert around Pride in the first week of August, but at the moment we are thinking later, maybe into September and maybe the show that we would have done last summer, a show about coming out.

“And then at the end of the year, hopefully we might be able to do a big show in the Dome if the vaccine is in a position where that might be possible.”

The key thing is to have an aim: “It is difficult having online rehearsals if you haven’t got a goal at the end. If you are not rehearsing towards something, then maybe there are more excuses for missing a rehearsal and then it is easy to get out of the habit of coming along every week.”

But for the moment, one thing is for sure.

“We have not really lost touch with anybody. We have had new members joining, and the core of the group is strong.”