Manchester Proud Chorus, with members from age 20 to 90, is together performing live again for the first time since Covid. And there is double cause for celebration as the chorus marks its 20th anniversary, two years delayed, with a special concert at Stoller Hall. Carmel Thomason talked to the choir’s Events Manager, Chris Wilson
What does it feel like to be back performing live as a choir?
Chris: “Its great being back together again after such a long time, mainly due to covid and the various lockdowns, we even had to delay our planned anniversary concert by two years. Its feels good singing again. It’s difficult singing and just hearing your own voice in the spare room. Being in a safe happy place is the very best thing, not only for meeting your friends but having that time every week to reset your mind by coming together to make music”.
How did the choir stay together during Covid?
Chris: “The choir kept rehearsing during the pandemic rehearsing on Zoom. It wasn’t really the same as being in a room together and meeting your mates, but it got us through. Eventually we were allowed to rehearse in the open air and hired a football pitch singing under the stands in Chorlton”.
How many singers are in the chorus?
Chris: “We currently have 80 members spread evenly over our four sections soprano, alto, tenor and basses, with 50 to 60 rehearsing every Monday at Halle Rehearsal rooms in Ancoats, where we are based after moving from Manchester Town Hall due to the refurbishment.”
What type of music do you sing?
Chris: “We have a very eclectic mix of music we sing: rock, pop, choral. We sing many songs from musical theatre and can and do arrange our own songs, especially when we sing a medley of a particular artist or group such as Abba or Queen. We always get a wonderful reception when singing arrangements made from various songs”.
This year you changed the name of the choir from Manchester Lesbian and Gay Chorus – MLGC to Manchester Proud Chorus. What was the idea behind that and what else has changed?
Chris: “After being an organisation that’s been round the Manchester LGBT community for 20 plus years things do change. We felt that we needed to be more inclusive to all within the LGBTQI+ community and the best way to encompass all who want to join was to decide upon a name that suits who we are. It took 6 months of open discussion until we decided upon Manchester Proud Chorus, we decided not to go with LGBTQI+ as it’s not something that easily trips of the tongue, but shows we are proud of who we are and proud of where we are from, so to choose Manchester Proud Chorus tells you exactly why we exist”.
This is your 20th Anniversary concert. How is that being reflected in the programme?
Chris: “It’s been enjoyable looking back over the past two decades, finding the more memorable songs in our repertoire. We have 80 members ranging in age from 20 to 90 with a few members being there right at the start in 2000. We had to narrow down the number of songs to fit into a 90-minute concert, our archive has over 200 songs we have sang over our history and each of us has a favourite. Each song chosen has emotion and meaning to each of us”.
How did you decide what to include in the programme?
Chris: “We have had two years to decide what was included as we had to delay the concert due to the pandemic. We decided on songs that have the most individual meaning, from performing, for the last visit to Manchester by HM Queen Elizabeth II to singing during the Ariana Grande remembrance service in Albert Square one year after the bombing of the Manchester Arena. We also chose to include songs that we have sung for our yearly World AIDS day performance at the beacon of hope in Sackville Gardens”.
What have been the highlights of the choir over the past 20 years?
Chris: “There are so many memorable times from our history, for me singing in City Hall Dublin reminds me we still have so much more to do to be fully inclusive, as that was the first time Ireland hosted a LGBTQI+ Choir festival. Singing Defying Gravity from the musical Wicked in Piccadilly Gardens because two young men who had visited the Palace Theatre to watch the show were physically attacked simply for showing affection for each other by singing the songs from the musical on the tram. Singing with Lulu at Manchester Pride or on Jane McDonald Christmas TV show. So many good memories to choose from”.
What are you looking forward to next?
Chris: “We recently just finished filming a YouTube release with the Disney corporation for the opening of The Lion King at the end of October at The Palace Theatre. Disney asked us to sing ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’ with the cast who will be coming to Manchester. The video was released for Manchester Pride and Disney gave the chorus free tickets to see the show in January. It was a great unexpected experience and they were so nice to us. We are currently planning to go to Bologna Italy next June for an International LGBTQI+ choir festival where we will be joining over 150 other choirs from all over Europe. Our events schedule is getting back to normal after Covid with every month the chorus performing at various locations around Greater Manchester and beyond”.
How can people get involved in the choir?
Chris: “Just go to our website www.manchesterproudchorus where there will be a link to click to send an email and we will get back to you with dates to come along to a rehearsal. Having been in the chorus for past 11 years I can truly say that it was the very best decision I’ve ever made”.
Is there anything else you would like people to know about the chorus or performance at Stoller Hall?
Chris: “We still have tickets for sale but not many now, so if you love live music and the sound of happy voices contact the box office at Stoller Hall. We meet on Monday evening at Halle Saint Michaels, George Leigh Street in Ancoats from 7.00pm to 9.15pm It’s a great way to start the week, puts your mind in the best place to cope with life’s stresses”.
Manchester Proud Chorus, Together Again, is at Stoller Hall on Saturday 8 October 2022.
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