Over Trinity Sunday weekend, I was at a 4-day choir festival in Dublin.
Various Voices is an international festival for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender choirs. Over 80 choirs took part from all around the world – including the Manchester Lesbian and Gay Chorus (MLGC) who I’ve been singing with since last September (and who sang at St Chrysostom’s in July 2010). Every choir performed a 30-minute concert during the festival, and there were huge evening concerts, and workshops, and dancing – all adding up to very little sleep!
MLGC began singing as soon as we reached dry-land at the Dublin ferry port, where we sang for the waiting coach-parties until we had them all clapping and waving. We sang in the beautiful Georgian City Hall in Dublin city centre and made a lovely woman in the third row burst into tears – which we always take as a great sign of success! We had a sing-off in an Irish bar with 3 other choirs. We sang our main concert in the 1,000-seater Mahony Hall and got a standing ovation. We sang in a restaurant in a converted church and people clapped and waved and hung off the galleries and filmed us on a dozen phones.
We saw hugely talented other choirs who tore up any clichéd idea about what a “gay choir” would be like, and did something extraordinary – small groups of less than 10 singers who could hold a 1,000-people spellbound, and impressive groups of 100+ singers. And I learnt about stage presence, ‘passagio’ and other fancy singing things in workshops with classically-trained opera singers and artists-in-residence Mauricio Virgens and Alexandra Gauger. And still managed to fit in a 9am Sunday Mass at a very interesting modern Catholic church nearby, Our Lady of Victories.
The closing concert of the whole festival ended with a lovely song called The Irish Blessing, sung by Dublin’s LGBT choir, Gloria, with the beautiful words:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields
and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.