Sunday, 9 October 2016

The Shame Chorus

It's been a rather busy and hectic day which started with a massive panic as we tidied the house in about two hours flat in the knowledge that we had guests coming to see us, the first of whom was the lovely Rosie, who arrived to rehearse music for Arnold's life celebration at the Royal Court tomorrow. It was lovely to hear her singing Shone With The Sun. Hers was the last voice Arnold heard singing that particular song, and that is why it felt so important to have her singing it on his last special day. Arnold was so proud of that particular song that he played it on his Desert Island Discs. I'm incredibly nervous about the performance because I'm not altogether sure I'll be able to hold it together. I'm playing a keyboard and not a piano, which is not ideal, and a mixture of nerves and emotion might mean that all sorts of mistakes happen.

We also rehearsed a song from Em, which we'll be performing at the next new writers' cabaret. We were really only note-bashing, but I can tell she's going to sing it beautifully. It's slap bang in her range. I'm relieved to report that she's excited at the prospect of learning it.

After Rosie left, I spent half an hour, in our yard, taking pictures of Nathan wearing his newly knitted pumpkin-shaped hat. I find taking photos of knitting very difficult. Nathan continually shouts at me for cutting bits of his masterpieces out of the photographs I take. I'm afraid I find myself much more interested in photographing the faces of the people modelling his knit wear...

This evening Tash came up to Highgate and the three of us travelled to the Irish Centre on Camden Square: an extraordinary building which is somewhat reminiscent of the Tardis. It resembles an Edwardian terraced house from the front, but has an enormous performing space out the back, which was where the concert we were watching was happening.

The show was performed by the Shame Chorus, a sub-choir of the London Gay Men's chorus, whom, of course, sang at our wedding. There are twelve in this particular chamber choir, and, over the last six or so months, they've been working on twelve new commissions, all of which are verbatim musical settings of interviews that members of the gay men's choir did with a psychiatrist about the process of coming out. They were designed to highlight the sense of shame which plagues gay people through their lives, which is often triggered by early experiences of bullying, or the misery of telling parents. As one of the psychiatrists pointed out, the difference between homophobic bullying and other forms of bullying, is that, if you're bullied for being a red head, or black, or fat, you can go home to your parents, who will understand and be able to help, because they know you're a red head, or black or fat. Simply acknowledging that you're being bullied for being gay is often acknowledging that you ARE gay, or certainly opening yourself up for uncomfortable questions which you might not be ready to answer.

Anyway, I was one of the lucky composers selected to write a song for the chorus to sing, and mine was given final billing, and furthermore selected as the encore number, which felt like a great honour.

It was a very moving evening, which became even more moving in the Q and A afterwards, when a number of the audience, many of them members of the larger London Gay Men's Chorus, started to recount their own stories of coming out. There are a lot of barely-healed wounds out there in my community, and I applaud any initiative which encourages people to share their pain and anxiety.

I was also rather chuffed to bump into an old friend from my days as the partner of a Labour Party MP. I knew him incredibly well back in the heady, now somewhat ghostly, days of New Labour and the 1997 general election. It was so surreal - yet very pleasant - to see him again.

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