A MAGNETIC connection forms between members of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir (SGLC) and its musical director Sarah Penicka-Smith when they are onstage performing.
“One thing never that’s never been said about the choir, is that when we’re singing the audience sees our musical director’s back but we are glued to her face,” said SGLC founding member Rob Holland.
Holland formed the choir in 1990 after watching the Sydney Gay Liberation Quire – a group of men who got together in the early 80’s to perform politically charged songs about equality and liberation – perform for many years.
“I was a secret admirer from afar, from long before homosexuality was decriminalised… and I could see how wonderful the choir was for the community,” he said.
As a person who did not read music, he took on the daunting challenge of forming an LGBTI choir in Sydney and as the SGLC is about to celebrate its 25th anniversary Holland is content with the success of the choir.
“When we hear a song about heterosexual love we have to imagine they’re singing about our love, whereas with the choir we don’t have to do that,” he said.
“When gay and lesbian sings about love, the audience knows what we are singing about and rarely do we get that from the mainstream styles of music.”
The choir has put together a fantastic concert called Silver Linings and an accompanying exhibition to celebrate its 25th anniversary, to be performed at the Paddington Town Hall on Saturday October 23.
The concert will feature popular classics from its diverse repertoire over the past 25 years as well as six world premieres of music by Australian composers, with actor Simon Burke acting as Master of Ceremonies for the occasion.
Penicka-Smith said the compositions reflect a range of emotions and experiences relevant to SGLC and to Australia’s LGBTQI community.
Joseph Twist dedicated his inspirational work, ‘Imagine’, to those affected by the tragic mass shooting in Orlando, while Gordon Hamilton’s ‘Turing Believes Machines Think’ sets British mathematician Alan Turing’s famous last syllogism to music with a backing of Turing’s Bombe machine. SGLC is also proud to present two new works written in memory of our beloved accompanist Gareth Chan, who died tragically in January.
“We’ve really felt the healing power of choral singing this year in our recovery from personal and global tragedies. In 2016 SGLC returned to its roots by singing in Wagga Wagga and Young with country collaborators, at our local neighbourhood centre, Orlando tribute concerts, and at the Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, where they opened the doors of the wards so patients could hear us,”she said.
Alexandra Woolgar is a brand new member of the choir joining in April this year with her partner who both wanted to be more involved in the LGBTI community.
“My partner was someone who initiated joining the choir and she doesn’t have a singing background at all, we had heard them a few times before and they seem like a really fun group of people,” she said.
“The choir’s good because you can go and try it out a couple of times as a visitor before you commit to becoming a member… it’s a really great atmosphere.”
The first song the couple tackled as a part of the SGLC was the harmonically challenging Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen.
“It was a fantastically good song, because you realise it’s going to be challenging and you weren’t turning up for just a sing-along, but it was something you can feel immensely proud of,” she said.
“The thing that’s been really nice… there’s so many generations in the choir, they’re so diverse in terms of age.
“In terms of the LGBTIQ community, it’s really amazing to hear the stories of people who are a generation or two above me about what they’ve been through.”
SGLC has more than a thousand members, but only about 50 to 80 people are ever active at one time, which is one of the great things about the choir according to Holland.
“It’s easy to dive in and out… you can come and go. It’s like Hotel California, you’re always welcome and you can check out but you never leave,” he said.
Silver Linings, Paddington Town Hall, October 23, 5.30pm. Tickets available here.