The Manchester Lesbian and Gay Chorus (MLGC) celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. Northern Soul’s Drew Tosh caught up with its musical director, Loz Kaye.
Just two years after taking up the role of musical director at the MLGC, Loz Kaye is gearing up for a very special event at the Royal Northern College of Music on Saturday: An Evening with Manchester Lesbian & Gay Chorus.
“I am particularly interested in the singing voice,” he says. “It’s the original instrument and endlessly fascinating. We’ve all got the same equipment but it’s a unique expression from person to person. A choir of voices is a particularly thrilling thing – there’s nothing like the sound of a mass group singing together.
“When I heard about the vacancy with MLGC I felt it was the perfect job for me with my musical background and also being an out gay man. Through music we are able to express something about what the LGBT community is in Manchester. Music can touch hearts in a way words and politics often fail. Using music to reach out and bring people together is a really special thing.”
While Kaye has more than 20 years of experience as a choir director, choral arranger, composer, musical director and vocal teacher under his belt, the chorus dates back to 2000 when a small number of singers came together at St Peter’s House at the University of Manchester. By the following year, they had formed an official organisation. Today they number more than 80 members, are a proud community choir, and a musical voice of Manchester’s LGBT community. I wondered what makes MLGC different to any other choir?
“As an artist I find that art in general doesn’t often truly reflect the LGBT experience,” says Kaye. “Our community has shared joys and woes and political struggles so it’s wonderful to be able to celebrate all of that together. It’s also just something fun to do on a Monday night and different from going out on Canal Street which, as you get older, you don’t always want to do. The choir brings people together in a different way – most notably we’ve got members from their early 20s to their early 80s and I don’t see that happening elsewhere within the LGBT community. I think it’s unique but also fun and social.”
With that in mind, does Kaye specifically choose material that has a gay sensibility about it?
“As a choir we choose our repertoire together and I think that sense of collaboration is very important. Yes we do reflect a gay sensibility – however you might define that – because we naturally bring that to whatever we perform anyway. We’re also able to do things that are quite silly, fun and camp such as I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair [from South Pacific] with the tenors and bases. There’s also something quite magical and poignant about how the chorus sings Somewhere from West Side Story with its opening line “there’s a place for us”. The shared experience we bring to these songs is unlike other choirs and it’s very interesting to me as an musical director to be able to work with that. The big current hit is our arrangement of Don’t Leave Me This Way because it’s poppy and upbeat and the audience enjoys dancing along.”
An Evening with Manchester Lesbian & Gay Chorus at the RNCM will be hosted by writer and performer Kate O’Donnell (also the choir’s new patron). So just what can audiences expect?
“We’ll be performing some of the favourites from our 15 years and Kate is also going to be weaving in some stories from chorus members as we thought it’s about time to reflect – in an entertaining way – the diversity of experiences we’ve all been through. We still have members who’ve been with us from the start. Our special guests are the Brighton Chorus who represent being part of the wider LGBT choir network. They’re great singers and we’re delighted to be able to host them here in Manchester.
“The evening is also part of the 2015 Spirit of Manchester Festival. We’re very proud to have been nominated for a Spirit of Manchester Award which shows that light music-making is part of the rich pattern of Manchester diversity. It’s also exciting that in 2017 Manchester will be hosting Hand In Hand, the national celebration of LGBT choirs. It’s the first time the event has been north of London so it’s good to be able to bang the drum for the city and host a really great light cultural event.”
So if anyone reading this is a budding Beiber, Pavarotti or Adele, how can they join the chorus?
“It’s completely open. There are no auditions, though it helps if you know which way is up on a piece of printed music. But we’re able to take anybody in and work with them. Just go to our website, Twitter or Facebook. Practice is every Monday evening at the Town Hall from 7pm until half nine. It would be good to see anyone there.”
By Drew Tosh
What: An Evening with Manchester Lesbian & Gay Chorus
When: October 3, 2015 at 7.30pm
Where: RNCM, Oxford Rd, Manchester