The London Gay Men’s Chorus (LGMC) started life in 1991 when nine friends came together to sing a few Christmas carols at Angel tube station to raise money for the Terrence Higgins Trust. London was in the midst of the AIDS crisis and the men, who belonged to a social group called London Friend, sang together to find a place of support, friendship and brotherhood, and to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS. They pulled such a crowd that the station had to be closed.
In the nearly 25 years since, the Chorus has grown to over 200 members – making it the largest male voice choir in the UK, and the largest gay choir in Europe. Today, the LGMC regularly plays to sell-out crowds at the Southbank Centre, Cadogan Hall and The Roundhouse, and has collaborated with the likes of as Mark Ronson, Elton John, Lesley Garrett, Dolly Parton, and Russell Watson.
They’ve appeared on Children in Need, Comic Relief, The One Show, The Graham Norton Show and Top of the Pops, and sang with such force outside the Houses of Parliament during the vote on equal marriage that they could be heard from within the chamber.
While much in the Chorus has changed in our 25 years, three fundamental things remain the same: it’s still a place of support, friendship and brotherhood; it still works to support charities and challenge homophobia; and they still stop people in their tracks!
The LGMC is made up of singers from all corners of the globe, with ages ranging from early 20s all the way up to the oldest member, Martin, who recently celebrated his 85th birthday. And people join for a variety of reasons, be it those that have recently moved to London and want to meet new people, to those seeking something different from the regular ‘scene’.
Regardless of the reason, new members quickly find themselves immersed into a ‘band of brothers’ with regular social gatherings to supplement the hard work of rehearsal and performance. It’s this friendship and brotherhood that keeps people in Chorus for many years – with 2 original members still performing 25 years after that first performance at Angel tube station.
What’s possibly less known about the LGMC is its outreach work. 2011 saw the launch of its Youth, Education and Outreach programme which aims to combat homophobia in schools through music via musical workshops and assembly performances with members of the Chorus. The LGMC also regularly performs at events to help raise funds for other charities – most recently for Positive East, the Robert Grace Trust, Wotever World and the Ben Cohen Stand-Up Foundation – and also builds links with faith communities through performances at the West London Synagogue and St. Paul’s Cathedral.
There’s no doubt that the LGMC has built a solid reputation for putting on a great show. With a mixture of contemporary and classic songs combined with (sometimes complex) choreography, it continues to wow and entertain audiences with every show it puts on. And now, in its Silver Jubilee year, it has set itself 25 goals for 25 years – from performing at an international Pride festival (see below) to raising £25,000 to help fund additional outreach work.
For more information about the London Gay Men’s Chorus and future performances, and to support its work, visit www.lgmc.org.uk. And if you’ve never seen them live, check out some of their performances on YouTube at www.youtube.com/LdnGMC to see what you’ve been missing!
Unforgettable recent performances
In addition to performing two big shows a year to raise funds for the Chorus and its outreach work, the LGMC also finds time to fit in other performances along the way. Here we list the top 5 examples of these shows:
- Prague Pride – in 2015, over 100 members of the Chorus travelled to Prague to take part in the 5th annual Pride. This included a performance at the national theatre with the Doodles (the Czech gay men’s chorus), and being the biggest group to take part in the Pride parade.
- Sandi and Debbie Toksvig renewing their vows – just after the Equal Marriage Act came into force, the LGMC performed at the Southbank Centre where Sandi Toksvig and her partner Debbie renewed their vows. The LGMC had collaborated with Sandi previously and were thrilled to be able to take part in their special day.
- Through the Barricades – for ‘The Love Show’ in 2015, the LGMC performed a version of ‘Through the Barricades’ which it dedicated to all of the LGBT people who are still facing oppression around the world. Accompanied by a video montage showing photos of the violence directed at LGBT people, by the end of this song there was barely a dry eye on stage, let alone in the audience.
- The Royal Free Hospital – just two months ago the LGMC performed in the atrium of the Royal Free Hospital to entertain visitors and staff, before splitting into smaller groups to sing on the wards for the long-term patients.
- Houses of Parliament – in 2013, the LGMC joined other supporters of the Equal Marriage Act to sing outside the Houses of Parliament on the day the vote took place. Lord Alli Waheed commented (after the thankfully successful vote) that the LGMC could be heard singing from within the chamber while the debates took place before the vote!