London’s LGBT Vigil to be sung and sung loudly

If it didn’t exist would you create it? Well based on last night, the answer for the London Gay Men’s Chorus was a resounding Yes.

As thousands of members of the LGBT community poured into Soho, supported by friends, family and a host of straight allies – everyone was very uncertain. The nervousness was palpable with no-one clear what was going to happen. There were a few attempts to get a political chant going, but the crowd was more contemplative. As the hour of 7pm approached there was a hanging sense of expectation.

And sure enough as 7pm there was a raft of whistle blowing then then the cloak of silence fell over everyone – Soho is said to be the only identifiable district in London which has no buses through it and when the silence fell you could hear a pin drop.

The silence was held for what seemed to be an age and the tension was real and then slowly, quietly and determinedly the joyous noise gathered pace and rose up. Here was London Gay Men’s Chorus singing ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’. Conducted by the deeply impressive Simon Sharp the Chorus absolutely delivered. Clad in their distinctive blue t-shirts this community chorus – which operates an open access policy – totally filled the yawning void of emotion, anger and optimism. The men next to me were openly crying, holding each other tight. It was a wave of song, of love and of gratitude: a surge of shared affinity for the heartache being witnessed in Orlando.

The news journalist who sought to record their own voice over about how this was requiring the police to now take the threat to the LGBT community from radical Islam was told delicately that their broadcast was inappropriate as we urged the LGMC on. And on they went – it was beautiful, poetic and soaring. And as the Chorus drew to an end the cheer, roar, shouts of appreciations were complimented by people all around wiping tears from their eyes.

At the front of the Chorus I saw the distinctive passion of Martin Kaufman singing his emotions out – he is a long serving Chorus activist and he, better than many, knows the role the Chorus was performing here in Soho.

Usually the Chorus try and fill their venue – tonight they were quite literally filling the void of despair caused by the senseless murder in Orlando of 49 members of OUR community. And fill that void they did. A friend whom I had half dragged along, I hadn’t really told him what he was coming to, stood next to me in flood of tears – grateful that he was present for this healing of the soul through communal singing.

I well remember a few years ago Martin Kaufman lead a guided tour around Soho (I think to raise money for Amnesty International) – he talked passionately about the traditions, he positive bubbled when he saw an old shop front, the traditional old red lights and features of yesteryear and his gestures got positively wild when we all came to the tomb marking William Hazlitt.

But it’s when he got to the Admiral Duncan that he was the most sincere and every word of his story is most calibrated. Martin was there in 1999 when the Pink Singers gathered in the courtyard of St Anne’s Soho in the Friday evening after the nail bomber killed three and injured many more. When the Pink Singers sang ‘Hand in Hand’ to hushed appreciations and tearful gratitude. He remembers that vigil precisely and he talks calmly and deliberately about how he saw, heard and realized that the Singers were quite literally becoming the community. How they were bringing together the letters of LGBTIQ and more, taking those diverse energies, aspirations and frustrations and melding them together into one beautiful chorus that could sing to the world about who and what we are, hope to be and will be. His understanding of that event back then in 1999 struck me tonight as he sang his heart out tonight.

There are other collections of singers, musicians, collectives of joy that all form part of the community of which I am proud. But tonight, for me The London Gay Men’s Chorus proved, if proof were needed, as to why they exist. And they did it brilliantly. I am dripping a tear now as I type this at home.

Keep up the good work Chorus – last night you sang for us and we are grateful. As I drifted through the crowd afterwards I was struck how politicians were levelled to equality: Lord Jonny Oates, Jeremy Corbyn, Lord Brian Paddick, Home Secretary Theresa May, Mayor Sadiq Khan – here with thousands and thousands of others – silent, standing, singing across the waves to Orlando. This was London’s LGBT community strong, united and as one and it was one thanks to the London Gay Men’s Chorus and wow was I proud.

* Ed Fordham is a party member and activist in Chesterfield, Derbyshire.

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  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Jun '16 - 6:21pm

    Beautiful piece, Ed.
    When in good times or bad, art, music, song, words, poetry , images or pictures in any form, form the emotions that the everyday norms and ways find or prove to be, inexpressive , or inadequate.

    We shall overcome , is more than an extract from a song , for it , as with what is referred to here ,says it , as it is !

  • Jayne Mansfield 14th Jun '16 - 7:05pm

    The video was so moving. The singing was beautiful, it brought a tear to my eye.

    And Ed, a lot of us are on your side.

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