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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 23, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 12
Beijing Queer Chorus concert a memorable and bittersweet evening
Arts & Entertainment
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Beijing Queer Chorus concert a memorable and bittersweet evening

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

BEIJING QUEER CHORUS
CAPTAIN SMARTYPANTS
SENSIBLE SHOES
EAST SHORE UNITARIAN CHURCH
March 10


Seattle had a chance to hear from 21 or so wonderful LGBTQ singers from Beijing, China who are a delegation from the Beijing Queer Chorus. They performed here for one evening, Saturday, March 10, at the East Shore Unitarian Church in Bellevue. They performed six songs, including 'Shenandoah' (an American folk song), in English, and sounded lovely and enchanting.

They were brought in to work with and perform at the Portland Gay Men's Chorus on March 17 and 18. (Web site: https://www.pdxgmc.org/) PGMC hosted Beijing Queer Chorus in their first public tour of the U.S. and they were able to stop for a night in Seattle because of this visit. This September, PGMC will become the first LGBTQ Chorus to ever tour China.

Many of the delegation that came here had never been to the United States. They seemed very excited about this opportunity. When they walked to their stage positions, the audience gave them a huge standing ovation, which pleased and awed them. Their chorus is both male and female. Those who came to the U.S. were about 9 women and 11 men. They all seemed to be in their 20s and 30s.

Beijing Queer Chorus was founded in 2008, just ten years after 'hooliganism' (aka homosexuality) was decriminalized and seven years after it was declassified as a mental disorder in the China. The chorus (at that time known as the Shiny Jazzy Chorus - which we were told had something to do with rainbows in Chinese) began with 30 members, many performing in masks to protect their identity. They bravely stepped out as the very first LGBT chorus to perform in China. In April 2014, the chorus 'came out' by changing their name to the 'Beijing Queer Chorus.'

After making connection with former Seattle Men's and Women's Choruses Associate Artistic Director Eric Lane Barnes, he went to China to work with them and then came home and vigorously worked to help a delegation come to the GALA gathering of choruses in July 2016 in Denver, Colorado.

During the evening event, we heard that there are now at least five Gay choruses in China and Taiwan, which makes their progress extremely fast, though still courting a lot of dangerous repercussions. Indeed, even taking pictures of the singers can result in danger if one singer is not 'out' to family and business associates. So, taking the stage can be a real risk for them, and we ought not to forget that struggle to be free to love who we wish.

The evening was also bittersweet because before the BQC took the stage, we were entertained by both Sensible Shoes and Captain Smartypants in what was their last performance before going on an extended hiatus. Barnes has, as many know, been the leader of the 'pocket choruses' and when he stepped down from his position as Associate Artistic Director at SMC/SWC, he stayed as their leader and we did not think that would change. However, he recently decided to step down from that role so he could give his full attention to his new role as Artistic Director of Diverse Harmony, Seattle LGBTQA youth choir and young adult ensemble. No immediate replacement has been made and therefore they need to regroup and figure out what else can happen.

Many folks will miss Shoes and Pants dearly, and we hope that they will reappear with a new vision and a new leader who can help them make a new future. We appreciate all the past volunteer work from these smaller choruses where participants had to add an extra day every week for rehearsal and perform all over on many extra dates to spread the joy of the Choruses and deepen their mission.

At this concert Sensible Shoes performed first, then Captain Smartypants, and then the Beijing Queer Chorus performed four songs. The Shoes and Pants each performed two songs, one representative of the funny songs Eric Lane Barnes has written for them over the years and one with the balanced harmonies that have made them so much appreciated. Subsquently, Shoes and Pants sang two songs together and BQC presented the finale.

The songs the BQC sang (besides 'Shenandoah') were 'Jasmine Flower' (a Chinese folk song), 'A Snowflake's Happiness' (a poem set to music), 'Four Rhymes of Nostalgia' (a Taiwanese poem set to music), and 'Rainbow.'

The translated lyrics to 'Rainbow' are: 'I've traveled many places / I've seen clouds and rivers / The world is huge, I am still wandering, and the journey is long / I see flowers of spring, rains of summer, autumn nights and winter snow / And I see rainbows in the sky.'

It was a pretty full house, and a very warm reception for this historic event.

The last song, sung by BQC, was 'Sihai' (a Mongolian folk song).

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