Quire Belfast LGBT Singers Warm Up

Northern Ireland's only lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered choir prepare to perform at the Belfast Pride Festival

Northern Ireland's only lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered choir is set to dazzle in Belfast this weekend, when the Quire Belfast LGBT Singers perform their biggest concert to date as part of the 2013 Belfast Pride Festival

On Saturday, June 29, Quire will present Songs with Love & Pride – what they describe as an 'eclectic' performance of songs from musical theatre and by the likes of Gotye, Nina Simone and Emmylou Harris – at The MAC. The event will be compered by comedian Gemma Hutton.

Quire formed in 2005 when the Rainbow Project, a health organisation that works to improve the physical, mental and emotional health and well-being of LGBT people across Northern Ireland, asked the local LGBT community to perform songs at Belfast Pride Festival.

The men and women who took part in the annual celebration of diversity and equality – which this year takes place in venues across the city from June 28 to July 6 – had so much fun that they decided to continue as a choir on a permanent basis.

Eight years later, Quire Belfast LGBT Singers have a very busy diary, including upcoming performances at private events and a Proud Voices concert at the Sing Out LGBT Choir Festival in the Troxy theatre, London next month.

Quire's mission is to 'excite, empower, educate, encourage, entertain and enrich' its members, as well as the LGBT community and the wider Northern Irish community at large, through the celebration of music making, diversity and friendship.

Chairman and founder member, Ken Moffett, is keen to add that new members are always welcome. 'It's a great opportunity to sing with a very supportive group, and it's also great craic,' Moffet says. 'We cover an eclectic mix of songs, from classical and traditional to popular and musical theatre. Anything that is good music, we give it a go.'

Quire is currently made up of 32 gifted singers from across Northern Ireland, and was placed second in its category at the Holywood Music Festival in November 2012. Earlier in the year, the choir took part in the Land of Giants event in Belfast's Titanic Quarter as part of the Cultural Olympiad (see rehearsals in the video above).

Quire also recently performed at a memorial service marking the life of the late veteran gay rights campaigner, PA Maglochlainn, in November 2012. Equality manager Andy Murdock, another founding member, claims that the creative outlet provided by performing with the choir is a welcome tonic when living 'a straight life in a straight job in a straight world'.

Lizzie Agnew, from Belfast, joined Quire in 2011. 'I've always like singing and, being a gay woman, it's nice being in a group of people where you can just be yourself. It helps me release stress. I really enjoy everything about Quire. You don't have to pretend to be someone you're not.

'Katie and I had our civil partnership on February 16, 2013 and Quire performed for us. They sang 'Seasons of Love' and 'One Hand One Heart' from West Side Story and Love Never Dies. It was so lovely, my family thought they sounded amazing.'

Conductor Leanne McCorry, from Lurgan, is Quire's musical director. The University of Ulster graduate, and the only member of Quire not from the LGBT community, is busy helping the group prepare for Saturday's concert.

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'I love being musical conductor of Quire,' McCorry beams. 'It's the best job ever. We are flat out preparing for The MAC concert. Songs with Love & Pride includes a very diverse range of music from pop to classical. We've tried to cover it all, and there is sure to be plenty of fun and laughter on the night, too.'

Meanwhile, just this week, one of Belfast's best-known singing stars, Brian Kennedy, offered his backing to the choir, and stated his desire to one day perform with them.

'Certainly, as a fella of my generation, the soundtrack of our city continues to change before my very eyes and ears,' Kennedy said. 'Long gone are the deafening riots, burning buses and maiming rubber bullets. People have stopped asking, 'Are you a catholic or a prod?' And these days might casually wonder, 'Are you gay or straight?'

'[It's] The Untroubled generation, as I call them – those kids whose parents survived the Troubles to inherit a wholly deserving reality of freedom of speech, of place, and, of course, sexual identity. I'm an advocate of all things LGBT, especially in my home town, and I can only admire and applaud the courage of Quire. I want to applaud them and one day sing with them, too.'

And Kennedy is not the choir's only high-profile fan. Shakespearean actor Simon Callow saw the choir performing during a recent stay in Belfast to perform his one-man show, The Man Jesus, at the Lyric Theatre. The world-famous actor and gay rights advocate gave Quire a resounding endorsement.

'It is wonderful to find the Belfast I returned to moving with the times and celebrating the gay community with this joyous concert,' the 63-year-old Londoner said.

'I wish Quire every success for its work in engaging the LGBT community in Northern Ireland, which hasn’t always been so visible. The Quire concert in June promises to open a very lively Belfast Pride Festival week, with this year’s wonderful theme, 'Bright & Bold'. I hope it will be.'

Songs with Love & Pride is at The MAC, Belfast on June 29. Belfast Pride Festival runs from June 28 to July 6.

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