ABBA, Gloria Estefan, Jeff Buckley and Leonard Cohen are artists who are usually not associated with Christmas concerts but these names are all on the repertoire of the Queer Choir’s annual Christmas concert.
“We’ll have a blend of Christmas songs and non-Christmas songs. Music that is arranged for choirs but in various genres; pop, rock and what you might call classical music. Classical music will be minimal, but when we do get a hint of it we will pop it up with a full band. It’s going to be a genuine mix of music,” says Helga Margrét Marzellíusardóttir, director of the Queer Choir, when asked about the concert which will take place on the 10th of December. “One thing is for sure,” she adds, “it’s going to be a blast!”
The Queer Choir was founded in the summer of 2011 and the following year it started the tradition of throwing a Christmas concert. Helga says that she’s amazed at the reaction the choir has gotten. “What I cherish the most is that people, who have never been to a choir concert before, show up for our concerts. We manage to make people appreciate the sound that is born when a choir sings music. It’s great to know that these concerts are opening up new musical doors for some people.”
The choir is made up of around sixty people and Helga says that she’s frequently asked if any of the members are straight. “If people join a queer choir then they know what it stands for. So if they’re willing to play an active part in that sort of group, then they must be queer. But we don’t discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity,” she says and points out that the choir is the only queer choir in Iceland.
“What I cherish the most is that people, who have never been to a choir concert before, show up for our concerts … It’s great to know that these concerts are opening up new musical doors for some people.”
“But it is by no means the only queer choir in the world. Queer choirs have a long history all over the world and in the US for example there have been written numerous theses about them. Many of these theses often discuss the difference between queer choirs and non-queer choirs and how there is a different sound in the queer ones, another presence,” says Helga and adds that this difference could be caused by many factors.
“Even though members of queer choirs haven’t necessarily had to fight a battle for their rights, for example, they’ve still had to work on themselves. So they have a better sense of who they are and are better prepared to open up and give themselves off to others. That’s incredibly beautiful,” says the spunky choir director. “In our case, the members don’t have to explain who they are or where they come from. They already have things in common, a connection to queer issues, and form a bond that is extremely important in a choir.”
The choir’s Christmas concert will take place in church Digraneskirkja on December the 10th and the program is very broad, ranging from music by ABBA and Gloria Estefan to songs by artists like Leonard Cohen and David Bowie who both died this year. Helga says that massive work goes into planning and rehearsing for a gig like this. “Let’s just say that choir members need to have spouses who are very understanding,” she says and laughs. “Thankfully the choir is a really good group, made up of people who support each other. I think that really shines through when we perform.”
But what song is Helga most looking forward to performing?
“The disco medley! I can’t wait to perform that with a band. I’m super excited!”
Tickets to the Queer Choir’s Christmas concert are available at tix.is