It’s not every day that we Icelanders get to hear choirs from foreign countries, let alone a queer men’s choir, but this week we´ll get one of those rare visits.
The Sunday Boys from Manchester are holding two concerts here, on Thursday 15th and Friday 16th of March. Their conductor, Michael Betteridge, has been working on a project in Iceland for two years and when the idea of the choir going on tour came up his first thought was: “We´ll go to Iceland!”
GayIceland got in touch with Michael and started by asking about the forthcoming gigs. “We are performing two gigs. The first is in Askirkja at 8pm on Thursday 15th March and the second is in Grindavik on Friday 16th March,” says Michael and adds that the choir sings all sorts of music. “We especially like to perform work that is slightly unusual. We sing a lot of contemporary classical music including early career composers – we also commission a lot of new music too. However we also do pop music and folk music, but we try to do it differently from what you may have heard before!”
“We are mainly gay men but we welcome anyone and everybody who’s voice can fit into one of our vocal parts … and we do have some straight people and trans members too!”
Michael says that he formed the choir in January 2016 in the basement of a bar in Manchester as an opportunity for men to meet each other and socialise in a different way. The choir has quickly grown to over 100 members – but only around 35 will be singing in Iceland though, which Michael says is amazing given the short space of time.
“We describe ourselves as a choir for “LGBT+ low voices and their friends and allies”,” he says when asked if the choir is an exclusively gay choir, or just a regular men’s choir. “We are mainly gay men but we welcome anyone and everybody who’s voice can fit into one of our vocal parts – high tenors through to low basses -, and we do have some straight people and trans members too! As long as our members are willing to work hard in rehearsal – that’s all we ask!”
Michael is not only the conductor of the Sunday Boys, he’s also an esteemed composer, who has written music for the London Symphony Orchestra, among many others. “I’m originally from a small village in the south of England, near Oxford, and came to Manchester for University and never left! I loved musical theater, but also composing my own music and did a lot of this at university, before studying composition and conducting at the Royal Northern College of Music.
Since then I have written music for the likes of the London Symphony Orchestra, violinist Nicola Benedetti, Salisbury Festival Chorus and many more.
I specialize in both creating music for the voice – choral, operas, musical theater – but also in working with nonprofessionals, so collaborating with young people to create their own music. This work has seen me collaborate with Opera North, Garsington Opera, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, BBC Philharmonic and many more exciting projects.
I recently came back from Aarhus, Denmark working with young people from Den Jyske Opera in collaboration with young people from Opera North in Leeds. As a conductor I’ve worked with many choirs, but also conducted many of my own projects including big works with young people playing alongside the London Symphony Orchestra. My biggest performance to date was the world premiere of the community opera Get Weaving that was performed by over 400 singers and players at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester in April last year.”
“I also LOVE the country so much despite it being expensive for Brits! – the people, the landscapes, the culture, the amazing fresh fish! Even more excuse to visit.”
That’s quite impressive, but what is your connection to Iceland? Why are you honouring us with your visit?
“I have been working in Iceland since April 2016 with Icelandic writer-director Ingunn Lara Kristjansdottir and soprano/producer Isabella Leifsdottir on a new opera project called ‘#echochamber’ that is opening at Tjarnarbio in Reykjavik in May this year. We’ve been exploring themes of shaming on social media through opera and, over a period of almost two years, we have created a 70 minute opera for 4 singers and piano. Through working in the country we’ve met lots of different people and when the production team for choir spoke about doing an international tour, I said: why not Iceland? I also LOVE the country so much despite it being expensive for Brits! – the people, the landscapes, the culture, the amazing fresh fish! Even more excuse to visit.”
Going back to The Sunday Boys, tell us more about your concerts here in Iceland.
“We will performing an eclectic range of English language music include world premieres by Anna Appleby and myself, alongside Icelandic premieres of other British composers such as Chris Hutchings and Howard Skempton. There’ll be some classic English folk music and traditional work by Benjamin Britten and Ralph Vaughan Williams alongside popular music as well,” he replies and points out that all info on the events is available on Facebook.