“So much more than words” is the title of the annual spring concert by The Reykjavik Queer Choir, which will be held in church Guðríðarkirkja on May 18th.
The title comes from one of the song lyrics the choir performs and marks the way to the concert which is sweetness, empathy, strenght, friendship and endless joy. The Reykjavik Queer Choir will be performing Icelandic as well as foreign songs in a variety of interesting arrangements. The director is Helga Margrét Marzellíusardóttir and the pianist is Halldór Smárason. Anna Kristine spoke with Ragnar Veigar Guðmundsson the section leader for the bases and started by asking him what the program will be like.
“The program includes various songs, from well-known pop-songs in new arrangements to orginal songs, written and arranged especially for the choir,” says Ragnar. “We have quite a few arrangements that Helga Margrét Marzellíusardóttir has made for the choir and those are always my favorites to perform. I can promise you a varied program with drama, joy and excitement!”
Is there a special theme? “The headline of the concert is “So much more than words“ and I think it is a good representative of how music can be so much more than just a lyric or chords. When it is put together in an interesting arrangement and performed with passion and emotion it can have healing powers and convey meaning to the listener that is maybe not obvious at first.”
“The importance of choir singing on mental health and happiness has also been well documented in various researches and I for one, do agree with those findings …”
How do you decide on the songs and do you always all agree?
“Within the choir, there is a song selection committee which all members are free to join. There, we put forth ideas of songs and arrangements and then it is ultimately up to Helga Margrét to select the songs that she feels best suit the choir and the projects we are partaking in.”
Will you have any guest singers? “For this year’s spring concert there will be no guest singers. We do sometimes invite people to perform with us if the program calls for it or if we have a special occasion. This year the selection of songs and arrangements in the spring concert hasn’t called for a guest performance but we will have interesting guests joining us for a concert later in the year.”
A safe space without prejudice
Asked why the choir was established and when, Ragnar says that The Reykjavik Queer Choir was founded in 2011 and was set up to be a safe space without prejudice for people to come together and enjoy singing, as well as to encourage queer people to take part in the art world, be positive role-models and increase the visibility of queer people. “Todays there are between 55-60 members in the choir,” he says, “and it has grown every year since it was founded.”
During the coming out period many queer people live in hiding and fear before being able to tell the world who they are. Do you think some of them join to choir because of the healing power singing can have?
“I am sure that is the reason for many people to join the choir, as well as the need to belong to a group of like-minded individuals where you are able to meet and interact in a prejudice-free environment and without having to justify your existence every day. To meet and sing together without the fear of being judged for who you are. The importance of choir singing on mental health and happiness has also been well documented in various researches and I for one, do agree with those findings as joining the choir has been one of the best decisions that I‘ve made!”
A standing ovation in Munich
Ragnar says that this spring concert, will be the choir´s first in 2019.
“Yes, this will be our first concert for this year, but we have performed a couple of times already in a different capacity. Since our last concert in December of last year, we have actually been busy practicing for our upcoming concert as well as preparing for our late-spring concert trip to Ísafjörður and Hólmavík, which will be happening at the end of May.”
He adds that the choir has performed abroad as well. “Last May the choir participated in Various Voices in Munich which is the biggest queer choir meet in Europe and is held every four years. We had a great trip with very successful performances in different venues all over the city. The choir usually performs at Reykjavik Pride as well and has an annual Christmas concert.”
Were you well received aborad? “There certainly was a standing ovation for our performance on the big stage in Munich and we did receive great feedback for our performances at Various Voices which we were very proud of.”
Reaching out to the rest of Iceland
Asked what the choir has in plan for the nearest future, Ragnar replies it includes the spring concert as well as a special road-trip to Hólmavík and Ísafjörður where the choir will give concerts in both places. “This trip has been in the works for a long time and we feel it is especially important to bring the choir to the queer community around Iceland and show visibility and be role-models in places that have not enjoyed the same variety of queer culture as Reykjavik has to offer. Also, the choir director, Helga Margrét is from Ísafjörður and therefore this visit is of great importance to her. For the concerts in Ísafjörður and Hólmavík we will mainly be featuring Helga Margrét’s compositions and arrangements.”
“ … we feel it is especially important to bring the choir to the queer community around Iceland and show visibility and be role-models …”
I can’t let Ragnar go without asking one thing, what if one wants to apply to join the choir, how does one do that?
“There are auditions at the start of each semester that everyone is always welcome to join. It is a relatively easy and painless process with the choir director and we always advertise these auditions on our Facebook page when they take place. I do especially encourage all tenors to apply and join us at the next auditions.”