Inspired by an overseas tour in 2014, two long-term members of Sydney’s community choir scene are launching something new – the Pacific Pride Choir. Partners Sarah & Melanie Penicka-Smith met in the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Choir (SGLC), and are combining their years of experience singing in, managing and conducting community choirs. With the help of Oliver Scofield and KI Concerts, they have created the Pacific Pride Choir, an occasional touring choir which aims to increase visibility and acceptance of LGBTQI people (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex).
The idea for the Pacific Pride Choir was born during Sydney Gay & Lesbian Choir’s 2014 tour to Helsinki, Tallinn and Riga. Sarah says, ‘We were overwhelmed by the response to our time in countries unused to seeing out gay and lesbian people. The LGBTQI advocacy groups we met with, chronically understaffed, said gaining any kind of media attention was a struggle, but SGLC’s tour got the media’s attention, letting the words ‘gay and lesbian’ appear on national TV. Local queer folk told us how they felt less alone seeing the choir, how they wished they could have their own choir, and how we were needed in other parts of Europe.’
Pacific Pride Choir is a small step to meeting that need. The biennial touring choir will meet for a rehearsal camp in a friendly city before touring to places which are ready for LGBTQI outreach. The choir will meet locals, engage with LGBTQI groups, sing for the general public, and show everyone that being part of a diverse and inclusive community is something of which to be proud.
The first tour is scheduled for July 2017. The rehearsal camp will be held in Berlin, with the choir then travelling on to Warsaw and Krakow. Warsaw has its own queer choir, but overall Poland is a place where LGBTQI people face public discrimination. A Polish GP who attended SGLC’s concert in Tallinn, Estonia in 2014, drew attention to the plight of her lesbian daughter, who was ostracised at her school and called a ‘thing’ by her teachers because of her sexuality. This passionate woman’s plea for the choir to tour to Poland, where, she said, ‘you are very much needed’, inspired Mel, Sarah, and Oliver to lay the first plans for Pacific Pride Choir.
The inaugural tour is currently taking registrations. Pacific Pride Choir is open to any member of the LGBTQI community, as well as to straight friends. While experience singing in a choir is preferable, it is not essential. Partners, family members and friends who do not wish to sing but would still like to participate are welcome to travel too. Most choir members attending come from Australia and New Zealand, but choristers from all over the world including Asia and the USA are also welcome.
Registrations close on 1st November.