The video is out of our awesome performance on saturday at LABBS - the Ladies Association of British Barbershop Singers Convention. I’m super proud of everyone in our Norwich Harmony team.
The standard of the top choruses was off the charts and I’m so inspired by it all. I woke up at 4am on saturday, ideas tumbling out of my head and I’ve been deep diving into barbershop arranging and coming up with song ideas all day yesterday too.
What a year it’s been. I think joining a women’s barbershop choir, as a visibly trans trans woman in a country where the media paints a target on our backs is the hardest thing i’ve ever found the courage to do. Every step of the way, despite so much kindness, I’ve kept expecting people to turn around and say “Well this was a fun experiment in diversity but I don’t think this is the place for you,” but instead they just keep being more and more welcoming week by week till I’ve finally stopped feeling like an outsider.
Everything in the barbershop world gears towards this yearly contest where hundreds of women from all over the country assemble to share their joy for this gorgeous, powerful art form and I was terrified. Sure I’d managed to feel safe in a local group, but a huge event like this? I got so self conscious the last few weeks about how I present and how I’ll be perceived, certain that there will be people there who loathe my presence or who can barely hide their disgust when they look at me. The kind of looks you can tolerate but that eat away at you like acid rain till you shrink and learn to hide your heart.
But this event was probably the most welcoming event I’ve ever been to. Abundantly heteronormative and yet it felt maybe even more welcoming than Pride. The barbershop world is so brimming with generosity and a strange lack of egos (or at least that’s how it felt). Everyone just seems fueled by this deep love for the art so much that they’re overflowing with eagerness to share it with other people. I picked up so many cool arranging tips from incredible composers and sang gleefully with strangers at the after party.
And the movement of the choirs! It’s like the dramatic chorus work we used to do at Lecoq! It makes me yearn to get back to my physical theatre roots and inject some of this barbershop joy into my theatre work and vice versa.
I’ve wanted to do Barbershop since I was a teenager in the early 2000s but didn’t know these kinds of choirs existed and when I discovered it over lockdown, binge watching Sweet Adeline's youtube videos, I just resigned myself to the idea that, openly trans, with my testosterone addled voice there would be no place for me in this community. This really is a dream come true.
I’m so full of ideas right now and excited to see how they blossom and grow.
And I’m sure there will be bumps on the road ahead and that it won’t be all rosy and charmed, but this happy, inspiring experience has knocked those last lingering doubts out of me and I feel energised to bring a little more queer joy to this beautiful barbershop world.