The Sunday Boys are Manchester's very own LGBTQ+ low voice choir. We were lucky enough to meet and work with their Musical Director, Michael Betteridge, when he took part in our most recent composer mentoring programme. As we continue to celebrate Pride Month, we asked him to tell us more about this inspirational choir.
Who are the Sunday Boys and how did they come to be?
The Sunday Boys was formed in 2016 to give Manchester an inclusive LGBTQ+ choir for low-voice singers in the city to learn to sing great music, perform and make friends.
We started our journey in the basement of a bar on Canal Street in Manchester and developed all the way to the third floor of another bar. Twenty of us would show up on a Sunday night and someone would shout upstairs to the manager “Oi, your Sunday Boys are here”. We had a name, a venue and a membership.
We started off with a few small gigs in the back room of theatres, singing carols in Manchester’s LGBTQ+ Village and generally playing with our sound. Seven years later there are more than 80 of us and we have a fantastic back catalogue of music and events to be proud of. We’ve performed across the UK and even embarked on an international tour of Iceland, Paris, Milan and Bologna.
Where does your musical inspiration come from?
We take our musical inspiration from LGBTQ+ past, present and future. Our first official concert, 50 Years of Change, commemorated the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, an early step towards decriminalising homosexuality in England, it was also our first engagement with Arts Council England.
Our repertoire is eclectic and ranges from the pop of John Grant and Anohni to Stephen Sondheim show tunes and classical pieces. We have also performed choral work written by contemporary composers including Anna Appleby, Kerry Andrew, Eamonn O’Dwyer and Finn Anderson.
After our most recent experience at Various Voices, an LGBTQ+ choir festival in Europe, we’re amazed at the talent and dedication of other choirs and the incredible sound they create. We have been developing our own sound for years and we often invite workshop leaders to rehearsal to help us focus and improve on specific topics and take great pride in supporting artists and regularly commissioning new work.
In our most recent concert, We’ll Be Here Tomorrow, we worked with George House Trust and HIV activist Nathaniel J Hall to present an evening of songs and stories of HIV past, present and future.
Why is having groups like the Sunday Boys important?
There are loads of queer choirs around the country, and around the world, but what is really big for us is creating and commissioning a wide range of artists to capture queer experiences in the 21st Century. Exploring that within a choral context is really rare, especially when it's so Mancunian in approach. This work is important because it helps to create a queer choral canon which paints a picture of important history.
June is Pride Month - what are you most proud of having achieved as a choir?
We’re proud of what we provide for our audiences and our members. In our recent European tour, we performed a piece entitled This Song, by Eamonn O’Dwyer, which is a defiant anthem celebrating the voices of people currently living with HIV. We received lots of wonderful feedback about the piece but one which stood out was from someone who said “This Song is a gift for people who have been living for years with that fear inside. It made me feel stronger and no longer alone”. We’re proud that our music can reach people in such a way that they feel moved and empowered.
What are the Sunday Boys working on at the moment?
Fresh from our European tour, we’re now working towards our next project, Queer British Voices, a journey across the many musical genres the UK has to offer. The concert will take place on Friday 25 August at Stoller Hall at 7pm. Including a world premiere from Fraz Ireland and Ella Otomewo, this concert will show off a mix of contemporary classical, musical theatre and pop artists from here in the UK and across the globe. The event will also feature readings by Ella Otomewo, Andrew McMillan and Rachel Mann.