This Burmese Choir hopes to challenge the attitude of society towards the LGBT community by showing them that they are like everyone else.
Another reason for their existence is in order to offer a different option for LGBT people to come together. It also allows its members to participate in different cultural events, said one of the organisers, Billy Stewart, who created the group with two choir masters –Tomos Nicholls and Pyi Phyo Aung.
“I think in Myanmar people love to sing – they enjoy karaoke and singing with friends, so a choir is a bit like singing with an even bigger group of friends. It’s also a really relaxed way to meet other people,”said Billy.
The main mission of the choir is to provide an alternative space for the LGBT community to socialise and come together. Currently, more than 300 people joined the choir on its Facebook closed group.
You could also check them out o Facebook, here.
“I think people really enjoy hearing the choir. We are always very colourful and we wear rainbow longyi for our performances. Our acts include a mixture of pop and classical songs. We always have a really strong positive reaction,” Billy adds.
Another organiser, Tomos Nicholls, is the master of the choir. “I think there has been a fantastic interest in Yangon. I feel that many people who join the choir are incredibly brave to do so. They put themselves out there with the LGBT society”. He is a music teacher at the British International School in Yangon and also a young composer with the National Youth Orchestras of Great Britain and Wales.
Tomos encourages people who don’t know about music to join the choir while Billy would like to encourage LGBT people to join even if they haven’t come out yet. “You don’t need to know anything about music to be able to join the choir –all you need is the desire to sing and celebrate.”
They still welcome new members to join the choir to celebrate Queer identity, he adds. The &Proud choir started last August and has already performed four times: firstly at the &PROUD festival in Thakin Mya park where they sang for an audience of over 1000 people, secondly at the French Institute. They also sang for the International Day against Homophobia in May in Myanmar Plaza.
Their latest performance was at the British Ambassador’s residence. It was to celebrate the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle for which the singers wore rainbow longygis.
The choir holds practices once every two weeks on Sunday afternoon. There usually are around 20 participants – half local, half foreigner – during the rehearsals.
They are currently working on expanding the movement in Yangon. Alongside, they are reaching out to other groups in Southeast Asia. Particularly given the recent legalisation of same-sex marriage in Taiwan.
“Although the choir is mainly LGBT, we welcome anyone from all communities! We are a young choir but with lots of fun and energy. We hope that other people will join over time,” said Billy.
Written by: Delshad Master