Advent yodelling

04.12.2021 | cb — No comments

Munich Kyiv Queer invited queer choirs from Edinburgh, Munich and Odesa to a digital meet-up, just like at the last lockdown. Only this time, everything was much more colourful.

by Stephanie Hügler

“Thank you for organising this rehearsal. Due to quarantine and other obstacles, we haven’t met to sing together for such a long time,” says Olga Rubtsova when we meet up on Zoom for a virtual Christmas carol singing, just like last winter. It is the 28th of November, the first Sunday of Advent.

Olga is the choir director of Qwerty Queer, an LGBTIQ* choir from Odesa. Together with her four singers, she is sitting on a couch in Ukraine – and the rest of us, around 45 choir members from Germany, Scotland and elsewhere in Ukraine, are watching their rehearsal from our respective screens.

Qwerty Queer in Odesa. Screenshot: Stefan Block (above left)

Illuminated by bluish fairy lights (above) and wearing their colourful jumpers, the five of them are hilarious with their Christmas decorations. We are so happy to see them again. The last time we sang together was last March.

It’s the thought that counts, not the decoration

Kathleen Cronie (below), choir director of “Loud & Proud” in Edinburgh, and some of her Scottish singers have also dressed up: “With red and white Santa hats on their heads, a festive candle in the foreground and fairy lights around their necks, they too put us in the advent mood right away.

Unfortunately, we Germans are rather unimaginative in comparison.

Quite clichéd German, we, Stefan Block, Samantha Seymour and I, focused especially on the organisation and rather fail when it comes to the outfit.

Mary Ellen Kitchens (below), director of the Munich Rainbow Choir, has assembled a quartet of her own in a rehearsal room. Adhering to all vaccination requirements and minimum distances, recorded by a central microphone and several cameras, they sing two beautiful German Christmas carols for us and create a contemplative mood.

United through the pandemic

And then there is yodelling, by everyone. No matter where we are sitting – whether in Bavaria, Scotland or Ukraine – language skills play no role in the “X-mas yodel”. Tjo tjo-i-ri, tjo tjo-i-ri . That torments Scots and Ukrainians less than hard-to-pronounce German umlauts by the way. With the smooth Bavarian Adam’s apple sport, supported by a mulled wine or two, you almost sing yourself in.

Mary Ellen Kitchens leads Munich’s Rainbow Choir. Screenshot: Stefan Block

The aim of this meeting: to bring each other closer, to have festive advent music and learn more about our respective cultures without getting bogged down by language barriers. Because we want one thing above all: to have fun while singing.

Mulled wine, dopamine and lots of love

It’s not about making a fuss or winning a singing competition. We want to reassure each other of our mutual solidarity in these difficult pandemic times.

It’s true that this is not as easy to do in an online rehearsal via Zoom as it is when you meet up in person: Because of the time delay, we all have to be muted. On our screens at home, we only sing to ourselves. But through the playbacks accompanying us and the humorous interjections of our musical leads, we still have the feeling of being part of a big whole community.

Stephanie Hügler and her wife Angelika. Screenshot: Stefan Block (top left)

Under Mary Ellen’s leadership we learn the German folk song “Vom Himmel hoch o Englein komm”. Thanks to Google, we have found an English text for it, too. So if you skip the German, just switch to the English version.

The same goes for the Ukrainian folk song “Shchedryk”, which Olga and her choir rehearse with us and which is known in Western Europe as the Christmas song “Carol of the bells”. In between, there is lots of laughter as the mulled wine hits or the dopamine is released while singing.

Journey to Christmas Wonderland

Kathleen Cronie, director of the Scottish choir “Loud & Proud” from Edinburgh, has chosen the song “Lady of Autumn”. Although it is not a Christmas song, it tells about the warm sun making way for the snow and the light changing in winter.

Christmas mood in a German household. Screenshot: Stefan Block

How comforting that even a Corona winter has such beautiful aspects. The harmonious melody gives us a warm, cosy, very Advent-like feeling in front of our screens. With “O Christmas Tree” in our different languages, we finally say goodbye to each other. Those who dare to do so get a little solo by briefly turning on the mic and singing to the others.

One big queer family

At the end of the three-hour rehearsal, we all have the feeling that we have travelled to another country and spent a Christmas holiday there. We got to know other songs and met other people.

We raised mugs of mulled wine to each other, enjoyed the candlelight and the mood of the others. And once again we had the feeling: Despite the pandemic and everything that separates us, we all belong to a big LGBTIQ* family.

The quartet rehearses in distance. Screenshot: Stefan Block (top left)

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