Why the Big Gay Sing is good for you

The Big Gay Sing is a karaoke-like celebration that encourages audience participation - but what it is about singing in a group that is so therapeutic?

Members of GLORIA, Dublin’s Lesbian & Gay Choir. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Members of GLORIA, Dublin’s Lesbian & Gay Choir. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times


It usually starts as a faint mouthing of words underneath the breath, rising to fully-formed sentences before steadily building to a caterwauling climax that threatens to drown out the performer. We’ve all been there. Whether it’s within the hushed confines of a candlelight club or during the quieter moments of a stadium gig, there is always at least one tone-deaf punter who believes they can out-sing the band.

Now, those of a spotlight- usurping propensity have their chance, thanks to a gig taking place in Dublin this month. The Big Gay Sing, a joint venture staged by Glória, Dublin’s Gay and Lesbian Choir, and the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus, encourages – nay, insists upon – crowd participation. Essentially a glorified karaoke session with the help of community choirs The Line Up and The Soulful, the one-off event is a fundraiser for the Marriage Equality campaign and will be compered on the night by Panti.

Damien Dempsey is one musician who doesn’t mind contributions from his audience – if you’re not singing along at a Damo show, he says, you’re doing it wrong. “I’ve been saying it for years,” he says. “If you sit down on your bed, or even the bathroom for half an hour and sing your favourite songs – type out the lyrics if you don’t know the lyrics – you’ll feel a hundred times better. Good doctors are now saying to people that they should join a choir instead of taking Prozac. Singing really does lift your heart, lift your spirits. That’s why I encourage people to do it at shows, because when you walk out of the show it’s like you’ve gone to the gym and had a workout. [That’s how] I feel after a gig, anyway.”

But what is it about communal singing in particular that is so good for the soul?

“Getting to sing with a group of people every week is brilliant fun and it’s unbelievably therapeutic,” says Aoife Savage of The Line-Up. Along with its sister choir The Soulful – both non-audition community choirs – it was founded in 2012 in order to bring together people who love singing for the sheer joy of it.

“I would definitely say that being in the choir has affected my life in a positive way,” says Savage. “Being able to go along to rehearsals and sing and forget about everything for a couple of hours is the best way of unwinding. There hasn’t been a rehearsal where I’ve left and not been in a better mood.”

The role that the Big Gay Sing will play in the Marriage Equality campaign is important, although Glória’s chairperson Barry Dowling insists that the emphasis on the night will be placed firmly on fun, rather than politics.

“This is our opportunity to say ‘Look, if you support Marriage Equality, buy a ticket’,” Dowling says. “But we won’t be shoving any of that down anyone’s throat – it’s about giving the audience a fabulous night out. You’ll be up dancing and singing, and you’ll get the opportunity to support Marriage Equality and a vote for equality, so it’s a win-win, in our eyes. But more than anything else, it’s going to be an unashamed celebration of showtunes and pop songs. It’ll be great craic.”

The Big Gay Sing: Dublin is at the Bórd Gáis Energy Theatre on June 15th.

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