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Singing their song: Hong Kong LGBTI choir The Harmonics on giving voice to a community

Written by
Time Out Hong Kong

One of Hong Kong’s newest LGBTI social groups, The Harmonics, is adding a musical element to the city’s diversity scene. Dean Adamantidis chats with choir leader Alex See about the 30-strong choir and what it’s bringing to Hong Kong

We know what you’re thinking: showtunes and Streisand. Surely that’s the MO of an LGBTI choral group. Not so for The Harmonics. Formed in August 2015, the choir is made up of 30 members of the city’s LGBTI community – and some allies, too – to spread messages of diversity, inclusion and identity to international audiences. Fresh off their performance at Pink Dot, we sit down with choir member Alex See to talk about the story behind the songs.

Hi Alex! Tell us about when and how The Harmonics came to be.
A group of our founders met at Out in Hong Kong and wanted to do something fun with music. We explored many possibilities. It wasn't until our music director, Matthew Gillespie, gave us the opportunity to perform at Aids fundraising event Rainbow Connection – where we sang for the first time – that we decided to form a choir. There were nine of us on stage. We’re going to sing again at Rainbow Connection [on October 25]. It’s really exciting that we’ll have more than 30 singers this time around.  

What’s the aim of the group?
After our first performance, we saw that the community needed a voice. A voice that uses music to inspire and entertain not only the audience but also the singers. As we continued, we realised there was more to it than just singing. One of our members is an ally who joined us in December. Her presence highlights our most important value: inclusiveness. We then started emphasising the allies and also started to think about questions such as ‘where are the girls?’ and ‘what does it mean to be an LGBT group?’. As an LGBT group, we want to foster support and acceptance of our community in society. But first we need to create an inclusive environment and unite the L, G, B, T, allies and anyone else on the spectrum with music – and have a lot of fun doing it. 

Who can join?
We welcome anyone who has a passion for music and wants to be a part of a team to support the community. We do a vocal assessment first to place each new singer into the correct section.

What sort of songs are in the repertoire? 
We sing pop songs and musical showtunes. Most of our songs contain uplifting messages that encourage people to be true to themselves and be to heard in the moment.

What makes The Harmonics different from other LGBTI social groups in Hong Kong?
There’re a lot of people working very hard to create groups or social platforms for the community. They connect people and spark a lot of chemistry for social movements and new groups, like ours, that keep the scene very vibrant. Most of these groups are networking or event-based. Choral singing is noncompetitive and focuses on singing as one.  It’s suitable for all ages, genders and most physicalities. The basic thing we require is a level of commitment to meet every week and rehearse. It’s because of the nature of choral singing and the commitment that we can create the type of diverse support system that we have at The Harmonics. I’d say we’re like a team. On an international level, we belong to Proud Voices Asia, a large choral network for LGBT choirs in the region. We’re going to Korea next year to perform at Hand in Hand Asia 2017, a biannual choral festival with other choirs from around Asia. Gloria, the Dublin LGBT choir, and the Pink Singers, the London LGBT choir, will be there as well.

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