News had reached Jack Lovell that a cellist wanted to join the orchestra he was directing. There was just one catch: the stranger had only moved to the city a couple of months ago – and didn’t yet have an instrument to play.
Instead of turning him away, Jack, a 22-year-old University of Birmingham graduate, decided to find him a cello. He caught a coach back to his family home in Somerset, (with a plan to bring back his cello for the “very polite” stranger to borrow), only to get stuck in a lift for an entire morning the day he arrived back.
It wasn’t the smoothest introduction to the Birmingham Gay Symphony Orchestra [BGSO] for Seb Huckle. But Jack’s kind gesture spawned a bond which, four years later saw Jack and Seb get engaged. “It isn’t even a very nice cello,” Jack laughs.
In a love story so intrinsically intwined with the life of the BGSO – which is the only LGBT orchestra in the Midlands – it was only fitting the proposal would take place while the pair were on stage, surrounded by their fellow musicians. “Not even our parents knew - the look of shock on their faces is real,” Jack admits.
Not everyone in the BGSO can claim to have quite that kind of fairytale ending, but the musicians all agree that playing together has been about more than just dusting off their old instruments.
“I have met some of my dearest and best friends through BGSO – people I would never have met any other way,” says Kat Galbraith, 45, from the village of Rubery in Worcestershire, who joined the orchestra in April 2009 with her violin.
Kat, a doula, had been learning the violin since she was seven years old, but gave up at the end of secondary school. She hadn’t touched the instrument for 21 years when she joined BGSO. “I really missed playing and particularly performing orchestra music with other people,” she recalls. “I got in touch and haven’t looked back.”
Although the orchestra is not exclusively for people who identify as LGBT, Having a “safe space” like this is important, says Kat. “Having somewhere to socialise away from the LGBT scene is very important to me: somewhere where I can meet like minded people, with a shared interest, without the worry of judgement and additional expectations or pressures.”
“Whether our members identify as LGBT or an ally, we feel a deep sense of connection... in all my 45 years, I’ve never met a friendlier or more supportive group of people,” she says.
And Jack agrees with Kat that there is often a misunderstanding about why they have an LGBT orchestra: “Many people ask why we need one, but you just have to switch on the news or scroll through social media to see how much further there is to go, especially for trans rights.”
Jack adds: “BGSO provides a safe space for people to come together and make music and not feel pressured to conform or hide their true identity.”
One of the longest standing members of BGSO is Philip Mills, who founded the company in 2010. Not only has the orchestra helped Phillip feel included in the gay community, but it has also helped him “adapt” to playing his clarinet with his sight loss.
His yellow Labrador guide dog Rye sits by his feet when he is playing on stage – he considers them both “part of the BGSO family”.
Jack would encourage anyone to join an LGBT orchestra: “If you are LGBTQI+, straight, non-binary, unsure, not bothered, an LGBT orchestra – and BGSO is no exception – is friendly, welcoming, fun, diverse and ambitious.
“We are supportive whether you want to talk about personal things or musical things. We are accepting whether you want to be out or not, or just to a few people. ”HumanKind is HuffPost’s celebration of kindness, featuring people who do incredible things for others or the planet – transforming lives through small but significant acts. Get involved by joining us on Facebook or telling us about the people who you think deserve recognition for their kind works. You can nominate them here or share your personal story by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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