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It had long been a desire of mine to write a cycle of choral pieces on the subject of gay love. When Stephen Bowness, conductor of Auckland's Gay and Lesbian Singers, indicated he would be happy to have something new for their 2004 concert on the theme of love, I was delighted to take up the challenge. Originally I had intended to write for the whole choir, but the very gender specific nature of much of the poetry, made me decide to write for the men's voices only (something the conductor was keen on anyway). The texts are all drawn from The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse (edited by Stephen Coote) published more than 20 years ago. It contains a wide selection of material ranging from early Greek and Latin texts in translation, to major contemporary poets. Much gay poetry has a bittersweet quality, and much from before the late 20th century is quite depressing, although occasional gems do celebrate the subject quite openly. My selection is obviously a personal one, and designed to cover both the more serious as well as the light-hearted aspects of gay love. The texts are mainly from writers active in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The one exception is the final text which comes from Christopher Isherwood, best known for writing the original book which gave rise to the musical Cabaret. The first piece, A Message, sets a text which was written to Oscar Wilde while he was in prison. The writer wishes he could ease Wilde's burden by providing strength and 'profound repose'. The second piece Bored (subtitled 'At a London Music') tells of a society musical evening, although the writer's attention is elsewhere. The third and briefest piece tells of the writer taking Gertie Green out to tea, and the consequences of her flirtation with another man. The fourth piece, Because I liked you better tells of the all too common problem of falling in love with someone (presumably) straight. Here the writer seems to be speaking from beyond the grave. Finally, in On His Queerness, a young man is recommended to see the sights of an area known as the Roman Camp, and specifically the Aquarium there. However it seems that more than fish were to be found at the Aquarium!
Text by George Ives