Close Encounters of the Queer Kind

The Amsterdam Gay Men’s Chorus invites you to its newest show!

You don’t need to own a rocket ship or catch a ride on an asteroid to explore space. Head over to Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ in Amsterdam on Saturday June 29th, and the Amsterdam Gay Men’s Chorus (AMSGMC) will take you on an interplanetary trip through space and time with the likes of David Bowie and Lady Gaga.

Close Encounters of the Queer Kind is the biggest summer show that the chorus has ever put together. WINGS sat down with AMSGMC board member Peter Jordan (he/him) to learn more about the upcoming show, and to find out how the chorus has had a profound impact on many of its international members.

Peter, tell us about Close Encounters of the Queer Kind!

“Almost a year ago, we chose sci-fi and space as general themes for the show. Our members were invited to send in song suggestions for the setlist, and our artistic team came up with the title Close Encounters of the Queer Kind.
Space and sci-fi have always captured the gay imagination. Look at an artist like David Bowie. He was very much someone who didn’t play by the rules. He put his queerness out there for anyone to see before it was a thing; long before the type of acceptance we see today. In Space Oddity he sings about floating off into space, moving away from all the rules and the boring life on earth, to find an imaginary world where you can be whoever you want to be.”

What are some of the songs that you will perform?

“We’ll start the show with Starships by Nicki Minaj, and we’ll sing everything from Venus by Lady Gaga to Human Behavior by Björk. The chorus has gender-swapped Cosmic Girl by Jamiroquai into Cosmic Boy, and of course, we’ll perform Strong Enough by Cher – we’re a gay chorus after all. Another fun piece we’ll present is a mix of Duran Duran’s Wild Boys with Blur’s Girls & Boys, and we’ll finish the first act with a fabulous David Bowie medley.”

Will you do some current songs as well? Maybe a wee bit of Billie Eilish?

“Billie is not on the list unfortunately, but we’ll sing Flowers by Miley Cyrus.”

Did any of your personal song suggestions make the final setlist?

“No! I’m a bit peeved by that actually, now that you bring it up (laughs in a cheeky tone). Rocket Man by Elton John was one of my picks. My mum is a massive Elton fan which was probably one of the things that made me gay! It’s nice to discover new music through my fellow chorus members. I never really listened to Bowie before, but now, I do.”

What about props and outfits? Are there any rockets involved or do we see spaceships on stage?

“There are no rockets or spaceships, but we have some cool voiceovers and videos, as well as quite a few costume changes. In the first half of the show, our outfits are somewhere in between a captain’s and a flight attendant’s uniform, complimented by a pink scarf.
For the first time ever, we’ve been asked to come up with costumes for ourselves, with some silver fabric and a t-shirt that were provided to us as the base. They gave us total creative freedom, which is a bit of a gamble (laughs). Let’s see what everyone comes up with.”

Are you excited about performing on stage at Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ?

“Yes, massively! We’ll perform twice in one day at this beautiful location. It’s a really big thing for us. It will be the first time that our chorus sings before an audience of over 700 people. We really had to wrap our minds around that!
It’s a ton of pressure, a lot of hard work, but it has paid off. The late show sold out within weeks, and the afternoon show is rapidly heading in the same direction, so get those tickets while you can!”

What are you most nervous about when it comes to this performance?

‘Remembering the choreography. There are a couple of songs that will leave you very exposed when you mess up the moves.”

Let’s talk AMSGMC! How many members do you currently have?

“Right now, there are 100 members from 34 countries. We’ve grown considerably during the pandemic. New members came to us looking for community. Some spent too much time on their own during the pandemic, others moved to The Netherlands without knowing anyone. The chorus has become a great way for people to integrate quickly and to make new friends.”

Is that the reason why you joined the chorus as well?

“It is! I’m British, and I’ve been living in The Netherlands for 12 years. 8 years ago I decided to join AMSGMC. Like many of our international members who have just moved to Amsterdam, I didn’t have any Dutch friends.
When I joined, I had to confront my own prejudices and internalized homophobia. I imagined the chorus would be full of drama queens; that there would be nothing but drama. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I was wrong on all counts. It’s a super diverse bunch of people, and that diversity is a big, big plus.
The chorus takes things like queer history and diversity very seriously. We don’t want to be a group of exclusively white gay men; our members come from many different backgrounds with just as many ways of looking at the world around us. Some have fled their home countries and can’t go back, there are expats, and we have Dutch nationals in our ranks as well. I quickly learned from interacting with all of them that there’s not just one way to be gay.”

Last question, what do you enjoy most about singing in the chorus?

“It’s the gezelligheid (Dutch for coziness). Singing clears my mind. It motivates me to break away from work, to leave my phone in my bag, to take my smartwatch off, and focus on music.”

Make sure to follow the Amsterdam Gay Men’s Chorus on Instagram @amsgmc. Tickets for the afternoon performance of Close Encounters of the Queer Kind are available here. And keep an eye out for the chorus’s spectacular 10-year anniversary show coming up on February 1st, 2025.