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Deep Throat Choir

14 March 2017

Deep Throat Choir

The all-female singing collective speaks to us about the entwinement of performance and politics.

In 1972 a pornographic film called Deep Throat, starring Linda Lovelace as a frustrated woman who could only be sexually satisfied through performing fellatio, triggered three major events in culture. One was the advent of the “Golden Age of Porn,” an era of increased respectability and cultural discussion around pornos. During this time films such as The Devil in Miss Jones in 1973 and The Opening of Misty Beethoven in 1976 premiered with increased production values and a focus on plot and dialogue in addition to sex. When Johnny Carson (cultural arbiter of ‘70s America if there ever was one) admitted to seeing Deep Throat, the rest of the country followed suit.

The other was the nicknaming of the informant who became the lynchpin that brought about the Watergate scandal, resulting in the resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974. In a stunning example of the entwinement of porn and politics, Deep Throat, later revealed to be W. Mark Felt, number two in the FBI at the time, was so pseudo-named because of the unprecedented cultural pervasiveness of the film in addition to the deep nature of his information.

The last, and remarkably least likely result is the all-female choral group based out of Hackney, London: Deep Throat Choir. The 30-member strong collective gather once a week to sing together; mostly covers of pop songs like Sade’s “The Sweetest Taboo” or Bjork’s “Stonemilker” but the group is now branching into new territory, having just premiered their first original composition, “Be OK” – a soaring, empowering track that is as much a dance-y romp as it is a feminist battle cry – from the album of the same name, (out now via Bella Union).

Still, Deep Throat Choir is far from done with covers. “The process of arranging a song for a cover gives you the ability to manipulate and experiment with the sounds, harmonies, and melodies of the original song – which is really fun.” Choir member Sophie Tunstall-Behrens explains, “You have to be creative in the way that you build in the instrumental sounds of the song using voices. In this sense each cover is its own work.”

In an age where everybody is connected at all times, yet people seem lonelier than ever, there is something rare and precious about these young women embracing old ways of social bonding. Luisa Gerstein, the de facto leader of the Choir, credits the organic growth of the Deep Throat Choir community to the power of people getting together and raising their voices. “Singing every week feels really good and you always come away feeling very uplifted. Whatever time you’re having, it’s always a really secure and comforting space and it can make you feel better and good.”

Choirs have existed since at least the 2nd century B.C.E. when they played an important part in Greek drama. From the all-male coal miner chorus’ in 19th Century Wales to African-American Spirituals in the late 1800s, song as a form of resistance is inextricable from the history of choral music. Most recently, Jan Chamberlin, a member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir resigned from the Choir rather than sing at President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Chamberlin, writing in her open resignation letter, said, “I also know, looking from the outside in, it will appear that [the] Choir is endorsing tyranny and facism [sic] by singing for this man.” Deep Throat Choir member Thalia Allington-Wood echoes these sentiments. “I also think music as activism is not always about the artist either, it is also about the audience – how they understand a song and use it. We sang ‘Be my Husband’ for a while – made a video that mocked the words – but also stopped performing it live – potentially because that subversion wasn’t actually working in a live performance. Which says something about how conscious we are about the power of songs, words, and who sings them.”

As Gerstein tells me later over email, “That perhaps one day that you might Google Deep Throat and find a group of empowered women singing at you is an activism of sorts.”

 

Written by Roberta Wales

Photographed by Emanuele D’Angelo

Hair: Takuya Morimoto

Makeup: Natalie Doke