Leather lovers' mass at a Berlin church
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Berlin (AFP) –
In a Berlin church, a piano and flute duo are holding a recital of music by the romantic composer Edvard Grieg to an attentive audience.
But unlike most classical concerts, both the musicians and the listening public are dressed completely in leather.
The organiser of this soiree, Tyrone Rontgagner, could not be prouder to bring together in this house of prayer about one hundred members of the queer community, displaying their love for everything leather, from chaps and braces to masks and vests.
"Lots of people think that the fetish scene is all about sex, but they're just the clothes we wear," says Rontgagner at the "classic meets fetish" event.
"It's just another way to express yourself, like music. Music brings people together just like our dress," says the long-time LGBT activist.
A translator by profession and two-time "Mr Leather Germany", Rontgagner has been organising the concert in the Twelve Apostles Evangelical Chuch to promote everything queer since 2015.
For the event he has the blessing of the minister, Burkhard Bornemann, openly gay and an active figure in the local community providing support for drug addicts and prostitutes.
The audience, almost exclusively men, are by and large not regular churchgoers.
"Religion? Not for me," confesses Pup Luppi, a fifty-something year old man in a leather jumpsuit with a wagging dog's tail.
"Classical music on the other hand calms me, and like BDSM, it's a sort of game in which the excitement rises and falls," he says.
- 'Typical Berlin' -
"At the start it was a bit strange for me but I think it's great," says Ronald Hartewig, who looks distinctly like Victor Willis from disco group Village People in his police officer's uniform.
The musicians, among them an organist and a violinist, all follow the dress code while playing interpretations of Rachmaninoff's "Valse and Romance", Aram Khachaturian's "Sabre Dance" and more Grieg.
"It's fun to be all in leather rather than in a suit. It lets you build a bridge between the gay community and our everyday life as a musician," says Eric Beillevaire, a bass-baritone singer.
"It's such a pleasure to perform in front of an audience again after such a long time," he adds, while noting that the choice of venue is "typical of Berlin".
Located in the Schoeneberg neighbourhood, the centre of Berlin's gay scene, the Twelve Apostles Church is not a place of worship just like any other.
Also known as the "gin church", its windows were donated by the local distillery to replaced those destroyed during the Second World War and are designated as an historic monument.
© 2021 AFP