Pinkies recommended: “They are very good. And they party very hard.”

A new season and a new wonderful group of newbie Pinkies set sail on our pink ship. We asked our new bass Francesco what music means to him and why he decided to become a Pinkie, after his world travels landed him in London.

Singing. Just singing. I missed it so badly. I moved to London earlier this year, at the beginning of January. Of Italian origins – my name easily betrays me – I spent the last seven years of my life in Barcelona, where I finished my studies. By now a little piece of my hearth is Spanish and, to my utmost frustration, so is my accent when I speak Italian.

Music has been a part of my life since I was little. As a kid I was forced into my village music school – I have a clear memory of my mother asking which instrument I wanted to play, and not whether I wanted to play one at all. In hindsight, I couldn’t be more grateful for that. I have so many great memories of playing the cello. I always enjoyed it the most when together: duets with the piano or with my sister on the violin, trios, quartets, orchestras, etc.

When I finally turned into college material, I dropped the bow to focus on my studies – that was the plan at least. But, in fact, music always found his way to drag me into a new, unplanned, adventure. That is how, I ended up spending many Saturdays of my twenties in bars, with an indie-rock band, playing the electric cello (not quite the outcome my mother was hoping for, I believe).  Also, as an exchange student in Portugal, I joined a tuna – a sort of university band voted to polyphonic mockery of college life [Editor – ha! Tuna!] . In Brazil (yet another exchange period) I joined a samba percussion group. In Barcelona I was back in an orchestra… Long story short, no matter how hard I would tell myself I was too busy, I have always the time to let music distract me.

This is how, four years ago, I auditioned for the newly born Barcelona Gay Men’s Chorus (BGMC). I sang with them as a bass ever since, never missed a concert. That was one of the best musical experiences of my life: the companionship among singers, the flow of adrenaline going back and forth with the public, the body resonating with the harmony of the ensemble. It makes me feel so alive and so happy, every single time. It’s a chemistry I do not understand and yet one of the biggest pleasures of my life. And in the process I gained friends, a real family of people that shared with me the alchemy of making music together.

Finally, when I decided to move to the UK and I was kissing my BGMC friends goodbye, I remember Matteo’s advice – quoting verbatim he would say: “Francesco, once in London you should audition for the Pink Singers. They are very good. And they party very hard.”

Francesco (right) at the Pinkies Newbies Party

So, time to unpack my luggage, settle in the new flat, find my balance at work… and I was already showing all the symptoms of vocal abstinence. I had to follow Matteo’s wise advice. So I reached out to the Pinkies for an audition. Next thing I know I was on a trial rehearsal, being so happy I could not help smiling like a loser all the way through it. It was such an energy booster. I didn’t actually realise how much I missed it since that moment.

And fingers crossed, legs broken and a pretty lame audition later, I was actually embarked on a pink ship headed towards the next concert season! I am super excited about this new adventure and greatly thankful for the welcoming reception of the choir. I just need to apologise in advance to my new choir friends for all the times I ask everyone’s names again. Memory was never my strength.

I really hope that in time I will have occasion to know the choir all a little better and eventually gain a little spot in their Pinkie heart. Even if @LaLaLondon it is always another day of rain, if feels very sunny to me each time we meet!






It’s hard to believe that a month has passed already since our Indian friends from Rainbow Voices Mumbai arrived on our shores and created a rainbow rollercoaster of excitement, pride, and amazing memories for us all. RVM’s Ashish describes his experience… 

July 6th, 2017 marked in my calendar is one of the most memorable days of my 32 years of life. The first time ever I flew across oceans and lands so far beyond my reach to explore freedom and equality. I had never thought this back in July 2016, that my next summer would be full of excitement, learning and love.

It was conceived when the Pink Singers came to India in January 2017 for Mumbai Pride and our ‘We Shall Overcome’ concert, to support Rainbow Voices Mumbai and the Indian LGBT community to fight for our rights. In January, we mingled, loved, and sang together to a packed audience at the NCPA theatre in Mumbai. The concert was a medium to create awareness and educate people about the hurdles we face in India due to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (which criminalises homosexual activity, introduced under British Rule in 1860). It was one mammoth task for a choir as young as ours to host Europe’s longest running community choir; we managed it successfully and learnt quite a few lessons in organising a standalone concert, which now seems to be a permanent part of the Mumbai Pride Calendar.

We were high on emotions and warmth extended by the Pink Singers and equally mesmerised with the musical abilities of the choir. We were amazed how spot on, entertaining and thoroughly convincing they were with the message they brought with them. I still remember Murray Hipkin, the Musical Director saying, “We have not come to fix anything; probably we can’t fix anything for you, but what we can do is to support you in all possible ways to revert section 377.”

The words were more soothing and actions were even more, when after the concert the Chair of the Pink Singers – affectionately known as ‘Cher’ – Simon Pearson, made the announcement of inviting Rainbow Voices Mumbai to London Pride and to take part in their summer concert. We were overwhelmed with the gesture and yet a bit lost with things that needed to be done! Constant encouragement and successful fundraising by the Pink Singers made the impossible possible for 10 of us (sadly the other eight couldn’t make it because of visa issues!).

Ashish & ‘Cher’

With hopes high and dreams in our eyes, we flew to the land of freedom and equality. The tour started with each of us being hosted by a few of the Pink Singers, which gave us the chance to see and learn how independent lives of gay men and women are, in contrast to India – where we don’t choose to live alone even if we are grown up enough to be married off!

On arrival, my host Simon came to the terminal to receive me, despite his fractured ankle. This gesture of his shows how dear and encouraging was their approach to us. It was my first international trip and it seemed to me a different world: new weather, time zones, people, culture and systems; I was in awe of every little thing I saw. First what struck me was platform 9¾ at Kings Cross! Being a Potterhead, I was enthralled to see it. As I walked the streets with Simon I saw a Pride flag along with the British Flag waving with pride in the front of the British Library – this reaffirmed my belief that equality and freedom are not merely words here, they actually mean it.

Exploring London from the London Eye

My dear friend Hsien met me and we were off to Canary Wharf for a lovely lunch, but before that the Thames Clipper just wowed me! Like a kid in a candy store I was in love with the skyline and monuments on both the side of the river, clicking pictures and noticing the P-flag everywhere we went. A new city, new day,  even jet-lag couldn’t deter my spirits and we explored a few parts of the Naval College and Greenwich.

I believe that destiny had bigger plans for us: we never had heard about anything as big as London Pride and we all were excited to take part. We vogued in style with our Rainbow t-shirts, painted ourselves with rainbows and were ready for the world’s biggest party. As we were waiting for the Pride march to begin I saw people from all walks of life, races, professions and ages joining this mega event. We have never seen such a phenomenon back home; instead we are judged by the people for gathering and walking the Pride march in Mumbai.

London Pride 2017

As we marched up to Trafalgar Square, we saw people waving, cheering us on and even calling for a hug from the other side of the barricades. Such love, acceptance and cheer filled all of us with positivity and re-affirmed that we are walking on the right path to attain freedom and equality for all of us. Then came the moment to go on the Pride main stage where we were to perform to the largest crowd we have ever performed in front of. The moment I addressed the crowds with ‘Namaste’, a huge cheer and ‘Namaste’ I heard back, and the crowd was moved with our rendition of ‘We Shall Overcome’ in English and Hindi. I could see a few in tears when they learned that section 377 criminalizes homosexual activities in India. I think, I was nervous but I knew this was the only time I could talk to London as a city and made sure that I spoke right and conveyed the purpose of our visit.

London has different colours during pride and our friends the Pink Singers made sure we got the best of London and also that we got opportunities to meet the ones who had supported our trip  such as eBay. It was great interacting with the eBay office and we are indebted to them for their support very much.

The city charmed me to the core, whether it was architecture, culture, Soho – the night life for gays was amazing! I watched my first musical ever and my first drag show here in London. The experiences are still sinking in for me and I am unable to really believe that something so surreal happened to me. As we explored, Brighton, Richmond and the city of London, we had so many memorable times with the Pink Singers – singing in parks, at house parties and a lot more.

I had unknowingly become the spokesperson of the choir. I had previous experience of talking to media back home but that was for work. I was told that I was crisp in front of camera and this boosted my confidence even more. In the media coverage – though I am not out as a gay man in India – I did not hide my identity. This is because I got encouragement in my week’s exposure to London and its acceptance; the unwavering support from the Pink Singers filled me with a “come what may” attitude and I put my best foot forward to be heard on all possible platforms. 

The support continued even on the concert stage, when the audience gave the 12 of us a standing ovation before we even started.

I have taken back home  a lot of inspiration, strength, and conviction in what we do and yes, more purpose to the music we do. My hosts Simon and James were the coolest ones and I miss those lanes and bylanes of London… With a dream to come back, I sign off from India!

Photo credit: Jess Rowbottom

Describing my first Pinkies performance in one word

In the second of our post-concert blogs, we hear from newbie tenor Andrew: 

I ended up staying awake late last night thinking of the right word to sum up my feelings towards my first Pink Singers concert (it feels like it happened just yesterday, but I’ve been reliably informed that it was actually a week ago). ended up being very little help. How do you combine all the feelings and emotions of *that* performance?

On the one hand, Saturday’s concert was exhausting. As a newbie, I had been warned that the day was going to be a long one. Technical rehearsals started at midday and ran pretty much up until the audience started taking their seats. It probably also didn’t help that I was up until 2am the night before adding glittery stickers to an otherwise dull pair of Primark plimsolls. If it wasn’t for my deep reserves of cereal bars and pasta pots, I’m not sure I would have made it through.

This season’s newbies, about to pop their concert ‘cherry’! 😉 Photo credit: Liang Wee

The final few minutes before the concert were  vaguely terrifying too, not least because I hadn’t had a chance to try my new pair of black trousers on and was only 20% sure that they would fit at all. I’ve performed in front of audiences in the past – and loved doing so – but I suddenly realised how long it had been. The last time I had sung on stage, I was young enough that my mum had made my costume and my voice was an octave higher. The idea of performing in front of my friends, family, and hundreds of others that had paid actual real life money to see us was suddenly quite nerve-wracking in a way I hadn’t expected.

Backstage jollity. Photo credit: Liang Wee

The concert itself was a rush. Both in that it was a massive adrenaline rush, and that it all seemed to rush by in no time at all. I wish I could have had more time to savour every moment of it, but before I knew it we’d sung our songs and the audience was on their feet cheering. Our two amazing guest choirs had knocked it out of the park, and we’d delivered our best performances of the season so far.

I also found myself feeling quote emotional throughout. I had always understood the vague concept of this season’s concert, reflecting on the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England in Wales, but I didn’t properly appreciate how our songs would bring the audience on this journey. Where have we come from and where are we now? What successes should we celebrate, and where do we need to continue the fight, both at home and abroad? I got the impression that everyone in the choir approached the topic from their own unique perspective and based in their own personal experiences. I know that I certainly did. Our performances were certainly more powerful for it.

Photo credit: Jess Rowbottom

So despite my long search, I’m yet to find a word that sums up everything I felt on that Saturday. The closest that I’ve been able to find is proud. Cheesy I know, but it’s true. Proud of my fellow Pinkies for delivering the most amazing performance on the night that gave me goosebumps just to be a part of it. Proud of everyone on the artistic team and management committee who had put in far more time and effort than I had to make the night such a massive success. Proud of the amazing performances from Out Aloud and Rainbow Voices Mumbai (who I don’t think I will ever forget). Most of all though, I felt proud of myself.

This was my first concert with the Pinkies, but it’s not going to be my last. How could I turn down the opportunity to sing again with such a lovely and talented group of people? Last Sunday’s hangover might have faded, but the memories never will. Bring on concert number two!

Photo credit: Jess Rowbottom

Can’t wait to get your next Pink Singers fix? This August, we’ll be performing as part of the Hand in Hand Festival in Manchester (Celebrating LGBT+ choirs in the UK and Ireland). The concert will also feature Sing Out Bristol and Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus. Tickets are only £7 and going quickly!

Percy Pig, Pixie cuts & Popping my Pinkie Cherry

Newbie soprano Verity has just taken part in her first concert with The Pink Singers. And what a concert it was! Read about her percy pig, pixie cut, Pinkie cherry popping experience… 

Arguably, the idea of a ‘community choir’ is tautologous: a choir is inescapably a kind of community. Every member must be valued, not despite, but because of, their different voices. A good choir only functions when all the parts are listening and responding to each other. A choir is united towards a common goal: sharing a beautiful sound.

Photo credit: Jess Rowbottom –

The Pink Singers is undoubtedly a community in this way, and with every rehearsal and sectional, my pride in being part of it only grew. Joining the Pink Singers this season, I came to better appreciate the extraordinary diversity within our vibrant community. There are so many places to carve out a home on the LGBT+ spectrum: having only really occupied the student halls of queer living before, it has been so liberating to learn from the experiences of other Pinkies. I’ve met those who have sung with the choir for decades and fellow newbies, those who are recently out and those who have known since they were eleven, doctors and cupcake decorators, granddads and mums-to-be. I felt immediately embraced and included.

We are also a community choir in the sense we represent the wider LGBT+ community and this was best demonstrated by our concert on From Queer to Eternity: Songs of Struggle and Celebration featuring Rainbow Voices Mumbai and Out Aloud (Sheffield). After months of rehearsals, things began to kick off when I met the members of Rainbow Voices Mumbai – about whom I had heard so much from Pinkies who had visited India last year – at London Pride to sing in  Trafalgar Square in front of ten thousand happy revellers.

Photo credit: Liang Wee

After sweaty dress rehearsals and choreography clinics, Saturday the 15th July rolled around. I arrived at Cadogan Hall clutching a bag of Veggie Percy Pigs (which are rapidly becoming a Soprano section staple) and filled with determination. The elements of the show we’d only heard about came to life – the gallery, the staging and the poignant projections which would be played behind us (designed by the very talented Soprano Jessica Cheeseman). After a tech run which seemed to whizz by and before I knew it, I was doling out hair clay and styling pixie cuts in the dressing room. Someone pinned a silk pink rose on my left boob and gave me a cherry to bite seductively in a bizarre but wholly consensual initiation ritual. A quick dressing room warm up was had and we were ready to wander onto the stage to the sounds of birdsong as the marvellous Artistic Director Simon Harrison had planned.

Photo credit: Jess Rowbottom –

It is difficult to do justice to the concert itself using words alone, but moments stand out. For example, when bass Phil hit the last note of our cover of Radiohead’s Creep; the standing ovation as Rainbow Voices Mumbai walked onstage; the stillness as we sang Dear Mr President, followed by Somewhere from West Side Story; and the ecstatic moment giant colourful balloons fell down on us to close the concert.

As we waved goodbye to the hall of supporters, it was then I really understood what it means to be an LGBT+ community choir. We had held an audience of LGBT+ Londoners, allies, friends and families and whispered gently that we saw them; that we’re proud of them; that we stand with them in their struggle for liberation.

I love listening to post-concert hubbub. Significant others of Pinkies were spotted in the crowd, proud parents were posing for photos. In this big and often impersonal city, I realised that I had at last found a home with my beautiful choir.

Photo credit: Jess Rowbottom –

Can’t wait to get your next Pink Singers fix? Not feeling the Pinkie love because we never perform up north? This August, The Pink Singers will be performing as part of the Hand in Hand Festival in Manchester (Celebrating LGBT+ choirs in the UK and Ireland). This concert will also feature Sing Out Bristol and Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus. Tickets are only £7 and going quickly!

Inside Pride

Alto Eleonore took part in the Pride parade for the first time last weekend, which included a performance in Trafalgar Square with our special guests for the week, Rainbow Voices Mumbai. Here’s her glitter’tastic account of the day…

It’s a rainy Wednesday morning. The weekend is over. Pride is over. The placards are shelved, the face paint is boxed, and the glitter – well. The glitter is still bloody everywhere. Much like the feeling of joy and – of course – pride, in the aftermath of this weekend’s London celebrations, the stuff lingers on. 

This year was a special occasion for me. In 28 years, I’ve never been on a Pride march. I’ve watched the parade before, from behind the barriers, and it’s always been good fun, but I always sort of felt like I was there to support the community, rather than because I was a part of it. 

As someone who oscillates somewhere between the occasionally-maligned ‘B’ in LGBT and the comfortingly vague but sometimes-contentious catch-all term ‘Queer’, it can sometimes feel like you’re just not gay enough for an event like Pride – like there’s a threshold you have to cross or a qualification you have to meet before being allowed to participate.   

Luckily, I had the Pink Singers this year, to show me a thing or two about what being a part of the community means.

With the Pinkies, the only thing I’ve needed to prove is a commitment to turning up to rehearsal. The only thing I’ve been tested on is my memory for song lyrics and choreography. My membership to the choir depends on attendance (and the membership fee that helps keep us running) – not on proving my queer credentials. The LGBT experience is at the core of the group, but here there’s no licence to the club that gets revoked for not being gay the right way. All that’s asked is that you turn up, you sing, and you support your fellow Pinkies. 

Marching at Pride this year with this group of wonderful people, I got to experience, for the first time, the feeling of being on the inside, instead of outside-looking-in. The love in the air was tangible – made all the more vivid by having the members of Mumbai’s LGBT choir, Rainbow Voices, with us, bringing an added level of joy, excitement, and connection to a global community. Standing in front of thousands of people on stage in Trafalgar Square, all of us holding hands, leading a rendition of ‘We Shall Overcome’ in English and Hindi is a memory that will stay dear to me for a very long time. 

It’s been a whirlwind weekend; I haven’t had time to do my laundry, the flat is a mess, and that glitter still needs to come out of the carpet. But I feel lucky. I feel proud. Most of all, I feel accepted.

So here’s to next year’s Pride, and to many more!

Did you catch our performance with Rainbow Voices Mumbai in Trafalgar Square during Pride? If you liked what you saw, then come and see us again on Saturday at Cadogan Hall – a show that promises to take you ‘from Queer to Eternity’! Book here!

Introducing: Rainbow Voices Mumbai & Out Aloud Sheffield

There’s just one week to go until the Pinkies are joined on  the Cadogan Hall stage to perform songs of celebration, struggle and hope – marking 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK. Kirsten, one of our resting altos, introduces the two choirs who will be performing with us – Sheffield’s Out Aloud and Rainbow Voices Mumbai who have flown in all the way from India!

Rainbow Voices Mumbai (RVM) are only three years old, but already they are making their mark in the fight for LGBT equality. For their members a version of UK Victorian Law – Section 377 – is still in place – criminalising them and tens of millions of others just for being who they are. Whilst the fight for equality here is not yet over, on the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK we are working with RVM to highlight the significance of inequality faced by our Indian friends.

Politics aside, RVM are a fabulous, fun and talented choir. When we visited them in Mumbai in January they moved us with their heartfelt performances – and their wonderfully warm personalities. With a mammoth effort from both RVM and our #PSIndia committee this project has come to life, and I hope we can be as welcoming as they were to us, on the second leg of this unique exchange.

I for one can’t wait to see their set at Cadogan Hall next weekend – from feisty pop songs to moving traditional Indian pieces, their performance is not to be missed!

We will also be joined by Out Aloud – Sheffield’s LGBT choir. Formed in 2006 and led by Val Regan, they have a diverse repertoire including jazz, classical and soul numbers. We are very excited to be singing with our northern friends again! And if you want to hear more, why not make the trip up to Sheffield Pride at the end of this month, where Out Aloud will be performing!

So come to Cadogan Hall next Saturday and prepare to be taken on a musical journey with us all: from hidden to visible… from shame to pride… from Queer to Eternity!

Buy your tickets here now

Hello, my name’s Claire and I’m a lesbian.

What does it mean to be part of the LGBTQ community? Why is there a need for one? Our next concert – on 15th July – seeks to explore this, as we mark 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality. In the run up to the show, which we’ve called ‘From Queer to Eternity‘,  alto Claire shares what being part of the LGBTQ community means to her…

Lesbian.  It’s a word.  It’s a word that I use to describe myself.  I’ve used this word to describe myself for a long time, but truly it is only the last few years that I wear this word like a layer of skin; an epidermis; a fully functioning part of myself that exists in peace rather than a badge that gets brought out on occasion.  It’s part of my identity that I share and I don’t care who knows.

I realise I am in a fortunate position – this country has come a long way to protect the rights of LGBTQ people and the way the community is perceived.  Growing up in Thatcher’s Britain, there was Section 28, homophobic mainstream media, no positive gay role models on TV that I could identify with, the word ‘lesbian’ thrown around my classroom like a shameful slur…. In short, growing up as a gay kid in the 80’s was a lonely experience. To quote the fine words of Skunk Anansie, ‘It takes blood and guts to be this cool, but I’m still such a cliché’.     

I think it is human nature to reach out to others like yourself and being part of the LGBTQ community, I have done just that: joining the Pink Singers (coming up to 15 years now..  eeek!) not only normalised my gayness but I have also been blessed with amazing friendship, companionship, laughter, LGBTQ campaigning buddies (home and abroad), and compassion – all wrapped up in a big glitterball of song and sparkle.

By being part of the LGBTQ community I have had the opportunity to perform and campaign all over the world: Iceland, France, Ireland, Denmark and more recently, India.  I feel it is my duty as part of this community to campaign for the rights of our friends abroad who are not as fortunate as we are in the UK; to campaign for equality and to address hate in all forms.  I am so excited to be welcoming our friends from Rainbow Voices Mumbai in July this year to march with us in London Pride and perform with us in London – part of a year long, life changing cultural exchange.

The brief I was given for this blog was ‘how has being LGBTQ changed your life’.  Well, to be honest, it is my life, it is who I am.  But only one part of me: I am also a daughter, sister, friend, lover, singer, performer, colleague, activist, transport nerd, indie tunes enthusiast, fan of drinking tea and dancing (although not necessarily at the same time) and so much more.

Hello, my name is Claire and I am a lesbian.

There’s still time to book tickets to see us and our special guests, Out Aloud from Sheffield and Rainbow Voices Mumbai. Please click here to book!

‘Love & Affection’ ahead of the concert

The Pink Singers will be taking to the stage once more in less than three weeks time, for our summer concert at Cadogan Hall: From Queer to Eternity. Tenor Liang talks about one of the songs we’ll be performing and what it means to him.

I was first introduced to the music of Joan Armatrading in the late 1980’s by a university friend. Unlike the usual pop music of the time, I was instantly entranced by her unconventional tunes with meaningful lyrics. The opening lines “I’m not in love, but I’m open to persuasion” made Love and Affection an instant favourite.  Her soulful, contralto voice gave the words a depth of meaning which I witnessed at  two of her concerts.

I was delighted to find that my suggestion for a Joan Armatrading song was included in the repertoire for this season and e of our sopranos – Emelda Nicholroy – has put together an arrangement for the Pink Singers which is true to the style and feel of the original song.
As a tenor, I don’t sing the opening lines; but I get to sing “You took me dancing, cross the floor, cheek to cheek”.  After more than 40 years in the business, Joan Armatrading is still going strong, and long may she continue.  I hope she will like our arrangement and rendition of her torch song.
To see us perform this and more, please click here to buy your tickets for our summer show. We look forward to seeing you there!

From Queer to Eternity… What it means to me

Our summer concert, ‘From Queer to Eternity’ marks 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Tenor Simon – our Artistic Director for this season – reflects on the significance of the word ‘queer’ in his life…

As a society we’ve gone on quite a journey with this word – you can’t move for queer events popping up left, right and centre. I acknowledge some people’s ongoing discomfort with the word, as it echoes with memories of abuse and attacks, but this is about my personal connection with the word and there’s something about it that excites me! It makes space for me to be so much more than the nice, non-threatening, sexually neutered, apolitical “good gay” that I sometimes feel pressured to be. It helps me move from binary “either/or” thinking into something more nuanced and complex.

For simplicity’s sake I usually call myself a gay man, but then “gay” starts to feel a bit inaccurate and sort of meaningless. I was in “straight” relationships through my 20’s (although having quite intense same sex crushes and desires at the same time). Then I met the man who was to become my husband when I was 29. Was I bisexual for a period? When did I become fully gay? (I’m not always gay – I can be quite melancholic sometimes). That journey helped me to see the futility of trying to pin down and label something in me that was complex and fluid. At the same time accessing gay only play spaces was incredibly affirming.

Simon at the recent Pink Singers residential weekend

I understand the need for identifying together as LGBT+ in order to have political power; queerness and fluidity can be a challenge to that. I share the experience of oppression and shaming but at any point I might feel very separate from – and different to – another gay man, and very connected to a straight woman (for example). I sometimes look at aspects of what is called the gay community and feel very outside of that.

Oh then there is gender and the notion of “man”. I’m with the wonderful writer and academic Judith Butler on gender – it’s what we do not who we are. Gender is performed. Grayson Perry has recently been helping men to think about how destructive that performance can be and I think he opens up wonderfully queer vistas of possibility for a broader repertoire of roles for men.

From the moment I was born and the doctor announced: “it’s a boy”, I’ve been shoehorned into an identity with very particular attributes: be tough, be competitive, be the protector, the provider. There are moments I can be all of these things but as a result of the pressure of those messages I have developed shame around my softness, my shyness, my desire to be protected and looked after.

Simon with his hubby, Phil

So it’s a great relief to also let my sense of gender and its associated qualities naturally move around in response to the environment – and people in it – in a more flexible and liberated way. “Gay” and “Man” are just two of an increasing range of roles I can inhabit and I find myself occupying a space of uncertainty and confusion with greater ease and excitement. The Pink Singers have been central in this as a safe and spacious place to play in.

So thank you Choir.

And thank you Queer.

Tickets for our summer show are now on sale and will include songs drawn from LGBT composers and performers. We’ll be sharing the stage with Out Aloud from Sheffield and Rainbow Voices Mumbai, in order to  highlight the work being done around the world on legalising homosexuality. Click here to book! 

A weekend away with the Pinkies

Fresh off the back of our latest weekend away, which was rehearsal packed, choreography tight and party’tastic, newbie alto Eleonore sums up what it meant to her…

I was a little nervous on Friday morning as I trammelled my luggage with me to work, carrying what I hoped were all the essentials you might need for a Pinkie Weekend Away: sheet music, bottles of wine, tea-time snacks and more costume changes than you’d expect for a two-night retreat.

Despite the excellent, colour-coded schedule and very thorough brief, I really didn’t know what to expect from the upcoming trip. The choir itself may have been celebrating its 34th birthday, but I was still brand new. Being a newbie always feels a little tricky, even in such kind and welcoming company as the Pink Singers – you’re still playing catch-up, trying to insinuate yourself into conversations that are already underway, and hoping the in-jokes don’t fly too far over your head.

Little did I know, over the next two days, the warmth, kindness and inclusivity of everyone in the choir would turn these anxieties into unfounded nonsense.

The flats, when we arrived into Newlands Park, were basic but cosy, surrounded by real greenery and the kind of oxygen you get to breathe once you’ve ventured out of central London. The place had been sprinkled with little welcoming touches; our names on the doors and festive bunting in a communal kitchen that brought back strong memories of evening pre-drinks before a night out in the Student Union.

Dinner during our stay felt like a similarly school-like affair, with canteen-style trays and an assembly line of courses complete with fluorescent-coloured tubs of jelly. Simple, but perfectly tasty stuff (or as Simon announced, in typically British understatement, really not unpleasant!)

Over the next two days I got a real crash-course in choir life, alternating between serious rehearsals, informal singalongs, intense vocal workshops, educational choreography sessions, organised down-time activities (including Jeremy’s yoga and improv theatre class, and Sunny’s outdoor sports-day) and, inevitably, a whole lot of drinking and dancing.

Both Saturday and Sunday morning were, naturally, slightly groggy starts following the previous nights’ festivities, but bleary-eyed though we were, it was frankly inspiring to see – even amidst the light-hearted grumblings from the tired and hungover – how much effort was put in by everybody to show up and sing out. Special thanks should go to John and Murray especially for managing to keep us alert and in tune despite the croaky voices and droopy eyelids (… ours, not theirs.)

During the afternoon sessions over the Saturday and Sunday, we were lucky enough to have two experts giving their time and knowledge to help us. Emily, a choreographer and dance teacher, led us in a Bob Fosse workshop in which we were taught basic moves like the waft-walk, the flamingo, and the boxing kangaroo (note: probably not the real names). After that, we were let loose on the full choreography to Chicago’s ‘All That Jazz’, an opportunity which was met with great enthusiasm, if not always perfect results. I imagine even the least seasoned dancers would agree that this whole session was hugely fun, informative, and really gave us an expert’s insight into how to move our bodies – all lessons learnt to be applied in the next choreo rehearsal, of course…

Sunday’s session was with Andrea, a singing teacher, who worked with us on timing, projection, tone, and expression – all the nitty-gritty details that fine-tune a performance. It was fascinating to hear her take on what needed working on and why, and it gave us a chance, too, to really show what we could do. I think everyone stood a little straighter and sang out a little prouder that afternoon, to prove Andrea’s attention to us worthwhile.

Andrea also led individual workshops that day with Claire and Jeremy, who both stunned us with their beautiful renditions of chosen songs – Claire reduced half our row to tears with her piece, while Jeremy’s Hugh Jackman-esque tenor sailed impressively through the room. It takes a lot to stand up and perform, and even more to be critiqued in front of everyone while doing it, so special thanks has to go to the pair for allowing us to watch and learn through their session.

And speaking of performing – Saturday night’s fun kicked off with an open-mic session in the festively-decorated hall that was to play host to our much-anticipated 90s disco, complete with glow-sticks and multicoloured balloons.

We were treated to an incredible range of performances – from beautiful acoustic three-part harmonies, to a singalong 90s medley, and even a Pinkie-spin on gangster rap, the length and breadth of the Pinkies’ talents were showcased that evening in brilliant fun, good humour and with a whole lot of love.

A special performance of The Backstreet Boys’ I Want it That Way from the newbies (and a fumbled turn accompanying on guitar by yours truly) went down a storm and rounded off the set of performances that evening that were all met with rousing applause. If I had any lingering doubts that there was anything to be unsure or nervous about as a newbie in the choir, this was the moment it was done with.

The rest of the night was given to dancing – the choreography to Steps and S Club 7 was broken out, and we naturally found ourselves harmonising to classic 90s boy bands with increasing enthusiasm (and corresponding tunelessness) as the night went on and the drinks were drunk.

There’s a moment that comes during the evening, when you step back and look at yourself, sweaty and covered in glitter, jumping up and down in five-inch platform heels, yelling out the lyrics to D:Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better and you think – well. Things are pretty damn good now, too.

Home time on Sunday rolled around all too soon, though, and after tea in the sunshine on the lawn, with hefty wedges of delicious cake, contemplative and mellow and satisfyingly tired, it was time to get back on the coach and make our way back to London, a little sleepy, but still scrolling through phone snaps to hold onto the memories just a little longer.

One last memory that I’ll treasure in particular: Saturday night, going down to dinner with a group of spectacularly talented, warm, unique individuals, dressed to the nines in party gear – wigs, skirts, glitter, pom-poms, ties, suits, face-paint – a myriad of self-expression and peculiarities descending upon the cafeteria. Suddenly we find ourselves accosted by a group of schoolchildren on a foreign exchange, small faces upturned, curious, excited, open. Not a moment of judgment seems to cross their minds. A little girl asks where she can find boots that look like that. An excited-looking boy begs for a go on the cheerleader’s pom-poms.

Quietly at first, and then louder, a song starts up – my mama told me when I was young, we’re all born superstars. It’s a real-life Moment with a capital M as the song grows in volume and our voices join up in harmony. The schoolteachers smile and laugh and film us, and encourage the kids to clap and sing along, though they barely need telling, excited as they are.

Community outreach, Phillip called it afterwards, as he readjusted his wig and waved the kids goodbye. I felt incredibly moved. I’d never much felt like I was part of a community, before.

Thanks, Pink Singers, for making me feel like a part of yours.

As well as our ‘inpromptu’ performances, you can also catch the Pink Singers live at Cadogan Hall on Saturday15 July, together with special guests Rainbow Voices Mumbai and Sheffield’s Out Aloud! Click here to find out more.

London's LGBT Community Choir