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.


This Magic that We Call Pinkies

Soprano Sophie relives the ‘magic’ of her first Pinkie weekend away… 

When you join the Pinkies you immediately know what you’re getting yourself into. This is a group of people who are so instantaneously warm and loving that they automatically become family. There’s a reason we joke about it being a cult, because this is a team that, even after only eight months of membership, I know will forever be a massive part of my life.

There are many in-jokes and terminologies bandied about in the Pinkies: we all know by now how to ‘dolly’ up our voices, and cherry-popping is a well-loved right of passage for all Pinkie newbies, but there’s one phrase that you overhear a lot when you first join that no-one ever truly explains – Pinkie Magic.

Up until a few days ago, I thought I knew what Pinkie Magic was. Because there truly is something so beautiful in voices joining together to express something through music – and when the Pinkies get it right, boy do they get it right. You only need to look at the reaction to ‘Holding Out For A Hero’ at our January concert. I’m (arguably) a performer professionally, but never have I felt as much warmth and happiness following anything I’d done onstage as I did in that moment. Everything came together and we delivered a message to our audience of community, of strength, of love; and I believe that everyone in that room felt it and will remember it for a very long time. That is Pinkie Magic.

But there’s another side to the magic that I think can only be truly appreciated after an extended period of time with the Pink Singers (namely dancing the night away and then still facing a warm up the following morning…). And that is what I had the incredible honour of experiencing this weekend.

I was the kid who grew up on musical theatre summer camps, and there’s nothing I enjoy more than a packed timetable where I spend my time doing nothing but singing, dancing, eating and sleeping. But no matter how well-scheduled, how good the music or the calibre of the teaching – though as everyone will attest, this was all outstanding this weekend – what truly makes a residential is the people.

This weekend was a trip that I already find impossible to put into words, but at the same time something I want to talk about for weeks, to the point I’ve written this blog post just as an excuse to reminisce even more. I took so many photographs, just to attempt to capture any of the stardust that seemed to be all around us, so that in years to come I could look back and remember – this was good.

Anyone could tell you the incredible things we achieved this weekend during the planned sessions. Learning the ‘All That Jazz’ choreography with the fabulous Emily was a massive highlight. Finally feeling like we were nailing down some of those tricky sections of score! And, even on a hangover, the noises that Andrea got us making during Handel’s ‘Happy’, it felt truly incredible.

But like I say; a residential is made by the people. And these Pinkies are the people who have my back (and have had it through some really hard times over the last few months), and they are the people who created my true highlights of the weekend – every moment we just got to spend time together.

Some of my highlights: running full speed onto a stage to not miss a second of the Steps ‘Tragedy’ choreo; Aoife playing her guitar as people blew massive bubbles and I sat making daisy chains in the sun; trying to decide which shade of lipstick would best enhance Jerome’s 90s aesthetic; the astonishing versatility, beauty, and humour of everyone onstage during the open mic; learning which of the Pinkies actually like teacakes;  discovering that Eléonore can not only sing, rap in French, cook, draw, and be exceptionally tall, but apparently now she plays guitar too?!

And more! Belting out ‘Born This Way’ opposite two pretty-in-Pink Pinkie cheerleaders for a canteen filled with French schoolchildren; being secretly happy that there was so much traffic on the way back into London because, even though I was exhausted and very excited about the prospect of bed, it was one more minute I got to spend with some of the most stunning, golden-hearted, magical people I know. Thank you, thank you Pinkies, for counting me as one of you and for letting me share the best weekend I’ve had in years.

So, it’s now Monday lunchtime. I’ve finally caught up on sleep, I’ve dusted the last of the 90s glitter from my face, and I have just one question I’d like to ask – can we go back now please?

If you would like to experience some ‘Pinkie Magic’, we’ll try and provide some at our next concert this summer! Book tickets now for our ‘From Queer to Eternity’ Show on Saturday 15 July at Cadogan Hall! 


17 May #IDAHOT

This IDAHOT (International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia) day, 17 May, the Pink Singers performed at a private event, to celebrate the achievements of LGBTQ+ staff at the offices of one our long-standing sponsors, EY. It was a wonderful evening, with song and art and a sense of not just acceptance, but welcome, and we were lucky to be a part of it. Alto Zoe shares her thoughts on the day.

Just exactly how lucky we are has been brought home to me and other members of our choir – and the wider LGBTQ+ community – in recent months. The UK in general, and London in particular, is a broadly decent place to be queer or gender non-conforming. Not that that means it doesn’t have its problems – Northern Ireland is still dragging its feet on marriage equality, and violence against members of our community still happens. But we have legal protections and rights, hard won by activists and campaigners over the years, and whatever someone’s private opinion of us might be, they don’t get to use that as a reason to discriminate against us any more, at least not legally speaking.

Contrast that with the situation in Poland – where a concert we’d been invited to take part in was cancelled as none of the venues wanted to be associated with ‘gays’; or the USA, with the interestingly paranoid ‘bathroom bills’ and threats to roll back LGBTQ+ protections; the horrific situation in Chechnya, which seems to keep getting worse, with world governments seemingly reluctant to get involved beyond disapproving frowns – would there be that same reluctance if the target were another minority group, based on skin colour or religion, I wonder?

It’s easy, sometimes, to forget how far we’ve come, especially when you know that despite progress, there are still battles to be fought. So last night, singing with my Pinkie family, surrounded by out and proud guests, with London glittering behind us, I counted my blessings – and readied myself to keep shouting for those who don’t get to enjoy that same sense of welcome.

For more pinkies magic, make sure you come to our concert, ‘From Queer to Eternity’, on 15 July at Cadogan Hall – tickets available here!

 


Johnny Kirkman on Joining the Pinkies

In the second of our newbie blog posts, tenor Johnny talks about how music has been with him throughout his life and the newly found importance of Handel and Grace Kelly…

I don’t think I realised quite how important singing and making music was to me before I joined the Pink Singers just two months ago.

Since I was a teenager, choirs, orchestras and musical theatre have been a central feature in my social life, but I left my last choir in 2015 because of work and personal commitments. Apart from the odd tinkering on the piano and tipsy karaoke attempt, music was absent from my world and I thought I didn’t really need it.

It was not until I was standing amongst the tenors a couple of weeks ago – the top Es of ‘Grace Kelly’ screeching out of us – that I realised how much I had missed it. But more than that, I missed being part of a group of people making music.

And this is what is probably most special about the Pink Singers. There is a sense of community, fun, friendship and acceptance woven throughout this music making.

So, a week later, I was in my new section (the tenors), learning Handel. The following week, a newbies party to welcome everyone was laid on. Now, two months in, I have a few songs nailed, a lot of learning still to do and am getting my head around choreography – as well as getting to know some fantastic people and hopefully making some lasting friendships.

That’s not to say that the music isn’t important – the choir make glorious sound that I am relishing helping to be part of – it’s just that this doesn’t feel like an ordinary choir: it feels like a community and that’s special, and why I am enjoying myself so much.

All of a sudden I feel like a Pinkie and I can’t quite believe I’m a convert so quickly. I am looking forward popping my Pinkie cherry – as we call it – in July, as well as the opportunities to sing, socialise, meet new people from all walks of life. I’m also looking forward to connecting with other choirs from around the world,  as I continue on my pink hued journey. 🙂

Tickets for our next concert, ‘From Queer to Eternity’ are now ON SALE! 


From Queer to Eternity – tickets now on sale!

This summer, we are returning to Cadogan Hall for a sizzling evening of choral music to mark 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Our repertoire will be drawn from LGBT composers and performers as well as music that has been meaningful to these communities.

Entitled ‘From Queer to Eternity’Songs of Struggle and Celebration, the evening will cover music from a rich variety of styles and genres including artists such as Leonard Bernstein, Dusty Springfield, Queen, Erasure, Joan Armatrading, Mika, Radiohead, George Michael, Lady Gaga and Christine and the Queens. Classical numbers will include a rousing chorus by Handel and a moving spiritual by Michael Tippett.

Special guests

We are delighted to be sharing the stage with two special guests choirs: Out Aloud from Sheffield, and – to highlight the work being done around the world on legalising homosexuality, as part of a year-long exchange project – we will also be joined by Rainbow Voices Mumbai, India’s first LGBT choir.

Prepare to come on a musical journey with the Pink Singers: from hidden to visible… from shame to pride… from Queer to Eternity.

Click here to book tickets! 


Hackney’d harmonies – joining the Pink Singers

Our lovely newbies are settling in to the new season, and getting to grips with memorising music scores and learning choreography! We asked two of them to reflect on their first few weeks: first up is alto Eléonore who tells us about singing out proud and what made her decide to join the Pinkie family. 

Moving to London from Reading in 2015 was without a doubt the best decision of my late twenties, but the experience of a newfound freedom and the access to the ever-trendifying mecca that was Hackney came with an insurmountable caveat – flat-sharing.

Wonderful people though my flatmates turned out to be, the proximity of our bedrooms unfortunately required the indiscriminate use of headphones for anything that might not necessarily be appreciated by everyone through the paper-thin apartment walls at 11pm on a Tuesday night. It also meant – my own rule, equal parts consideration and self-consciousness – no singing OUT LOUD.

Sopranos and altos – old and new – at the newbie party!

The last time I had sung properly in any capacity was in my university choir, but that was a good many years ago; every passing year making it seem like one of those nostalgically-remembered things you used to do in your youth and would probably never do again, like drinking in skateparks or wearing bondage trousers from Camden Market in public.

Enter the year 2017, and in the general atmosphere of political upheaval and social unease left to us by 2016’s Brexit-and-Trump maelstrom, it suddenly seemed more important than ever to get around to all those things on that vague Life Goals Or Something list I made every year. It was time to turn at least one of those bullet-points, the hesitant “join choir y/n?”, into a reality.

I’d heard about the Pink Singers before, had seen them marching at Pride and watched some of their concert footage online, and it seemed to me they’d be a great bunch of people to join. I sent an email enquiring about auditions – just in the nick of time, as it turns out, as I got an email straight back from Zoe telling me auditions were to be that weekend!

Cocktails at one of our favourite post-rehearsal bars in town

My first pre-audition rehearsal was a whirl of new faces and varying vocal ranges around me. We did some singing – and were beautifully serenaded – and my ability to remember names was thoroughly tested as everyone happily introduced themselves. There seemed to be so much friendliness shared around the room that despite the stern reminder I had given myself to keep my expectations low in case I mucked up the audition, I started getting my hopes up.

Luckily, I didn’t muck up the audition – mostly thanks to the encouraging and not-so-scary-after-all faces of Murray and John peering at me over the piano, and the support and kindness of the current Pinkies who assuaged all our newbie nerves with bracing words (and a pint in the pub beforehand…).

Being given the opportunity to sing again after all this time, and in the company of such a welcoming group of people, who all sing out proudly – as the saying goes – from the same song-sheet, has been an enormously invigorating experience these last few months. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the season will bring.

If you would like to see Eléonore and the rest of the choir perform on stage, then come along to Cadogan Hall on Saturday 15 July, as we present, ‘From Queer to Eternity’. Further details coming very soon!

Pink Singers performing at Cadogan Hall in January 2017!


Mumbai Musings: part 4

Our fourth and final India blog comes to you from another Pinkie. Tenor Hsien put in MANY hours to make this trip happen, from organising seminars, liaising with the Rainbow Voices Mumbai team, and branding the whole project to handling the vast majority of the logistics! (We think he must have made a clone of himself to have achieved all that he did…). Anyway, this is what the experience meant to him. 

We live in a time where forces are trying to separate us, where difference is something to be feared rather than celebrated, and where populism has thrown up barriers between communities both within and without national borders. When, two years ago, the Pink Singers first started planning our trip to India to sing with Rainbow Voices Mumbai, India’s first LGBT choir, we had no idea that the world would change as much as it has, nor could we have predicted that the need for our collaboration would have been as great.

It is a truism that music brings people together, and an international choir collaboration is nothing new, but when two choirs identify as LGBT and perform jointly in a country where being gay is still criminalized, the added dimension creates the opportunity to not only learn about how culture, society and history affect each other’s LGBT experience, but also explore common ground.

The first formal event of the week sought to both analyse this and serve as an ice-breaker, and was a seminar at the American Consulate General in Mumbai. The topic of discussion, “LGBT representation in the arts”, was timely given the partial coming out in the recently published memoirs of Karan Johar, a famous Bollywood actor. While much of the discussion naturally focused on community arts and, in particular, choirs, we had the privilege to be joined by the director Onir whose ground-breaking film “My Brother Nikhil” continues to have ramifications on the film industry today. He gave us a candid insight into the tension between his own coming out and the challenge of carving a career without labels for himself.

Panelists included representatives from the Pink Singers and Rainbow Voices, as well as director, Onir (seated fourth from left).

It served as a springboard for members of both choirs to discuss their own experiences. Indeed, what the two choirs shared with each other – our stories of coming out, of family pressures, of first dates, of singing in choirs – showed that our similarities were far greater than any differences between us. Judging by how the conversations flowed into dinner and a late night karaoke, there is a strength in the knowledge that we are not alone, and that out there, there is a community of singers just like us.

The joint ”We Shall Overcome” concert at the prestigious National Centre for the Performing Arts Mumbai was an emotional rollercoaster for many of us precisely because of this: in the context of these personal testimonies, every song sung by both choirs took on an added significance. When, as our finale, we sang an a capella version of “We Shall Overcome” together in English and Hindi, it was a moving show of defiance and solidarity from which I could not hold back my tears.

My personal highlight of the whole weekend, however, was marching side-by-side with Rainbow Voices Mumbai at Queer Azaadi Mumbai (Mumbai Pride). It was a raucous, colourful march full of energetic dancing, the sound of drums and singing, but at its core it was also a protest with hand drawn placards and strident chants of Azaadi! (Freedom!), reminding curious onlookers that this was very much a demonstration.

I have now returned to the UK with fantastic memories, newfound friends, a much deeper understanding of the challenges the LGBT community faces there, and a strong desire to help Rainbow Voices Mumbai in their twin fights against Section 377 and for social acceptance. It has also made me appreciate that I cannot take any of my liberties for granted: were it not for the quirk of fate which led me to be born in the right place at the right time, my life could have been very different. It makes all the divisions we seen being artificially created around us, all the more irrelevant. I can’t wait to see Rainbow Voices Mumbai again when they come to London this summer for Pride in London.

We’re still fundraising to bring Rainbow Voices Mumbai to the UK, to see what it’s like to march in a Pride parade where everyone can be themselves and live without fear. We’ve raised over £5,000 already, thanks to our supporters’ generosity. We need to double this to bring every member of RVM here in July. Can you help us reach our goal? Donate via our website www.pinksingers.co.uk/india2017 or email chair@pinksingers.co.uk for more information.


Mumbai Musings: part 3

In the third of our blog posts about the Pink Singers’ India project, Rainbow Voices Mumbai member Aniruddha tells us about meeting the Pink Singers for the first time, making friends and feeling uplifted in the battle against Section 377, the law which criminalises homosexuality in India.

At the Kashish Film Festival 2016, during the closing ceremony Rainbow Voices Mumbai were on stage, performing with lots of energy and beautiful songs. After the performance Vinodh Philip announced that the Pink Singers from London would be coming to India to perform with the choir. Sitting in the audience I was jealously thinking, ‘how lucky they are to be able to perform with the Pink Singers’. Little did I know what destiny had planned for me…

Two months down the line there I was sitting at the RVM’s audition session and by the end of the day I was a part of the choir! Every Sunday, we rehearse and our teacher David Williamson makes sure each one of us hits the right note, at the right time, and in the right pitch. Every night, I’ve been watching YouTube videos of the Pink Singers and thinking “they are really good!”

So 2016 ended and with the beginning of 2017, the month of our concert arrived, called “We Shall Overcome”, referring to the battle every queer person in India faces to be accepted. Rehearsals were in full swing with all the other arrangements going on around it; organising the venue, licences, costumes, the programme and lots of fundraising!

We finally got to meet the Pinkies on the 25 January 2017. It was 5.30pm at the American Consulate library when the door opened and the Pink Singers entered. Our eyes saw the colours of a rainbow, every handshake felt like a promise to support us in this battle for freedom, every hello and hi was saying ‘I am here for you’.

As I looked around the room the Pink Singers and RVM sat with each other. No barriers, no walls, no difference of colour, caste, religion and language. Suddenly from you and me, we became us.

RVM planned a Karaoke night for the Pinkies and what a night it turned out to be! Every trace of tiredness, jet-lag and fatigue was gone. We sang, we danced, we ate, we drank and raised our glasses to toast the beginning of a new friendship and collaboration.

Getting to know you.. RVM were fantastic hosts and became firm friends during the trip. 🙂

Next day, rehearsals began and we learned the choreography for our joint song, “Born This Way”, by Lady Gaga. We performed in front of the Pinkies and they performed for us. We were learning so much from them. Later we went for dinner together to eat delicious Indian food. We spoke to each other about our lives, loves, careers, hobbies and of course, lots of gossip! It made us feel that although we are from different countries we’re all so similar. We have so many of the same dreams, hopes and aspirations.

Then D-day arrived at the National Centre for Performing Arts, Mumbai. The Pinkies were a stunning vision in all black and each wearing a pink rose. RVM wore black pants, Nehru jackets and rainbow coloured shirts.

RVM took to the stage with a huge round of applause. Standing there we saw an auditorium full of people known and unknown to us. Each song was followed by thunderous applause and it just made us more confident and happy as the night went on. We sang songs of hope, happiness, traditional songs, and a fun Bollywood number.

Next the Pinkies took to the stage and took everyone’s attention. Every song and every move they made was flawless and it was sheer magic to watch them perform. I felt like I was listening to a movie soundtrack. Truly inspiring. 🙂

Then for the grand finale, the Pinkies and RVM collaborated to sing “Jai Ho”, “Born This Way” and “We Shall Overcome”. It was no longer two choirs, it was one community, singing in one voice and spreading the message “all for one and one for all”.  We felt united in that moment.

The concert ended with seemingly non-stop applause and cheering echoed around the theatre. We met the audience, took so many photographs and felt just like celebrities! We felt accepted as we declared to the world, “I was born this way and I am not ashamed”.

The following day was our Pride March – “Queer Azaadi” – which means Queer Freedom. The choirs marched together with heads held high and singing as we went. Pride in India is a protest against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalises homosexuality. This is not just a legal battle; we are up against a very strong and deep rooted social, religious, political and personal prejudice. It’s a tough battle and we are ready. This magical, musical pink touch of the Pink Singers gave us a new boost, a new momentum and new courage to fight.

So now that we are back in our daily lives, we at least know we have a new group of friends in a far off land silently praying, wishing and cheering for us. We shall overcome.

We love you all Pinkies and see you soon! 

Aniruddha xoxo

We’re still fundraising to bring Rainbow Voices Mumbai to the UK, to see what it’s like to march in a Pride parade where everyone can be themselves and live without fear. We’ve raised over £5,000 already, thanks to our supporters’ generosity. We need to double this to bring every member of RVM here in July. Can you help us reach our goal? Donate via our website www.pinksingers.co.uk/india2017 or email chair@pinksingers.co.uk for more information.


I did it!

Newbie soprano Sunny, takes us on her journey from frightened to (almost) fearless and describes what her first – ‘cherry popping’ – performance with the Pinkies was like following our recent concert at Cadogan Hall, ‘Sing!’. 

Last year, I realised I was frightened. What a sorry state of affairs! Frightened of everything (except the things that scare normal people, like perilous heights, jumping into roaring oceans, spiders, and letting people down by being late). Frightened mostly of life and whether it was stuck rotating like a scratched record of Edith Piaf growling a lowish note to a sad song.

Today, I’m feeling mildly (but not very) self-congratulatory, because Frightened isn’t my word any more. I don’t know what is. Blank-page? Expectant? (not in a mother-type way, mind), Wondering? Bumbling? Silly? Fun-loving‘s back on the menu. But not on its own. I feel lifey again though.

I bloody did it. I stood on a big stage with my lovely big gay choir, and sung the heck out of some big gay songs. And it didn’t even feel monumental, it just felt like performing’s what I do, and this was a lovely new community to be part of, and here I was and it was good.

[Photo credit: Jess Rowbottom]

My Pinkies journey began a few years ago when I sat in a lovely comfy seat in the beautiful Cadogan Hall, and watched my friend Alex sing with them. At the time I was struck by the quality of the performance, and also keenly aware that I was not yet comfortable with labelling myself as LGBT+ by joining.

But, my journey continued, and the time became right, and I auditioned. It was still a big step for me, and I was really nervous and pretending really hard that I wasn’t overwhelmed. In many ways, I was on familiar ground – I’m used to joining musical groups and getting on with new people and learning songs.  But I was stepping out into new territory from a cultural perspective, and learning as I went.

[Photo credit: Neil Cordell]

I have been really impressed by many things, but I’ll mention two in particular. Firstly, the concerted effort that the choir and committee made to welcome new members – clearly thought had gone into it, and we were made to feel a valued part of the community so quickly. (It helps that there’s a big crew that go to the pub after rehearsal too.) We were given bits and pieces to do in the songs, stood in prominent positions, and welcomed warmly. Secondly, the number of people that volunteer their time and talents to make the Pinkies function so well, in so many different ways. This really is a community.

The build up to the concert was massively exciting, but the day itself was amazing. And long! I was hosting a lovely French chanteuse called Martine who was part of our guest choir Equivox, and somehow we arrived at The Cadogan on time, in spite of my propensity for being late, and eating Pain au Chocolat for breakfast (just trying to make her feel at home…. ).

This season’s crop of newbies, about to ‘pop their cherries’ and walk on stage for the first time as a Pinkie!

Then there was a very smooth tech run – I’m used to the theatre where people always end up shouting at each other, but there was no hint of that here. And then about 90 minutes of crazy mayhem with about 60 Sopranos and Altos from two choirs squidged into a dressing room, and much flailing of hair-curling tongs and requests to borrow the liquid eye-liner, and “where’s my flower?” yelled across the morass.  Then some bizarre ceremony for us newbies involving cherries and photographs and we were off!

The concert itself. I didn’t think I was nervous as I’m used to going on stage. But then I forgot the words in the second song for a few seconds and realised I was. Unsurprising – I think I was internalising what the occasion was. I had my parents in the audience, many friends who’ve held my hand on my journey, and my church group, yelling and waving like the crazy loons that they are. And I just went for it – hit the moves, hold your head up high, concentrate on Murray and let rip!  It was brilliant – the audience reaction at the end like nothing I’ve experienced before. Woohooooo!

On stage at Cadogan Hall, Jan 2017. [Photo credit: Jess Rowbottom]

Then there was a very sedate after show party….. Oh ok, perhaps the truth is that at one point I accidently twirled an Equivox choir member violently onto the floor in a dance-off to Hairspray’s You Can’t Stop The Beat. Oops. Je suis desolee.

We start rehearsals for the next Pinkies season in two weeks. I can’t wait to get back. I’ve found this brilliant group of people, remembered how much joy singing brings, and I’m excited to be a part of it.  To quote a Christian song I like: The sun comes up it’s a new day dawning, it’s time to sing your song again.

If you’d like to join the Pink Singers, you’re in luck as we still have a few spaces open to audition for our upcoming season that runs from February to July.  Auditions will be held the last weekend in February and first week in March. Fill out this form with your details to register your interest and we will send you all the details! 

To see more photos from our concert, please click here. 🙂


London's LGBT Community Choir