Last weekend the Pink Singers went to Brighton to join 17 other LGBT choirs from all over the UK and Ireland at the second bi-annual choir festival, Hand in Hand. Bass Ben Park give us the low down…
The Pink Singers hosted the first festival back in 2013 at the Troxy, London and we’d been looking forward to the next one for months, so I was really excited to be escaping from work early on Friday afternoon to head down to the coast for a great weekend of singing with friends old and new.
Hand in Hand is like a bubble of workshops, concerts and socialising. There’s lots of singing and not a lot of sleep. Our Friday evening started at the Old Ship on the seafront where we met some of our fellow choirs, nearly all of whom we’ve performed with in the past. In the 9 years I’ve spent in the choir I’ve been privileged to meet some amazing people all over the country and it’s always brilliant to see familiar faces coming together.
Bright and early on the Saturday morning we were off to Brighton Dome to register. A few hours later and after a couple of workshops (“Asian Jazz Improvisation”, anyone!?) it was time for the first of the main concerts which was preceded by the first ever Brian Kennedy Long Service Awards. As one of the two original founders of the Pink Singers, Brian did a huge amount of work for the gay community in London and created a place for people to come together and sing. Incredibly, his legacy lives on today in the Pink Singers that I am proud to be a part of and I’m incredibly grateful to him and Mark Bunyan for deciding to get a group of singers in a room and start note bashing. During the awards it was brilliant to see so many singers who have sung in their own choirs for ten and twenty years. I look forward to my bronze medal at the next Hand in Hand!
We were delighted to open the evening concert to a packed house full of friends, family, and participating choirs. I was really proud to sing two of my husband’s arrangements –’Smells like teen spirit’ and ‘Relax’. Our songs were incredibly well received and hearing the applause from an audience who really know what it’s like to be part of a choir and singing with your friends on stage was a brilliant moment, even for a cynic like me.
Our performance was over in just a few minutes and we were able to watch all of the other fabulous performances from the likes of our hosts Rainbow Chorus and Brighton GMC, Diversity, Sing out Bristol and the Deep C Divas. Whilst all the performances were brilliant, two really struck a chord for me: LGMC’s performance of ‘Through the Barricades’ accompanied by a video of the difficulties many thousands of LGBT people continue to face around the world was a stark reminder of how lucky we were to be sat in a concert hall packed full of people who have the liberty and freedom to be honest with the world about who they are, largely without any difficulty. In addition, formed as part of the campaign for a yes vote at the Irish same-sex marriage referendum, Tá for Grá gave an equally moving (if a bit more lighthearted!) performance of ‘Sew on a sequin’ reminded us to be fabulous, even when the going is tough.
I left Brighton on Sunday knackered, hungover, sounding a little hoarse and ready for an early night. More than anything else, I left feeling happy and lucky to be part of such an amazing group of people. The next Hand in Hand takes place in Manchester but isn’t for two whole years! It seems like an eternity to wait, but we’re already looking forward to it.
In the meantime, the Pinkies will be performing their summer concert, Key Changes, on Saturday 11th July at St. John Smith’s Square. Book your tickets here!