Category Archives: Hand in Hand – Choir Profiles

Hand In Hand with Pride

Philip

Philip

Following a wonderful weekend in Brighton at the Hand in Hand Festival, tenor Philip reflects on the song that gave the festival its name, and looks forward to Pride in London on the 27th June, with its theme of Pride Heroes.

As of April I have been with the Pink Singers for 28 years, which is about 70 in gay years. In that time I have sung many different pieces, from the classical to the camp, from the profound to the political, often in the same song!  Some continue to have a very special meaning for me. This is the story of one of them, Hand in Hand; a song which has become almost an anthem for the Pink Singers.

Hand In Hand was written by American composers Dawn Walker & Tricia Rodgers in 1987. I first heard it when the Pink Singers sang in Denver, Colorado in 1992 at the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses Festival. Around 60 choruses from the US and Canada attended with the Pinkies representing Europe (alongside Schola Cantorosa from Hamburg). Those were difficult days both at home and in America with anti-gay legislation and the impact of AIDS hitting us hard.  In this context the words of the song struck a chord with us and we brought it back to London. It soon became a favourite with our audiences and the title of our first CD. The live version on that recording still brings a lump to my throat.

Hand in Hand 2013Hand in hand 
We’ll be the strongest we can be 
If we learn to stand by those in need 
With shoulder pressed to shoulder 
We will build a mighty wall 
And nothing in the world 
Can make us fall, 
If we stand, hand in hand. 

A particularly poignant performance took place at the memorial service in St Anne’s Churchyard, Soho, for the people who were killed and injured in a nail-bomb attack in the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho on 30 April 1999. The bar in Old Compton Street, at the heart of London’s LGBT+ community, was packed with drinkers at the start of the bank holiday weekend. Two people were killed and over 30 injured. The Soho community gathered together a week later and the choir led the singing with Hand in Hand.

In 2004 Pride London was founded. And over 30,000 people were tempted to central London for a parade and rally in Trafalgar Square. Pride gives the LGBT+ community the chance each year to celebrate, demonstrate and show visibility and support to people still coming out. By 2004 some felt the event had lost focus with overblown ticketed pop festivals undermining the purpose of Pride and alienating many groups in the community. The first London March was in August 1971 organised by the Gay Liberation Front and we ended up then in Trafalgar Square where I took part in a piece of street theatre called “Choosing the Chicken”(!) about the age of consent.

PridePride 2004 was an attempt to return to grass roots and as such the Pink Singers were asked to open the afternoon’s events in the Square by singing “Hand in Hand”, the perfect song for the occasion. We sang it again in 2005, this time closing the rally with the words on the big screen for everyone in the square to sing along. Seeing the crowds in the Square from the stage under Nelson’s Column is very thrilling, a forest of raised joined hands in a real display of the song’s message.

In July 2013 we invited LGBT+ choirs from around the UK and Ireland to help us celebrate our thirtieth anniversary with a festival of song which we called Hand in Hand. We were joined by 17 LGBT+ choirs and individual members of other choirs at the Troxy in East London for a memorable evening of choral togetherness. Never did the words of the song seem more relevant.

We are delighted that the Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus and Rainbow Chorus have carried on the festival and successfully hosted a wonderful weekend – see Ben’s reflections below for more! #HandinHand


Hand in Hand Hits Brighton

Ben P

Ben P

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.

18827244665_c884297c9e_zHand 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.

1795646_10153381818854106_3726127871090474090_nBright 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!

Hand in Hand June 2015We 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.

Hand in Hand June 2015Our 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.

Hand in Hand June 2015I 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!


Hand in Hand: guest choirs uniting to perform en masse!

Jerome, UK Concerts Director

Jerome, UK Concerts Director

This Saturday, when you come along to Hand in Hand – our 30th anniversary festival, you won’t just be watching us Pinkies! We’ll be joined by a whole host of other LGBT choirs from around the country. Not got your ticket yet? Buy yours now!

Joining us to sing along as part of the massed choir in Saturday’s evening concert, we welcome London Alternative Choir; Southampton Gay Men’s Chorus; Rainbow Voices, Birmingham; Liverpool LGBT Singers; Northern Proud Voices, Newcastle, and Many Voices, London!

London Alternative Choir

London Alternative Choir is a choir composed of capable amateur singers, created with the aim to entertain, meet like-minded people, and raise the visibility of people and collectives with alternative lifestyles. Continue reading


Hand in Hand guest choir spotlight: Diversity

Michelle, New Members and Social Secretary

Michelle, New Members and Social Secretary

This Saturday, when you come along to Hand in Hand – our 30th anniversary festival, you won’t just be watching us Pinkies! We’ll be joined by a whole host of other LGBT choirs from around the country. Buy your ticket now!

Another local choir joining us on Saturday is the fabulous Diversity!

All about Diversity

Diversity is London’s LGBT community chamber choir. The choir was formed in 1992 with the aim to sing classical music, along with the best choral music from a diverse mix of other genres.

 

Diversity, London

Diversity, London

They have developed and grown over the years from a small group of friends to being 50-strong with recent performances at venues such as the Southbank Centre and St Martin-in-the-Fields. Beyond their concerts, they are also actively engaged, along with London’s other LGBT singing groups, in a wide variety of community festivals, events and projects. Continue reading


Hand in Hand guest choir spotlight: London Gay Men’s Chorus

Simon, Multimedia Director

Simon, Multimedia Director

On Saturday 13th July, when you come along to Hand in Hand – our 30th anniversary festival, you won’t just be watching us Pinkies! We’ll be joined by a whole host of other LGBT choirs from around the country. Not got your ticket yet? Buy yours now!

Continuing our tour of guest choirs, we’re privileged to be joined by Europe’s largest gay choir, the handsome LGMC!

All about London Gay Men’s Chorus

The London Gay Men’s Chorus is Europe’s largest gay men’s choir. Our mission is to entertain, educate and inspire through song – performing to the highest standard and challenging preconceptions of gay men.

 

London Gay Men's Chorus

London Gay Men’s Chorus

In 1991, nine friends came together to sing a few Christmas carols at Angel Underground Station hoping to raise a few pounds for the Terrance Higgins Trust. London was in the midst of the AIDS crisis and the men, who belonged to a social group called London Friend sang together to find a place of support, of friendship and of brotherhood. Little did they know what they had kickstarted. Continue reading


Hand in Hand guest choir spotlight: Thames Valley Gay Chorus and Rainbow Chorus, Brighton

Michelle, New Members and Social Secretary

Michelle, New Members and Social Secretary

On Saturday 13th July, when you come along to Hand in Hand – our 30th anniversary festival, you won’t just be watching us Pinkies! We’ll be joined by a whole host of other LGBT choirs from around the country. Not got your ticket yet? Buy yours now!

Today we introduce two more choirs participating in our amazing festival day

All about the Thames Valley Gay Chorus

Thames Valley Gay Chorus

Thames Valley Gay Chorus

Since 2003 the Thames Valley Gay Chorus has (under various names) been a relaxed and friendly place for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from across the area to indulge their passion for singing. They get together on Sunday afternoons to sing, learn new skills and new songs, have fun and forget the day-to-day for just a couple of hours. The music they perform ranges from classical and sacred music through jazz, blues, songs from the shows to pop – there’s sure to be something for everyone!

Members come from all over the Thames Valley (and beyond!): currently Abingdon, Basingstoke, Binfield, Bracknell, Caversham, Emmer Green, Hungerford, Maidenhead, Newbury, Reading, Tilehurst, Uxbridge, Winnersh, Woodley, and Yeovil. Continue reading


Hand in Hand guest choir spotlight: Leicestershire Rainbow Voices and Sing With Pride Norwich

Jerome, UK Concerts Director

Jerome, UK Concerts Director

On Saturday 13th July, when you come along to Hand in Hand – our 30th anniversary festival, you won’t just be watching us Pinkies! We’ll be joined by a whole host of other LGBT choirs from around the country. Not got your ticket yet? Buy yours now!

From Belfast we fly back over the water to the Leicestershire Rainbow Voices!

The Leicestershire Rainbow Voices

Leicester Rainbow Voices

Leicester Rainbow Voices

Leicestershire Rainbow Voices was formed in November 2009 to bring together the LGBT community, their friends, family and supporters to share in a mutual love of singing and performing. As a choir, we embrace and celebrate our diversity through song and believe that our strength is found in our growing membership that now encompasses 24 members from all walks of life.

 The choir is proud to be in the safe hands of our Musical Director, William Northmore, who has been with the group since day one and provides us with valuable musical knowledge. We welcome members from all musical backgrounds and provide an opportunity for individuals to develop their skills in singing and performing, and offer a social platform for choir members and supporters to interact. Continue reading


Hand in Hand guest choir spotlight: Quire

Simon, Multimedia Director

Simon, Multimedia Director

On Saturday 13th July, when you come along to Hand in Hand – our 30th anniversary festival, you won’t just be watching us Pinkies! We’ll be joined by a whole host of other LGBT choirs from around the country. Not got your ticket yet? Buy yours now!

From Manchester we cross the Irish Sea to Belfast and the magnificent Quire!

All about Quire

Formed in 2005, Quire is Northern Ireland’s only LGBT community choir with a membership of 30 women and men, singing in four parts.

Quire, Belfast

Quire, Belfast

Their mission is to excite, empower, educate, encourage, entertain and enrich the members of Quire, the LGBT community, and the wider community through the celebration of music making, diversity and friendship.

In pursuit of Quire’s mission, they have performed throughout Ireland, at community events large and small, as well as staging their own concerts at Outburst (Northern Ireland’s annual queer arts festival), at the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival and at The MAC Belfast during Belfast Pride 2013.

Quire is proud to count on support from LGBT advocates, actor Simon Callow CBE and Belfast-born singer, Brian Kennedy.

June 2010 saw Quire’s television debut when they performed on BBC One NI’s Art Space programme.

Quire’s repertoire is varied, ranging from traditional to musical theatre, pop and classical.

 


Hand in Hand guest choir spotlight: Manchester Lesbian & Gay Chorus

Simon, Multimedia Director

Simon, Multimedia Director

On Saturday 13th July, when you come along to Hand in Hand – our 30th anniversary festival, you won’t just be watching us Pinkies! We’ll be joined by a whole host of other LGBT choirs from around the country. Not got your ticket yet? Buy yours now!

From the Deep C Divas in Leeds we cross the pennines to the mighty Manchester Lesbian & Gay Chorus!

All about the Manchester Lesbian & Gay Chorus

Manchester Lesbian and Gay Chorus

Manchester Lesbian and Gay Chorus

MGLC are a friendly, diverse group of people who love to sing, and welcome members with a wide range of abilities; no previous training or experience is required.  They perform regularly at Pride events, Civil Partnerships, concerts and parties.

Formed in 2000, they have gone from strength to strength and won a string of awards, including

  • World OutGames 2006 (Montreal) – Bronze medal
  • World OutGames 2009 (Copenhagen) – Silver medal
  • Manchester Amateur Choirs Competition 2010 – Third place

They’re currently welcoming a brand new musical director Laurence Kaye and we can’t wait to have them performing with us.


Hand in Hand guest choir spotlight: Deep C Divas

Michelle, New Members and Social Secretary

Michelle, New Members and Social Secretary

On Saturday 13th July, when you come along to Hand in Hand – our 30th anniversary festival, you won’t just be watching us Pinkies! We’ll be joined by a whole host of other LGBT choirs from around the country. Not got your ticket yet? Buy yours now!

From Kent we head north all the way to Yorkshire, and the Deep C Divas!

All about the Deep C Divas

Deep C Divas on stage

Deep C Divas on stage


The Deep C Divas are a lesbian choir based in Leeds, Yorkshire. They formed in January 1999 after two of its members had attended the 1998 Amsterdam Gay Games and seen choirs performing in the cultural festival there.

Inspired by what they saw, they formed a choir and quickly went from strength to strength. Four years later they attended the Sydney Gay Games VI and took part in a brilliant choral SingOut program, the highlight of which was singing at the Sydney Opera house.

Their repertoire is varied and includes songs originally made famous by Dusty Springfield, KD Lang, the Beatles, Karine Polwart, Holly Near and Chaka Khan.