‘Tales of the Pinkie’ is our irregular series of articles looking back our history through the eyes of our members. This year we’re presenting a range of great events to celebrate our 30 years of singing together. Find out more about our history and the LGBT rights movement in our brilliant exhibition ‘Singing the Changes’ that runs 13th June – 18th August.
Former Pink Singer Tim C chats to our current member Hsien about his memories of singing with the choir, taking part in our European trips and appearing on the set of Gimme, Gimme, Gimme. Continue reading
I’ve lived a fairly sheltered life as a lesbian. No overt homophobia, I wasn’t bullied at school but then I didn’t know about gays and lesbians until I was in my 20’s and at drama school and it wasn’t until a little later that I realised that lesbianism explained my feelings towards women and not towards men. I never felt there was something wrong with me and have always lived my life as an “out” lesbian and been accepted as such by colleagues and family. Clearly this is not the case with many of my friends and last year I was brought face to face with a monstrous hate crime when various news reports told us of the death of Ian Baynham who was attacked in Trafalgar Square whilst out celebrating.
Even if I’d not been a member of the Pink Singers I’d have attended the vigil that night but being able to be an active participant gave me a huge sense of community and a feeling that I was helping to make a stand to say enough is enough. Singers came from many of the lesbian and gay communities around the country, not just London and we all joined together with one voice to sing for Ian and all our brothers and sisters who have experienced hatred and persecution around the world. Continue reading
“Let’s go back seven years. It was the time of pre-millennial fever and everyone was either planning the biggest party in history, or stocking up on tinned food, ready for the Y2K bug. How appropriate then, that the Pink Singers should receive an invitation from the makers of BBC2’s ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’, asking us to appear as special guests for their special millennium episode. How could we say no?
Of course, it wasn’t as straightforward as that. As so often happens, we were only contacted a few days before the TV shoot, and the choir would be required for half a day. Most Pinkies couldn’t make it, as they weren’t able to arrange the time off work. In fact, it looked as if we wouldn’t be able to take part, and a golden opportunity would be missed. A compromise was reached – the TV company would hire extras to make up the numbers. That’s right, we had wannabe Pink Singers in our midst!
I was lucky enough to be able to arrange time off work, so I met up with my fellow Pinkies – all six of us – at the TV studio on the day of filming. I’d never seen a TV programme being recorded before, and the first thing that struck me was how small the set was. The second surprise was seeing how short the lead actors were, so maybe television screens just magnify everything. Continue reading
As far as I know I am the youngest Pinkie ever to join. I was 19 at the time, just off the plane from Finland. Being so young also means that I wasn’t even born when Mark Bunyan and the late Brian Kennedy formed the Pink Singers in May 1983. It seems amazing to think that when I was just a twinkle in my fathers eye, the Pink Singers were born.
I cannot remember how I found out about the Pink Singers, it was probably while browsing through Diva or perhaps on the Internet, but anyhow, in the late summer 2003, I took up all the courage I had and went along to a rehearsal.
I remember wearing a bright yellow jumper and a big smile on my face. During that time the Pinkies rehearsed at the Drill Hall and we were not as many Pinkies as we are now in 2008. Now we cant even accept more altos as we have too many already. Continue reading
“I’ll be completely honest and say that my arm was very heavily twisted by Brian Kennedy, and Michael Mason of Capital Gay, to start the choir in 1983. I’d had some success with my musical the year before, and my cabaret career was going great guns, so I must admit that I didn’t really want to commit that much time to it and said that I’d do it for exactly three months.
The first choir meeting was April 7th 1983. Diary reads: ‘The rehearsal for the gay choir survived both my incompetence and the potential splits of cultural/political and male/female but we’ll see how next week goes.’ The first meeting was at the Oval House as was the one a week later: ‘There were only fifteen people at the choir practice but at least two women still. Managed to balance the meeting again between Radfems and SDP Yale Gleeclub (the latter was so silly/awful it make me giggle). Afterwards some of us went to the White Bear… Bob Stratton came in delivering Gay News and gave Brian and I a copy each “because you do things.” He’s off to Devon or would have joined the choir.’
May 15th: ‘Was late to choir practice in County Hall and felt awful and incompetent though when we got it together God Rest You sounded pretty good. The name is now The Pink Singers (over my suggestion That Choir). I enjoy it even when feeling appalling.’ I was hungover.
Saturday July 2nd: ‘Went up for the Gay Pride march – initially heralded by a small group with a large bunch of pink balloons in the middle of Hyde Park.Eventually a large crowd gathered (1500- 3000?) and self and Pink singers were plonked at the head of the crowd and had a jolly time all the way to Malet Street, especially when we all let our balloons rise in Tottenham Court Road.’ Continue reading
The Stonewall Equality Show, Royal Albert Hall, 1995:
Directed by Ian McKellen and compered by Sandi Toksvig, the show included the first live performance by Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders as Patsy and Eddie, Lily Savage, Marc Almond, Michael Barrymore – recently “out” – and topping the bill, Elton John, whom the Equality Choir was to accompany.
The Pink Singers formed the basis of the 80-voiced choir, which also included members of the London Gay Men’s Chorus, with the Pinkies turning out a record-breaking 61 singers – our biggest ensemble ever.
We rehearsed weekly (in Aldgate) without Elton John who was then touring the States. It was arranged that he would fly in and out on the day of the concert (a Sunday) via Concorde and we would rehearse with him from noon at the concert venue. We were positioned at gallery level behind him and were able to sit there throughout the evening.
We jointly rehearsed I’m in Love With a Wonderful Guy, and were most surprised and intrigued when Kylie Minogue joined him and they sang Sisters. He completed his set with “There is Nothing Like a Dame”. Continue reading
“I had tried out another choir. Their rehearsal space was in a basement, the tea break chaotic, and we were required to stand for the entire practice. When I wandered into the Pink Singers, into a room with light streaming through the windows, there were chairs to sit down, and we had our break in the Drill Hall cafeteria with tasty snacks!
But of course, those were minor pleasures. The greater ones were found in the people there who welcomed me warmly, the songs we sang (if I remember correctly, we sang No One Is Alone and Big Spender on my first day), and who was this east European fellow at the front of the room directing with such humour and skill? I joined the Pink Sisters and sang with them for over a year, from 1998 to 1999. It was not a large group of people and I liked it that way. With only a few tenors, it was important for me to be there for rehearsals and performances and I felt needed! I loved the mix of people, women and men, from many countries. Most important was that London was the largest city I’d ever lived in, and I’d found it tough to make friends, and if succeeding in that, arranging to match up our busy schedules. After a while in the choir, I realised that the Pinkies were giving me connection and community. I felt a satisfying glow to see the same people every week and to do something together that we loved. Continue reading
Saturday 22 July 2000
Philip was recovering from a bad cold and had hardly any voice (a pleasure for me and the rest of the choir). The opening ceremony at 8pm was great fun, with about 6000 choristers and their camels (the people who get involved with the choir without singing – like me). They are called camels because they end up carrying all the singers’ baggage when they are rehearsing! Kate Clinton was hilarious as keynote speaker and Harvey Fierstein was an excellent presenter.
Sunday 23 July 2000
The day of the Pinkies first concert and my first tour of duty on the choir’s merchandising stall. This was next to the Melo’Men from Paris. They had draped the European flag between the stalls thus reuniting the old enemies France and England as only dykes and queens can.
Monday 24 July 2000
This was the day of the Pinkies’ trip to Monterey and Carmel. They hired two camper vans (well, they were camper after we got in), and we crossed the mountains to the coast where we visited the Monterey aquarium. The display of sealife was interestingly set out, especially the jellyfish. The way they kept moving aimlessly but somehow reached their destination was an allegory for the Pink Singers. An evening meal in Carmel involved a lot of walking around in growing gloom and fog, until we eventually went back to the first restaurant we had seen. 8,000 miles to California and we ate in an “English pub”; but the food was good. Continue reading
“GALA in Montreal in the summer of 2004 was a big event for me. It was the first time that I was heading overseas with the Pink Singers and also the first time I had ever been to a choir festival, let alone a gay one. Even more importantly, it was the first time that Simon and I were going away on holiday together since we had started dating, so there was quite a bit of excitement to the whole trip.
Due to really bad co-ordination on our parts, however, Simon and I ended up flying to Canada separately. He went there directly, while I made a detour via New York in the company of Stephan from the basses. Stephan and I checked into a tiny little hotel room just north of Washington Square with a view of a brick wall and no natural light. But at least it was cheap! Most of our time there was spent shopping and eating, with the odd foray into Chelsea of course. Another friend of mine was in New York at the same time and, on the recommendation of a native he had picked up, we went to a very down-to-earth Venezuelan restaurant in the East Village. It pays to get to know the locals – I now visit religiously whenever I am in Manhattan. Continue reading
“I joined the Pink Singers in 1988, walking into the rehearsal ‘dungeon’ that was the basement of the London Lesbian & Gay Centre, in Farringdon. I was young and a bit nervous at first, but soon found a place in the tenor section and started to sing my heart out for the next seven years.
The first big event for me was a Christmas concert in Stratford. Why? Well it was my first concert and someone had suggested I sing a solo – Getting to be a Habit With Me from 42nd Street. I can still remember the words. I can’t remember who suggested I do it, so I can’t ‘thank’ them for the experience.
In Miami, disaster was averted when our accompanist, Brian, lost one of the pieces of music and had to run back to the dressing room. Philip Rescorla (our resident continuity announcer) was only vaguely aware of the problem and carried on making jokes. As he returned to his position next to me, I whispered, “Just in time” as Brian scampered back with the lost music. Continue reading