Category Archives: Past events

12 DAYS OF FREEDOM IN 32 YEARS!

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


Introducing Equivox

Our guest choir at our forthcoming concert, Sing!, is the wonderfully eclectic Equivox choir, from ‘Gay Paree’. (Sorry, couldn’t resist that one). 😉 Established, in 1989, at the Gay Games in Vancouver, the 80-strong choir has been singing chansons for 27 years (making them almost as old as the Pinkies!).

“Zany, fun, friendly, creative is how I would describe Equivox”, says Pink Singers tenor, Liang. “Their presence and staging is second to none. I have performed in a concert with them three times, once in London, and twice in Paris. Some of my favourite memories include doing the conga to “Let the Sun Shine” at the post concert brunch; and hearing the Parisian audience request an encore of “La Mer” which we had sung in our best French accents”.

Equivox

Equivox, led by Musical Director, Babeth Joinet.

As Liang mentioned, this won’t be the first time the Pinkies have performed with Equivox. In 2008, they came to London and, we ourselves have traversed the Channel a couple of times as their guests in Paris. One such memorable occasion was in 2009, when we joined them for the ‘Des Voix Contre le SIDA’ (Voices Against Aids) concert. Soprano Tanya tells us more:

“2009 was a busy year for the Pinkies: we performed in two London concerts, co-hosted Various Voices at the Southbank Centre and went on two international trips (Paris in April and Malta in July). The April concert was my fourth foray into organising a Pinkies trip and my second to Paris. This was a little more special though. Why? Well, apart from it being our third performance with Equivox, it was also the first concert any French Health Minister had attended (quite a big deal for our French friends).

‘Des Voix Contre le SIDA’ was in its twelfth year, bringing together other Parisienne LGBT choirs (Equivox, Les Caramel fous, and Mélo’Men ), to raise awareness and funds for HIV and Aids associations. We were very honoured to be part of such an auspicious occasion. 42 Pinkies plus our Musical Director and Accompanist descended on the Trianon Theatre – a beautiful, if somewhat jaded Art Deco building in the heart of the LGBT district, for what was to be a for a fabulous evening.

Worried and anxious faces frantically tried to remember the words to the three (!!) French songs we were singing; radio mic malfunctions beamed backstage nonsense out to the theatre (thankfully only during the dress rehearsal); there were mad Equivox costumes (including a cow, a nun and a Gaultier inspired Madonna, to name but a few); the amazing, frenzied fairy ‘Babette’  (Equivox’s Musical Director) conducted in bare feet on an orange box, and of course, there was lots and lots of laughter.

Equivox and the Pinkies en masse!

Equivox and the Pinkies en masse!

It was a wonderful concert that received a standing ovation from the Minister for Health (and the rest of the audience), as well as lots of publicity and funds raised for the associations working with people affected by HIV and AIDS. This concert really deepened our connection with Equivox, which happily, continues to grow year on year”.

If our French guests have tickled your fancy, why not come and see both them and us perform in January at Cadogan Hall? Visit our tickets page for more info and book now!

To find out more about Equivox, click here.

Equivox


I Amsterdam, I AmaSing

Daniel CraigThe Pink Singers were delighted to perform at the presigious Het Concertgebouw Amsterdam as part of the Europride Amasing Choir Festival earlier this month. Massive thanks to our wonderful hosts Manoeuvre – Gay Men’s Chorus Amsterdam and Galakoor. Here’s the low-down from bass, Daniel… 

According to the Oxford dictionary (and thesaurus) there are 2,730 positive adjectives beginning with A and honestly I could use pretty much every one to describe the Pinkies latest jaunt to Amsterdam for the AmaSing festival.

As an Aussie, it is very exciting to travel interstate to perform. Travelling internationally to do so is always a dream, and – as a part of the Pinkies – I’ve been fortunate enough to do that twice now. Firstly, Dublin and more recently, to Amsterdam – not just to sing anywhere but in one of the best concert halls in the world, the Concertgebouw.

The trip officially started off with registration at Het Scheepvaartmuseum (National Maritime Museum) where a few pinkies started to congregate. I don’t think you really appreciate your friends until you haven’t seen them in a while, so there were lots of hugs all round. The organisers then put us on a great canal cruise which allowed us to see Amsterdam from the water and helped get our bearings in this horseshoe city.

Amsterdam 2016The cruise dropped us off at Het Amsterdam Museum for our official meet-and-greet which really gave us a great feeling for what was to come. With all the recent hate crime in the world, it was incredible to get together with 600 of our LGBT+ family to chat and to sing.

After a great afternoon, most of the Pinkies retired early to prepare for our big day of performances (which turned out to be of epic proportions).

Friday saw the first of our performances: a 15 minute outdoor set and a beautiful set inside the Conservatorium Hotel. Both were greatly received with a request for more from the patrons of the hotel; however, these gigs were just the warm up for the night to come. Later that day, we had a quick sound check inside the Concertgebouw, which reduced a chorister from another choir to tears. He said, “Our opening of ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’ gave him shivers and made his eyes well up”. (Wow, we only sang 16 bars)!

Amsterdam 2016The pinnacle of the festival was the main concert in the spectacular Concertgebouw. The acoustics of this hall are world renowned (it has a reverberation time of 2.2 seconds, for those playing at home) and was certainly a spectacle to behold – for a full 6.5 hours (!!), as the concert inevitably over-ran… It’s definitely the first time I have finished a concert the day after it started.

The organisers of AmaSing had hired a park on the banks of the canal where all the choirs could leisurely watch the parade from. They even provided lunch (!) and we all sat around chatting with our new choral friends and enjoyed the stunning day that celebrated everything we believe in (and of course there were impromptu performances from various choirs as well…).

Amsterdam is synonymous with taking mind altering substances 😉 and the Pinkies’ excursion to this wonderful city certainly left us on a high.

Amsterdam 20116A huge thanks must go to the AmaSing team for a brilliant Europride event and to basses Gary and Paul for organising the trip from our end!


10 years on, and the Pinkie ‘magic’ rolls on!

TanyaOur lovely alto, Tanya, sums up our summer concert and reflects on her tenth anniversary as a Pink Singer…

(Photo credits: Pete Stean).

This summer I celebrated 10 years as a Pinkie and 50 years on the planet, all in the same week! It was a truly amazing way to celebrate with my Pinkie family, fabulous Icelandic guests and a really appreciative audience.

The Pink Singers have changed immeasurably since my first summer concert with them in 2005. Back in the old days there was a lot of standing in the same position, very little choreography, no artistic vision or presentation and less than 40 singers. However there are still the same core values: great singing, freedom to be yourself and supporting the LGBT community.

Key Changes, Summer concert 2015

Team alto: (left to right) Kirsten, Tanya and Kate.

When I joined I planned to stay for a season or maybe two. 20 seasons on, I’m still here! I’ve found a home and a family with the Pinkies and I can’t ever imagine being outside of that. Every concert I’ve done has been an amazing experience. There is nothing comparable to being immersed in the centre of that incredible sound of an eight-part harmony. The first time it happened it was a spiritual experience and it hasn’t changed at all over the years. Our summer concert, Key Changes, was no different.

Newbie Pinkies, 'popping their concert cherries'.

Newbie Pinkies, ‘popping their concert cherries’.

I loved the theme this summer; it brought together an eclectic repertoire that was both enjoyable to sing and entertaining to listen to. So many songs that were great to sing but as I was born into a political family, singing Between the Wars and The March of the Women really resonated with me, and I must say I had a bit of a lump in my throat as Sally-Anne’s soaring vocals were added to layer by layer as the choir joined in. The introduction speech by our new Alto Jeremy (soon to become leader of all altos!) was a joy to listen to: beautifully constructed, the right tone but with a laugh at the end to lighten the mood. His words reflected my beliefs and I was a very proud to be his Alto Mamma.

Once again, we were lucky to have not one but three fabulous arrangers ‘in-house’: Simon Pearson, Michael Derrick and Chris Chambers, who understand the choir’s dynamics so well they produced some unforgettable pieces for us. What better way to open the concert that to sing Chris’ incredible rendition of Relax? It certainly got the audience’s attention!

Key Changes, Summer concert 2015

‘Relax, don’t do it, when you wanna…’.

Now some of us are great movers, others a little reticent and some (including myself) are somewhat slower at picking up the moves. When we started back in February, Relax was my most challenging piece both vocally and choreographically; I was sure I would never put both bits together. Yet slowly but surely I managed to fit my ‘tschts’ and ‘digga diggas’ together with the appropriate moves and the piece came alive. The reason? The choreography/artistic team, under the direction of the wonderful Oliver Gilbody, who manage to get the balance just right for us to look amazing and yet be accessible to all 70+ members. This is no mean feat, but something they manage time after time. It was a little bittersweet at the end of the concert as Oli has stepped down as artistic director after five fabulous years. The choir has become slicker and more secure in itself under his vision and direction but I’m sure his replacement David Baxter will add his own vava’voom and build on what Oli started.  Thanks Oli, its been a blast!

Key Changes, Summer concert 2015

Lesbian legs?

Our concerts always have a bit of tongue in cheek, so it didn’t surprise me that we had a wee bit of Sweet Transvestite,  brought to life by the inimitable Simon Harrison, whose legs are the envy of many a lesbian… He is a true ‘thesp’ and a fabulous performer, and I was over the moon to have been in that number when the split pieces were announced. The other half of the choir sang Lillibulero, and pretty as it was, let’s just say that high camp is certainly more up my street.

One piece that could have turned out a bit comedic if Master Murray hadn’t emphasised the need to ‘play it straight’ was the Porgy and Bess medley. It was one of my favourite pieces, evocative and sultry and simply beautiful. We were allowed to play it up a little in places, and as a bit of a Diva I must say I did enjoy looking longingly and coquettish at the basses and tenors during ‘Bess, you is my woman now’. The acting from some of the tenors (who shall remain nameless) was worthy of an Oscar.

Which brings me to the show stopping performance from Oskar Marchock of ‘Strange Fruit’, which made every hair on my body stand up the first time I heard him sing it in rehearsal. It makes me so proud that the choir can utilise all the skills of its individuals and encourage and support everyone to do things that many would not undertake outside of our supportive environment.

Iceland choir

Our incredible friends from Iceland.

Summer seasons would not be the same without our special guests, and this season we had the true pleasure of hosting our Icelandic friends ‘Hinsegin Korinn’, a marvelously creative, warm and glorious group of people who participated in every aspect of our brand of cultural exchange with aplomb. Sitting in the gallery with anticipation of their first set I was blown away by their rendition of Aqua’s ‘Barbie Girl’. To me it epitomized the Icelandic take on life – have fun, challenge yourself and don’t take things too seriously. For such a young choir (only four years old) they are so polished and creative – it really was a joy to watch them perform. My favourite song from their set was Bohemian Rhapsody, a song that really changed the world for me when I first saw it on Top of the Pops back in the mists of time. It made me stop dead and transported me to a different world at the time and their version did exactly that last Saturday.

Key Change, summer concert 2015There are so many songs that could have fallen into the season’s theme that I’m sure the music team had a very difficult decision on which ones to pick. I for one am grateful they chose ‘Rise Like a Phoenix’, even though it is barely a year old it has already become an anthem to and for change. Personally I have explored the song to its fullest extent by singing it with 11 other Pinkies in full Conchita mode with beards and all during a Pinkies weekend away at the end of last year. That was really fun, but the arrangement for the whole choir by the lovely Simon P blew me away the first time I heard it. It is a piece I will treasure singing for years to come.

That’s the thing about being a Pinkie, each season we get to interpret the words and feelings of great composers, moving from one mood to another celebrating and reveling in true community singing. This is what keeps bringing our audiences back time and time again – our love of the songs and our desire to share that love with all who need it. Thanks for the last ten years Pinkies and bring on the next show!


PINK WITH ‘PRIDE’

 

HelenAlto Helen reviews ‘Pride’ and looks at the wider, modern context surrounding the film today. 

We heard on the news today that a British man had just been released from a Moroccan prison where he had been incarcerated having been tried and found guilty of ‘homosexual acts’. The release had occurred after intervention via political and diplomatic channels, and it is obviously good news that he is now safely home. It remains to be seen what will happen to the Moroccan man who was also arrested and imprisoned for the same ‘reason’, Jamal Jam Wald Nass; I imagine there will be no political or diplomatic ‘get out of jail free card’ for him.

It was a timely reminder that although we are tremendously lucky in the UK to enjoy freedom to live and love in private and public, across the world there are millions of others who risk imprisonment, torture and punishment by death for living the same lives we live every day. Consensual same-sex relations are illegal in some 78 countries. And being gay or lesbian could see you sentenced to death in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Mauritania, Sudan, as well as some regional states in Nigeria and Somalia.

pridePRIDE the film, reminded me of the hundreds of brave LGBTQ folk who, over previous decades, have fought to get us in the UK to this position of equality and relative safety. It evoked a time when discrimination was being written into the law, through Section 28, and LGBTQ people had to withstand intimidation and violence on a regular basis. Most would agree that life is considerably easier for us now in the UK, than 30 years ago, but people still suffer from homophobia; the fight isn’t over yet, and we need to protect the advances so hard won in the past.

Many young gay people continue to be made homeless by their families after coming out or being ‘outed’. The Albert Kennedy Trust is a wonderful, small, charity and I have seen them in action giving safe accommodation, access to a key worker, and counselling that helps these young people feel that there is someone on, and at, their side.

Homophobic bullying is still a major problem in schools; if we can enable young people to feel confident in coming out, and to avoid their self-esteem being destroyed at a young age by bullies then the next generation of LGBTQ people will be in an even better place than we are now.

Pinkies at the Flicks

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Another ‘Night at the Movies’ as the Pinkies head out in force to see Pride.

A group of Pink Singers went to see the film one Wednesday evening a few weeks ago, enjoying a curry beforehand and drinks afterwards. I have never seen a cinema so full on a Wednesday night. This was several weeks after the film was released and people were still packing in to see it. It is a big, emotional, warm film, and it tells a story that none of us had heard before, of a gay and lesbian group in London who raised money for a group of South Wales striking miners.

The emotional heart of the film for me was really about the rejection and struggle that both groups faced, with the gay group struggling to find anyone even willing to take their money due to their social pariah-like status, and the miners facing near starvation and threats from the police and the political establishment. Many people who’ve seen it have experienced the audience applauding at the end; the applause is for both groups and the way in which they equally helped each other. The way that by joining forces and supporting each other they were able to take on the establishment and change things. The strikes, the fear and lives cut short by AIDS, the bricks through windows, all seem like another world. And so does the political activism.

The Pink Singers at Pride 2014

The Pink Singers at Pride 2014

What does PRIDE mean? For many now it is shorthand for a day of the year when we get to dress up and party. This film gives us as a community much to be proud of, but the work of these wonderful activists needs to continue, to enable us to be able to dance with justification under the banner of the word ‘PRIDE’.

Being part of the Pink Singers and publicly showing myself as a gay person has helped me to feel the word; walking through London streets every year at the Pride march shows other people, sometimes in other countries, that they are not alone. Visibility is still important as we subsume into the mainstream culture and gay venues are closed. Just today I found out that the Royal Vauxhall Tavern which featured in the film is the latest venue threatened.

One of the most enjoyable weekends I’ve had was with Pink Singers at the Various Voices festival this year, an international gathering of LGBTQ choirs. Chatting to other LGBTQ singers from countries around the world really brought home the importance of the fight for LGBTQ freedom from oppression across the world as a first step, but eventually for equality for all.

PrideTo quote from the film itself:

“When you’re in a battle with an enemy that’s so much bigger, so much stronger than you, to find out you had a friend you never knew existed, well that’s the best feeling in the world. Can you see what we’ve done here, by coming together all of us? We made history!”


Pink Singers Choir Yearbook 2013-2014

Simon, Bass

Simon P

It’s our end-of-season break at the moment, a time for us to have a rest, enjoy Sundays in the park, relax and chill out a bit…

Who am I kidding. Our management committee and artistic team are already busily planning our next season and GIRL, have we got some blockbuster songs coming your way at our next London concert in January. And plenty more besides!

But before we reveal any more of that, we thought we’d take a look back at our 31st year in pictures and video. What a brilliant year, and what a fantastic one to come!

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If you’re a nostalgia junkie (like me) you can check out our last few yearbooks here: 2012-2013, 2010-2011, 2009-2010. Happy viewing!


Notes from a First Timer

Louise

Louise

Newbie soprano Louise reflects on her first concert as a Pink Singer at Notes from a Small Island last Saturday at Hackney Empire.

I have performed in smaller, more informal concerts before, and as a teacher every day is a performance for me, but nothing compares to standing under those bright and burning lights in front of over 600 people at the beautiful Hackney Empire. This was something very special.

charly-louise

Louise with Charly in rehearsal

I had felt anxious in the weeks running up to the concert, spending every spare moment listening to tracks, learning words and attempting to multi-task with the addition of choreography. But after a gruelling (and sweltering) technical rehearsal, 7pm somehow crept up on me and I can honestly say I was excited as the performance started. My concert cherry was about to pop as they say.

But would I go to death and go to slaughter? Would I panic part way through? It helped not being able to see anyone in the audience. In fact it required a leap of faith to even believe there was anyone out there until the first burst of rapturous applause after Under Pressure. Pressure off. I subsequently enjoyed every second of the entire concert, including our most challenging piece Peter Grimes. (I should add here that there was a 14 year old in the audience who loved it too but wondered why on earth we were singing so aggressively about peas and rice. Hmmm.)

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Pink rose (Photograph by Suzanne Mitchell Photography)

The various emails and text messages I have received since the concert from friends and family put words to feelings much more succinctly than I can at the moment. I truly cannot find the words that adequately encapsulate what it meant to me. They tell me the Pink Singers are a choir to be proud of. They describe the performance as SENSATIONAL. They say we demonstrate diversity, humour and passion. They say that they feel that whenever we sing it feels like EVERY person they fix on is totally committed to singing, and to them individually. All true.

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Pinkies during our tech rehearsal at Hackney Empire (Photograph by Suzanne Mitchell)

I feel both empowered and humbled by my first Pinkie concert. What an amazing thing to be part of! I am, alas, experiencing the PPBs – the Post Pinkie Blues. What am I going to do on my Sundays now? Everything now seems an insubstantial pageant in comparison. Although I have filled my summer with plans already, I will be counting down the weeks until the next season starts. And you really should come to our next concert. You may even be kissed on the nose by a gay…

With thanks to Suzanne Mitchell Photography


Reflecting on Various Voices 2014: Pt4

Liang

Tenor Liang remembers joining the Pink Singers back in 2005, and his experience of Various Voices 2014

Various Voices Dublin 2014, what a blast, what an adventure, what an experience.

Let’s rewind to January 2005. I had just watched a concert by the Pink Singers and thought, these guys are quite good and I want to have a go at it. With no training in music or singing, I joined the choir with some trepidation. Having only done karaoke, this was a new experience for me as the need to cooperate and listen to each other encouraged a sense of togetherness which extended beyond the confines of the singing and fostered a community spirit.

Fast forward to June 2014 and Various Voices Dublin. The festival was looming. With 4 days to go, I was not perfect with the “movements” (greens, Jenny?) to Shine and found myself rehearsing this to passers-by giving me weird looks. Singing in the City was a programme organised by VV Dublin to perform to and engage the public. Our first performance was in this programme at Axis Ballymun alongside the Rock Creek Singers from Washington D.C. It went down a treat and we formed a new mutual appreciation society with our American brothers. You can see a picture of us all together at the top of this post.

Barberfellas performing at Spurious Noises - Various Voices' evil twin

Barberfellas performing at Spurious Noises – Various Voices’ evil twin

With the first concert in the bag, I knuckled down to the remaining three I had to do. In between erecting the exhibition, watching the other choirs, late night partying coupled with early morning rehearsals and meeting friends old and new, this turned out to be an exercise in concentration and application – not something that I was expecting. Singing at 1am as the last act with Pink Singers small group, the Barberfellas, in Spurious Voices was overwhelming and that was the moment when I wanted to crawl away and have a little me time.

Every choir brought its own personality to the festival. It was a joy to be sharing the stage with our fellow choristers. It was an honour to be singing with representatives from Asia where LGBT choirs are barely tolerated in some countries. I laughed at the comedic shows and I cried at the heart rending performances.

Night after night, the Pink Singers took over the dance stage to show off our choreography to Proud Mary, Shine and other songs. There was probably a mole whispering to the DJ to play our songs and in true Pinkie style, we took up the challenge and jumped at every opportunity to strut our stuff, including the ridiculously difficult line dance for 9 To 5. By the 3rd night, the other delegates were joining in with Proud Mary – success!

To fully enjoy VV, you have to embrace the concept, throw caution to the wind, talk to everybody. Be prepared for anything and expend all your energy in the few short days of the festival. Who needs sleep? – we can get that when we return home.

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Liang, Josh and Peter enjoy some downtime at Various Voices

Come the end of the festival, I was exhausted but exhilarated. But the fatigue was what allowed my barriers to break down and let me bare my emotions. I rarely cry but I had shed a few tears here. It was time to go home to recover and revel in the memories of being a part of an event that had brought so many people together in a show of humanity. Various Voices Dublin, I salute you and I look forward to Munich in 4 years.

Don’t want to wait until Various Voices 2018 to see the Pink Singers? Get your tickets now for Notes from a Small Island, our celebration of British composers and songwriters on Saturday 19 July 2014 at Hackney Empire.


Reflecting on Various Voices 2014: Pt3

Mark

Chair Mark writes an open letter to future Pink Singers to tell them how awesome Various Voices in Munich in 2018 will be…

Dear Pinkies of January 2018,

No doubt the Management Committee have been banging on for a while now about Various Voices in Munich and badgering you to register so we can have a viable choir to send. As a semi-veteran of these events (Dublin, London, Paris, Montreal and Denver) I cannot recommend it highly enough.

For three days you’ll be safely wrapped in a choral bubble surrounded by like-minded singers from around the world.

You’ll not care what’s going on in the outside world. You’ll be on a constant emotional rollercoaster. You’ll be amazed by the sheer brilliance of some of the choirs. You’ll want to give standing ovations. You’ll feel for choirs appearing for the first time and visibly showing their nerves and having to start a song again from the beginning.

Sam asleep before our set. Photo by Bruce Chambers

Sam asleep before our set. Photo by Bruce Chambers

You’ll be torn between wanting to grab a short nap or going to the next concert block. You’ll probably go to the next concert block. You’ll find the Pinkie magic flows with abundance whenever the choir is together. You’ll realise that the Altos/Sopranos/Tenors/Basses* (delete as applicable) aren’t as scary as they seem at home. You’ll feel you belong. You’ll wonder how on earth you can get to see all 80+ choirs performing. You’ll be moved to tears by some sensational performances. You’ll wear your Pinkies t-shirt with pride and not want to take it off. You’ll laugh and probably drink too much. You’ll probably cry again at some point. You’ll beam from ear to ear whenever anyone says “the Pink Singers were just stunning – how do you get that sound?” You’ll walk just that little bit taller when you come off stage. You’ll be in awe of the organisers who move 3,000 people around with effortless grace and good humour. You’ll sing in bars and stairwells and on street corners. You’ll love it. You’ll want to stay for more.

Dancing on stage! Photo by Liang Wee

Dancing on stage! Photo by Liang Wee

You’ll come back with dozens of new Facebook friends from around the globe. You’ll wonder how you managed to keep going and wish you’d booked a bit more time off work to recover. You’ll wish you had learned the obligatory dance moves to Proud Mary. You’ll keep your delegate badge when you get home. You’ll talk about it for weeks to come. You’ll keep smiling. You’ll experience withdrawal symptoms. You’ll wait anxiously for the video of our performance to be posted on YouTube. You’ll wish there was another one next year. You’ll be exhausted. You’ll sleep. You’ll feel incredibly proud and lucky to be part of an amazing choir.  You’ll realise how fucking/freaking* amazing the Pinkies are and how we’re looked up to by other choirs as an example of choral perfection and teamwork.

You’ll have no voice left.

Mark (Bass and Dowager Chair) x

Don’t want to wait until Various Voices 2018 to see the Pink Singers? Get your tickets now for Notes from a Small Island, our celebration of British composers and songwriters on Saturday 19 July 2014 at Hackney Empire.


Reflecting on Various Voices 2014: Pt2

Jenny

Alto Jenny recalls her experience of the Various Voices festival in Dublin last weekend…

I’d been waiting for this for almost five years.

I first found out about the Pink Singers when someone thrust a leaflet for Various Voices London at me whilst I was minding my own business on the South Bank in May 2009.  I couldn’t go, but I sent my enquiry to the Pinkies’ New Members’ Rep shortly afterwards, and five years on, I found myself sitting opposite him on a picnic bench in Dublin, captivated, and yet also horrified, by his word-perfect rendition of YMCA. But this is the new normal.

Various Voices is an international choral festival for LGBT choirs. 2,500 singers descended on Dublin from as far apart as New Zealand, New York and New Cross for four days of flowing things, including – but not limited to – song, conversation and drink.

A lot of the choir said they hadn’t known what to expect beforehand, so with the benefit of hindsight, I thought I’d write up seven handy survival hints ready for Various Voices Munich in 2018.

1. Do not bother bringing any clothes which do not have your choir’s name emblazoned on them. You are in a small (but essentially benign) army. This is not a mufti event.

Irish Eurovision winners on stage

Irish Eurovision winners on stage

2. Study the Eurovision winners of the host country diligently, so that when your entire choir’s bass section erupts into a chorus of Ding-A-Dong, or your choir’s accompanist is standing up and rapturously waving his arms as at the coming of the Messiah, you do not have to say, ‘who on earth is this Johnny Logan chap?’

3. Eat enough green things in the week running up to the festival that you will not feel their lack when confronted by a surfeit of fragrantly spiced sausages. Luckily it turns out that Guinness contains 99% of the nutrients any normal person needs to survive for a few days. I imagine that the same will turn out to be true of Löwenbräu.

Exhibition build survivors (Picture: Hsien Chew)

Exhibition build survivors (Picture: Hsien Chew)

4. There will probably come a moment where you are overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of someone else’s performance and perhaps also lack of sleep, and need to go somewhere quiet and dark to cry a little. For these moments, build yourself an exhibition and conceal a sofa behind it.

5. Talk to as many people as you possibly can about the most random thing you can think of. Normal London service is suspended. No-one will think you are weird. You don’t even have to say hello. These conversations are the best thing about the festival.

So much Guinness.

So much Guinness.

6. You might think that you’re going to go sightseeing, but this is a delusion. All your tourist activities will be confined to the space between some sheets, the stage and a beer tent. The most impressive sights I saw were all bleary-eyed from my bedroom window: a rainbow, the Spar and a woman reading a book.

7. Visit lots of other choirs in between festivals so that walking down the main drag will make you feel like you’ve walked into an episode of Cheers. With the Pinkies, this is easy: everyone really does know our name, and some of them were even glad that we came. We have a reputation. No, not in that way. A good way. Pink love x

Don’t want to wait until Various Voices 2018 to see the Pink Singers? Get your tickets now for Notes from a Small Island, our celebration of British composers and songwriters on Saturday 19 July 2014 at Hackney Empire.

See just a few of our pictures from Various Voices 2014 below: