Throughout my period directing the Pink Singers (1983 to 1988) there was a constant tension between the need to entertain and the need to be political. If there were too many non-political songs in the programme then one group of singers would complain, if there were too many political songs then another group would complain. What really kept things in balance was that we had constant difficulty finding political songs!
By December 1984 we felt ready to give our first concert and gave a Christmas concert at the University of LondonUnion. We called it our Christmas Antidote and this became a regular title for our Christmas concerts. At this timeI was still directing the group from the piano. As we had not got enough material for a complete concert, I padded the event out with a few readings and by encouraging individual singers to do solos.
This latter idea had a very strong effect on the nature of the choir; from now on, at any time around three quarters of the choir’s members would be doing solos. This led the group to develop more as a large cabaret ensemble and less like a choir. From now on the choir’s year developed some sort of rhythm with a Christmas Antidote concert in December, a birthday concert in April and some sort of event during Gay Pride.
When we had gathered sufficient repertoire we decided to make a recording. We went off to a school in Hertfordshire where one of our number taught and spent the day singing and recording. The results were successful and became The Pink Singers – Live. But the recording also made us take a momentous decision and stop being completely open entry. There had always been a group of singers who tended to drone in the background (known in the group as the hoovers) but the recording made us realise how bad this made us sound. From then on anyone could join but they had to have the confidence to sing for me at an audition. I never had to turn anyone away, simply asking people to sing seemed to make things self selecting.
The group was always extremely social. In the early days we would leave rehearsals at County Hall and go off to the Gay Tea Dances or have a meal at Bunjis, the vegetarian basement Folk club. When the London Lesbian and Gay Centre opened we sometimes socialised there, but tended to go off to the Fallen Angel in Islington. It was from here that the Pink Singers tended to be run.
In the early days the group had been very much my own baby, but as it grew in numbers and in confidence, the group of people who met at the Fallen Angel became an unofficial junta running the group. It was open to anyone who felt like coming. Eventually it seemed sensible to try and set the group of on a rather more formal basis. We had an AGM and voted ourselves a constitution; this was based on the standard one proposed by the National Federation of Music Societies which meant that we could become affiliated to this group, the first explicitly gay group to do so.
Timeline datestamp: 14 December 1983