London: Bright lights, Black cabs, Ab Fab and Free Love. Armed only with this optimistic vision and my Mum’s backpack (both c1968,) I stepped off the plane and into the abyss. Mind the gap indeed. Looking not unlike the wide-eyed naif from the antipodes I in fact was, I strode jauntily through the streets of London singing the Beatles and seeking…I wasn’t sure what. But I was assured Big Cities Cater to All Tastes, and I guessed I’d know it when I saw it. I hoped for something with a generous helping of Culture, lashings of Fun and a big dollop of Queer on the side. My demands were not so unusual. Certainly the less well-lit bystreets and alleyways of Soho have seen and satisfied far more particular appetites than mine. Still, I searched for weeks, to no avail. Continue reading “Mind the gap”
What will the people be like? What music will they do? Will they be good? Will I be good?” I think the phrase ‘bag of nerves’ about covers my first walk from the tube up to the slightly-imposing Royal Academy of Music. Luckily, a group of equally-jumpy individuals standing at the bottom of the stairs looking alternately at their feet and at each other showed that I was not alone. Our first rehearsal with the Pink Singers! Our shaky introductions were interrupted by a sudden influx of beaming Pinkies welcoming us & showing us up to the rehearsal room. Everyone was chatting, people of all ages & experiences, some just meeting and others having clearly known each other for years. The warm-up cleared the dust off some of my vocal muscles, and reminded me why I love singing with others so much. Mladen the Musical Director got us all in line & we knocked through some of the pieces for the season. This was the reason I’d got interested in joining the Pinkies – the music. All the choirs in London since I moved here a couple of years ago seemed to be Latin-only, gospel-only or something else. With the Pinkies we were switching from Latin to jazz, French to pop, all over the course of a rehearsal! Continue reading “Beaming Pinkies”
Like a family?‘Your choir is like ours’, smiled Aline, my host for the weekend, having met Cilla, Jo, a particularly exuberant Johnathon and I at Gare du Nord. ‘Everyone seems really friendly and welcoming’. ‘Like a family?’ I suggested. We both laughed. What a wonderful weekend followed! Equivox were the most charming of hosts, everyone enjoyed themselves and, I must say, it was one of my favourite foreign trips with the Pink Singers so far.
The dismal weather, which continued all weekend, precluded any proper sightseeing, so we headed back to Aline’s cosy flat, where she made tea and my gift of all-butter highland shortbread biscuits went down a treat – ‘now we can have tea and biscuits, just like in England!’ she laughed. Aline’s English was rather more polished than my rusty degree-level French but, with her encouragement – and Johnathon’s – we took it in turns throughout the weekend to talk in both languages.
Tea was soon followed by a memorably delicious dinner with fellow Pinkies at ‘Le Coude Fou’, a traditional French wine bar/restaurant in the Marais. By the time we got to the Open Café to meet the others I was starting to wilt a little and only managed one drink before calling it a night.
I awoke the next morning to noises from the kitchen and the smell of something delicious and savoury wafting under the bedroom door…Aline was preparing a savoury ‘cake’ for the pre-concert brunch and this was the first of several home-cooked treats over the course of the weekend – I can still taste the quiche she prepared for the brunch on Sunday, which was rapidly devoured as soon as it arrived.
‘C’est le troisième, c’est chic!’, I was told as we entered the very grand and ornate town hall in the 3rd arrondissement, where the two concerts were to be held. We warmed up in a side room, then squeezed onto the tiny stage for the rehearsal. The few hours before the first concert flew by, as they usually do when you’re so focussed on the music, Mladen’s conducting, remembering words in Latin, French and English (and trying to talk in all three), devouring savoury ‘cake’ and swigging Normandy cider!
Equivox were highly entertaining and gave a quite compelling performance. Babette, their vivacious and theatrical ‘chef de choeur’ is not so much a conductor as an artistic inspiration. She really engages each and every singer with infectious enthusiasm, demanding passion in every song. Very French! The outfits are quite a hoot too, this year’s theme being ‘beach party’.
Our own performances went down very well with the audience, who particularly loved the French pieces. It was really heartening to see people in the front few rows fondly singing the words to ‘Hymne à l’amour’ – the French still have a great affection for Edith Piaf. Aline congratulated us backstage after the first concert, saying she’d been very moved – ‘Now I can really understand the great English choral tradition!’, she enthused.
For me, one of the highlights of the weekend was our joint performance, with Equivox, of ‘Let the sunshine in’, complete with extended chorus and grinning, arm-swaying audience participation, presided over by Babette in her absolute element. It’s one of those great moments when the song leaves the stage with you and echoes through the corridors and in your head for days afterwards. What a fabulous end to the show!
The Pink Singers were formed in May 1983 by singer/songwriter Mark Bunyan and the late Brian Kennedy, publisher of Kennedy’s Gay Guide to London, to sing at the London Pride Festival. This makes us the oldest established lesbian and gay chorus in Europe. The “Pinkies” have never missed a Gay Pride march or festival since (it’s hard work being gay!). In 1991 we celebrated Pride by singing on the roof of the BBC for Ned Sherrin’s Radio 4 show “Loose Ends”. Thanks goodness it didn’t rain. In 1993 we appeared in the Pride Cabaret tent with Lily Savage, not yet a superstar. She even joined in when we sang the protest song We Shall Not Give Up The Fight, although she may have had a different fight in mind. In May 2001 we appeared at the Mardi Gras Festival in Finsbury Park on both the main stage (closing the Festival with pop group A1 singing Take On Me) and the classical stage. When the organisers introduced a Pride rally in Trafalgar Square in 2004 it was the Pink Singers who opened and closed it (a great way to celebrate 21 years as a choir). We returned in 2005 leading a packed Trafalgar Square audience in the singing of our unofficial theme song Hand in Hand. Continue reading “The Pink Singers: a potted history”
My name is Johnathon. My section is Tenor. I joined the Pink Singers in October 2003. Had you performed in choirs before? I had been in school musicals, and performed in an accapella choir in Toulouse, France.. I joined the Pink Singers because my then flatmate was going, and I wanted to do something else with my Sunday than resist alcohol-induced vomiting. What do you like most about being a Pinkie? I like singing, and socialising, and going to events. And being part of such a vibrant, fun bunch of people. Most of us are decent sorts, you know… Which songs do you most like performing? My favourite song was the Madonna medley we did, Pink Ambition, only enhanced by the ladies crawling around on the floor during the choreography. Ooh and Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Which rocks. (Diamonds > Rocks > see what I did there?) Continue reading “Pinkie spotlight – Johnathon”