Manchester Choral Competition

Tom Donohue

The choir comes second in the Manchester Amateur Choral Competition – the first event like this the Pink Singers entered, which saw 15 choirs from around the country meet and compete. The competition is not solely focused on the winning choir – simply the satisfaction of having sung to a high standard and the opportunity to experience and enjoy the diversity of performance from other amateur choirs. Our bass, Tom, gives his account here…

To paraphrase Kermit the Frog, it’s not easy being a Pinkie: first there’s the rehearsal commitment, where you have to sing with your friends once a week for a few hours. Then there’s the requirement to learn and perform some spine-tingling pieces. And there’s occasional travel….

So when the rallying call went out for willing participants to enter a choral competition in Manchester and spend a weekend up north, of course I jumped at the chance. What better opportunity to see the Pinkie family, crush those post-concert blues, and turn the red rose pink in the process.

Travelling up to Manchester in style!
Travelling up to Manchester in style!

We set off on a cold Friday evening and after a lively train journey, gathered on Canal Street for a night out. Much silly dancing took place – the kind that only seems to exist on holiday.

Saturday was our rehearsal day. Time to have some lunch and get down to the business of polishing our competition performance. With everyone gathered in the cosy surroundings of the downstairs room at Via on Canal Street, we ran through our songs. A last chance to dot the “i”s and cross the “t”s.

And then came Sunday, competition day. The air was filled with excitement in the foyer at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM). Choirs from across the country were here to compete for the trophy, performing in the RNCM’s stunning, newly-refurbished Concert Hall, buoyed by some fantastic support from the audience. We were scheduled to be on last, so we were able to see a good few of the other choirs perform – and as their notes resonated around the room it was clear that the standard was very high.

All too soon it was our turn. We were ushered into the warm-up room. Deep breaths all round. It feels like a different kind of adrenaline kicks in for a competition performance. A brief run-through. More deep breaths. Queuing up outside the concert hall. Then, walking on stage.

MACC 2015

We opened with Murray’s (our conductor) arrangement (remix) of Vieni Imeneo from Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, followed by a rearrangement of Blackbird and finishing with I Wanna Dance With Somebody. As the last note of Whitney drifted up to the ceiling it was time to relax a little. We didn’t have long to wait before the results came in from the judges, and…

…were thrilled to come third! following some superb performances from the Edinburgh Police Choir and the winning choir, The Noteables.

MACC 2015

The return journey seemed to pass by in a haze, with a collective sing-along through the entire Pinkies’ back catalogue. The acoustics of a Virgin Pendolino aren’t quite as glorious as the RNCM Concert Hall but we gave it a go anyway.

And so with Manchester my last cherry was popped – my “competition cherry” (in the Pinkies there seems to be a cherry for everything).

The last four months have been hard work. But, as I write this blog, watching a video of our competition performance has made me realise why I joined. It’s when people get together that great things happen. This season has been an absolute blast. Wild horses wouldn’t keep me away from the next one.

Timeline datestamp: 21 November 2009

Management committee – winter 2009

The Pink Singers executive consists of the eight honorary officers – chair, musical director, secretary, treasurer and the four section leaders – who, together with an additional four exec members, form the voting 12-member management committee.

Management committee

Mark, chair

Mladen, musical director

Jenny, choir secretary

Continue reading “Management committee – winter 2009”


Alex Field

The collaboration between a British gay and lesbian choir and a Maltese Christian choir was always going to raise eyebrows, especially if they met in Malta, where Catholicism holds sway and the Gay Rights Movement is almost non-existent.  In July 2009, however, the Pink Singers managed just that, taking their show to Malta to promote social equality through their music. 

There were two immediate dilemmas; how would the fervently religious Maltese community react to a gay choir, and would it be possible to pair the Pinkies with another choir given these circumstances.  “The gay scene in Malta is still quite backwards and limited”, Andrew says, “there are no gay choirs in Malta and they have no idea what a gay choir is…people were thinking it was going to be all feather boas and being camp”. 

Under the leadership of Andrew Francalanza, a Maltese national, the Pinkies took the first small step towards a brighter future for Malta’s gay community, achieving the seemingly impossible for a minority without a voice. Andrew Francalanza became a Pinkie in 2007, and quickly learnt “how much fun it is to go abroad and sing with another choir”.  In his capacity as International Concerts Co-ordinator, Andrew broached the idea of taking the choir to his native Malta.

At the Malta Gay Rights Movement’s suggestion, Andrew approached Symphonik, the choral branch of a Christian organisation that seeks to promote social equality through music and mirrors the Pinkies in intention and method.  “It ended up growing from just a basic concert to being something really huge” Andrew recalls; “a gay and lesbian choir singing with a Christian choir underneath the Gay Rights Movement’s umbrella to promote equality”.

Eight months of frantic organisation later, the Pinkies headed to Valetta for a large scale concert in the City Theatre, with fifty choir members travelling to Malta’s capital for the event.  Due to Andrew’s prior communication with the Maltese media and his own network of friends and contacts, the island was awaiting their arrival with a mixture of curiosity and wariness.  As predicted, some called for the Church to take a stand against the choir’s promotion of homosexuality, but the majority of the community gave the Pinkies a warm welcome.  “95% of feedback was really good” and the concert audience was very positive; “we blew them away!” Andrew says.

The joint concert was scheduled as the grand finale of Malta’s Pride week, which the majority of the Pinkies attended, having also sung at London’s Pride march two weeks previously.  “London Pride and Malta Pride are two different concepts” Andrew explains.  “London is in a place where it can celebrate being gay” with “a whole day and a big party in the streets where you can just have fun and be silly”.  Malta Pride is “an hour…half an hour of marching, half an hour of speeches, and it was…quiet.”  There was a feeling of silent anger amongst the marchers, whose banners displayed rage rather than celebration.  “Even though it wasn’t said, [the silence] was a way of saying ‘we don’t have a voice’” Andrew says. 

The Pride march had a great emotional impact on the Pinkies, with their Chair, Mark Winter, describing the scene as “London twenty years ago”.  Their presence changed the atmosphere completely, bringing joy and fun to the event and doubling the number of marchers to almost a hundred.  The Pinkies showed the Maltese gay community the way Pride should be; full of fun and, most importantly, pride in who you are.  Their positive attitude, alongside their banners and rainbow flags, had an instant impact.  The Maltese EU parliamentary representative stood up and professed his ignorance regarding the gay rights movement and his desire to work with the community towards a greater acceptance and social freedom. 

Amazingly, the Maltese Prime Minister followed his lead and has now established a lobby group to promote gay rights on the island.  Further to this, the Malta Gay Rights Movement has set the wheels in motion for the formation of a gay choir, an amazing development considering the current social ramifications of being openly homosexual in Malta.

The concert and Pride march were both an astounding success and provided the Pink Singers with a moving experience as well as new friends from Symphonik, who joined them at Malta’s only gay bar for the concert after party.  The trip’s success demonstrates the impact small actions and a positive attitude can have.  “For the choir the [trip] was a really powerful experience…it wasn’t just us singing and having fun, it was such a big political message” Andrew says, “they keep asking me when we’re going back.”

Alex Field, guest writer

Timeline datestamp: 13 July 2009

Now is the month of maying


May has its moments. In May 1983 when the Pink Singers formed I was ten years old and starting to work out that the crushes I had were on girls. How gorgeous it is to think that while I was growing up and discovering myself there was a choir, already formed, waiting for me to join it twenty five years later.
In May 1988, I was fifteen, and section 28 came into effect. Partly due to the climate of fear created around that particular piece of legislation, no one ever told me it was ok to be who I am when I was a kid. So of course I knew nothing about it when year later in May 1989 14 choirs gathered in Hackney for the fifth European Festival of Song. Zoom forward, twenty years this time, to the Southbank May 2009 and Various Voices. Now I’m grown up. I’m living the future of the kid who didn’t know who she was. But I feel like a kid again.
Ever since Various Voices finished I’ve wished I were back there so take my hand and I’ll attempt to transport you: I don’t know which way you want to come, but I reckon we should get off at Embankment and walk over the bridge. From the bridge you can see the Southbank, and the Thames, and St Paul’s in the distance. It’s sunny. Got your Pink Singers T-shirt on? No? Don’t worry you’ll get one later.
You’re a bit nervous. Will you remember the words to Dies Irae or the tune to Teardrop? You’re kind of a newbie and there are some people in the choir who have been singing for years and years. You start to see other gay people milling around. Cool. In fact, not just cool: oh my god, the Southbank is full of queers. Yes, that’s right the Southbank. As in the centre of London. As in one of the best music venues in the whole world. And guess what? You’re one of them. Take a deep breath. Put your delegate’s pass round your neck. Go in through the doors to the Royal Festival Hall. OK: on your left there’s a café. A few people aren’t here for the festival. They look at you curiously. Smile and blow them kisses. Continue reading “Now is the month of maying”