The Pink Singers go to Brantridge

Simon BOne of this season’s newbies tenor Simon Blakey, sums up his experiences of his first weekend away with the Pink Singers…

Mention ‘Brantridge’ to a Pink Singer and the overwhelming response will be that of excitement and positivity. I’m one of this season’s ‘newbies’ and it was easy to spot its cult status amongst the choir – an annual event which has firmly ingrained itself in Pinkie lore, it was clear to us newbies (and the numerous not-so-newbies of the previous Spring/Summer season who were yet to experience Brantridge) that it would be an integral part of our initiation into the choir. A definite weekend to remember.


10525354_10203907406700484_6570985703091873460_nExcited (and a little nervous), we arrived at the estate to settle into our apartments and gather together for dinner. We were promised that we wouldn’t starve and boy was that an understatement! We feasted like royalty throughout the weekend. After all, an army marches on its stomach… and the indisputable Captain of Brantridge, alto Jenny Cousins, made sure this army was well stocked (seriously, that woman could give Sun Tzu a run for his money on the military planning front, I’m in awe).

After dinner we all marched down to the bottom of the estate for a bonfire and fireworks, quite literally starting the weekend with a bang (and toffee apples hard enough to pull our dentures out). The Xmas jumper parade was a sight to behold. Quite how all that much polyester survived so close to the fire without combusting I’ll never know… a minor miracle.


Sam demonstrating the tilting larynx, or was it the glottal onset?
Sam demonstrating the tilting larynx, or was it the glottal onset?

The Saturday was taken up primarily by workshops and sectional rehearsals. We were honoured to have Sam Kenyon attending for the weekend, who is fast becoming an annual addition to Brantridge. Sam is a master of several trades, but his knowledge and expertise as a voice teacher were a highlight of the weekend for me. My thinned vocal folds and larynx-tilting will never be the same again.

Following a day of vocal exertion I reported to Captain Cousins for kitchen duty. I was part of the team assigned to craft Christmas dinner for everyone, a task I very much enjoyed. I was told ‘this might be one of the toughest tasks of the weekend, but it’s definitely one of the most rewarding’. How true that was. Luckily, we were a good team of kitchen wenches and dinner was a great success; absent friends were toasted (you resting Pinkies and those who couldn’t make it, you were much missed!), and then the evening really kicked off…

10393755_10154886275665357_7493555437710233179_nI’m unlikely to ever forget what came next: the annual Christmas party. By the time dinner rolled around most people had adopted their alter-egos for the evening. I counted several Madonnas, a Dolly Parton getting down with George Michael and Elton John, no less than three Freddie Mercurys, two Amy Winehouses, several Chers, one Cheryl Cole and a grand total of eleven Conchita Wursts (as well as four Wombles!?). Led by the compères to end all compères we were entertained with an open mic show of vocal treats. I was part of a group making our debut that evening (though we should really revisit our group name for next year – The Sweaty Crotchets is REALLY not appealing. Suggestions on a post-card please).


10712820_10152576042540745_6033920101232004789_nAfter a rather epic evening I awoke bleary-eyed to join another set of workshops run by Andrea Brown, a guest tutor for our final day at Brantridge. Andrea has an impressive list of credits and qualifications to her name and was an absolute pleasure to work with. I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to learn from both her and Sam over the course of the weekend.

Sunday evening saw me delivered back home, practically comatose with exhaustion, but content with memories of an engaging, productive and eye-opening weekend. What really came across most was the concerted effort everyone made to connect with members they hadn’t yet had the opportunity to meet properly. Friendships were forged and cemented, repertoire was tweaked, fun was had…what more could I ask for?

I’m brimming with excitement for our upcoming concert on the 10th January; it’s clear that it’s going to be one hell of a show, and I’m thrilled to be part of it as a fully initiated Pinkie. Thanks for the fun ride Brantridge.

Photo credits: Simon Pearson & Hsien Chew.

Why Barbra Streisand is my favourite musical legend


In the second of a series of blog posts about favourite music legends – leading up to our Legends concert on 10th January – soprano Emelda Nicholroy explains why La Streisand hits the high notes for her:
My mother has always loved musicals and I fondly remember watching some of the great movie musicals on TV with my family, often at Christmas. The Sound Of Music, West Side Story, Oliver, My Fair Lady, Fiddler On The Roof – we loved them all. But I seem to remember my mum having a particular soft spot for anything starring Mario Lanza.
YentlOf all of those films one that really stayed with me was Yentl. For quite some time I wanted to be Barbra Streisand when I grew up. The last shot of her on the boat to America belting out a note that seems to last for about ten minutes just had me gobsmacked. While the music in Yentl is amazing and La Streisand is clearly on top form (they said she was too old to play Yentl!), looking back I can’t help but wonder if something in the film spoke to me on a deeper level. She even gets the girl. (Well sort of. You’ll have to watch it).
whatsupdoc9After Yentl I began to search out all the Streisand films I could find. There is a long list: Funny Girl, A Star Is Born, Hello Dolly, What’s Up Doc, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever and many more. As well as singing and acting on stage and screen, her talents include writing, producing and directing and on top of that she has sold 245 million records worldwide. She got her first big break after being spotted performing cabaret in a gay bar in Greenwich Village in 1960 at age 18 and went on to win an Oscar, Emmy, Tony and Grammy by the time she was 28! She is truly a phenomenon.
U.S. singer and actress Barbra Streisand performs in ParisI have always wanted to see her perform live but this doesn’t happen all that often. In 2007 she came to the UK for the first time in 13 years but unfortunately the ticket prices were a little out of my reach. I was devastated and promised myself that that when she returned I would somehow beg, borrow or steal a ticket. Thankfully I didn’t have to wait too long and in 2012 she announced that she would be coming to London in summer 2013. I knew I had to go and thankfully my wife Kate appreciated this and was prepared for the large credit card bill to follow. On 3rd June 2013 I finally made it. Sure we were up in the gods at the O2 – it was an intimate gig for 13,000 of her closest fans – but it was everything I had hoped for. Age 71 and she can still hit those notes and banter with the best of them. And they played “Barbra Streisand” by Duck Sauce during the interval. Priceless.

Choral Carolling for a Cause


The Pinkies are taking to the stage at the historic Spitalfields Market, East London on Sunday 7th December to raise funds for Get Connected, the UK’s only helpline service dedicated to under 25s. One of our altos, Rachel is also a Get Connected Helpline Officer. Here she explains why the cause is so important to her and how she’s lucky to be able to combine two of her passions.

“Wooohoo it’s nearly Christmas! Or bah humbug the Christmas lights are up… kind of depends on how you feel about the festive season. It comes at us from all angles whether we like it or not, but many of us will enjoy some aspect of the occasion or the silliness that Christmas brings. There are some people that will find this time of year particularly hard – maybe because they are homeless on the streets and the cold has become too much, or the family arguments get worse, or the feelings of isolation are increased by everyone else seeming to be having a great time.


That’s why a helpline like Get Connected is so important – open 365 days of the year 1pm-11pm – the volunteers listen and support young people up to the age of 25 to discuss what they are going through and then look for specialist services that may be able to help them further. This year The Pink Singers have decided to support this vital charity at the Connected Christmas event at Spitalfields Market Fun Day on Sunday 7th December for an afternoon of carols and Christmas themed craft activities for all the family.

Get Connected 001

I am privileged to work for Get Connected and sing with the Pinkies and It’s amazing to be able to bring together two of my passions like this and raise money for such a brilliant cause! Get Connected helped connect more than 150,000 young people in crisis to the support they so desperately needed last year and the demand for our service just keeps on growing. I’d like to say a huge thank you to my fellow singers for giving up their time to raise such vital cash for this fantastic charity”.

Richard Greer, Chair of the Pink Singers, adds:

We’re really excited to be joining forces with Get Connected this festive season – it’s a chance to do something we love for such a good cause!

You can join in the festivities from 11am-4pm it is free admission but all donations are welcome and will go directly to Get Connected. Find out more at

Timeline datestamp: 07 December 2014

Legends: buy concert tickets now!

Following on from last year’s sell out concert A Night at the Movies, we’re heading back to Cadogan Hall on Saturday 10 January to celebrate some of the most gifted composers, songwriters and entertainers ever to grace our globe.
PS_LEGENDS_POSTER_4_websiteWe’ll be performing songs from artists such as U2, Michael Jackson, Joni Mitchell and Edith Piaf, as well as classics from composers including Mozart and Monteverdi.
Our special guests are the Mallorca Gay Men’s Chorus. This 40-strong male voice choir, led under the musical direction of Joan Lainez, inject wonderful harmonies and Latin passion into the evening.
Buy tickets now online or by calling the Cadogan Hall box office on 020 7730 4500.
Legends: homage to the greats
Saturday January 10th, 7:00pm
Cadogan Hall (nearest tube: Sloane Square)
Oh, and don’t forget our charity single with Bright Light Bright Light is now on sale. Buy it now and help raise funds for Elton John AIDS Foundation!

New Single for World AIDS Day

Pop artist Bright Light Bright Light records a charity single with the Pink Singers and it is released in November for World Aids Day.

Since 1983, we Pink Singers have been entertaining and educating through music, from backing Bronski Beat on “The Age of Consent” to performing at No. 10 Downing Street to celebrate equal marriage, as well as the Stonewall Equality Show in 1995 at the Royal Albert Hall.

As the UK’s longest-serving LGBT choir, many of our members have been directly affected by HIV/AIDS, so when pop sensation Bright Light Bright Light suggested that we release a charity single together for World AIDS Day we jumped at the chance.

You can listen to a taster on the SoundCloud stream below, and whilst the single is released on November 24th you can pre-order now so please do. At least 20p from each download will go to the Elton John AIDS foundation. Have a listen and let us know what you think in the comments.

Simon and Hsien have written a bit about how the collaboration came about…

Rod Thomas in Avalon Cafe, Glastonbury 2007 (Pic: Simon P)
Rod Thomas in Avalon Cafe, Glastonbury 2007 . (Pic: Simon P)

Simon: I think the first time I saw Bright Light Bright Light live was at Glastonbury festival back in 2007 (then performing as Rod Thomas). I’ve been a big fan since, following his work, seeing his performances in London and following his recent move to New York from afar.

One night at a rehearsal of one of our spin off groups Barberfellas, I played one of his songs to Hsien, who then got in touch to suggest we might work together…

Hsien: I’ve been following Bright Light Bright Light for a while now because I love his brand of electronic music. It always occurred to me that combining his considerable vocal talents with those of the Pink Singers would be a collaboration made in heaven, so you can imagine my excitement when Rod said ‘yes’ to the suggestion. I was even more thrilled when he made an offer to record a charity single together for World AIDS Day to raise funds for the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Performing at the London Lighthouse in 1989
Performing at the London Lighthouse in 1989

Through singing with the Pink Singers I am well aware how devastating a diagnosis HIV/AIDS can be. In the late 80s the choir was based at the London Lighthouse, a hospice for those with AIDS, and has many stories of friends who were lost there. Even now we have members living with HIV who continue to feel stigmatized outside the choir, so it was a natural fit for us to perform on this single.

Rehearsal day!
Rehearsal day!

Simon: putting the track together was easy – I rustled up some simple vocal arrangements together really quickly, we secured some space at a local school, and about 25 of us from the choir came together to record the choral parts. It was great fun, and we all left with the anthem firmly lodged in our brains…

Hsien: hearing our voice parts being laid down one late summer Saturday afternoon was incredible, and listening to them get expertly mixed into the final track you now hear was truly eye-opening. ‘Everything I Ever Wanted’ has a great upbeat sound, but at the same time there lurks a melancholy tinge; it is that fusion of celebration and regret which makes it so irresistible.”

It is has been a privilege collaborating with a talented singer-songwriter like Rod, and a pleasure hearing the final work come together so brilliantly. We hope that ‘Everything I Ever Wanted’ will raise much needed funds for the Elton John AIDS Foundation, and help support their frontline programmes of work helping those living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.

Timeline datestamp: 24 November 2014