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.
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.
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.
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: