Our lovely alto, Tanya, sums up our summer concert and reflects on her tenth anniversary as a Pink Singer…
(Photo credits: Pete Stean).
This summer I celebrated 10 years as a Pinkie and 50 years on the planet, all in the same week! It was a truly amazing way to celebrate with my Pinkie family, fabulous Icelandic guests and a really appreciative audience.
The Pink Singers have changed immeasurably since my first summer concert with them in 2005. Back in the old days there was a lot of standing in the same position, very little choreography, no artistic vision or presentation and less than 40 singers. However there are still the same core values: great singing, freedom to be yourself and supporting the LGBT community.
When I joined I planned to stay for a season or maybe two. 20 seasons on, I’m still here! I’ve found a home and a family with the Pinkies and I can’t ever imagine being outside of that. Every concert I’ve done has been an amazing experience. There is nothing comparable to being immersed in the centre of that incredible sound of an eight-part harmony. The first time it happened it was a spiritual experience and it hasn’t changed at all over the years. Our summer concert, Key Changes, was no different.
I loved the theme this summer; it brought together an eclectic repertoire that was both enjoyable to sing and entertaining to listen to. So many songs that were great to sing but as I was born into a political family, singing Between the Wars and The March of the Women really resonated with me, and I must say I had a bit of a lump in my throat as Sally-Anne’s soaring vocals were added to layer by layer as the choir joined in. The introduction speech by our new Alto Jeremy (soon to become leader of all altos!) was a joy to listen to: beautifully constructed, the right tone but with a laugh at the end to lighten the mood. His words reflected my beliefs and I was a very proud to be his Alto Mamma.
Once again, we were lucky to have not one but three fabulous arrangers ‘in-house’: Simon Pearson, Michael Derrick and Chris Chambers, who understand the choir’s dynamics so well they produced some unforgettable pieces for us. What better way to open the concert that to sing Chris’ incredible rendition of Relax? It certainly got the audience’s attention!
Now some of us are great movers, others a little reticent and some (including myself) are somewhat slower at picking up the moves. When we started back in February, Relax was my most challenging piece both vocally and choreographically; I was sure I would never put both bits together. Yet slowly but surely I managed to fit my ‘tschts’ and ‘digga diggas’ together with the appropriate moves and the piece came alive. The reason? The choreography/artistic team, under the direction of the wonderful Oliver Gilbody, who manage to get the balance just right for us to look amazing and yet be accessible to all 70+ members. This is no mean feat, but something they manage time after time. It was a little bittersweet at the end of the concert as Oli has stepped down as artistic director after five fabulous years. The choir has become slicker and more secure in itself under his vision and direction but I’m sure his replacement David Baxter will add his own vava’voom and build on what Oli started. Thanks Oli, its been a blast!
Our concerts always have a bit of tongue in cheek, so it didn’t surprise me that we had a wee bit of Sweet Transvestite, brought to life by the inimitable Simon Harrison, whose legs are the envy of many a lesbian… He is a true ‘thesp’ and a fabulous performer, and I was over the moon to have been in that number when the split pieces were announced. The other half of the choir sang Lillibulero, and pretty as it was, let’s just say that high camp is certainly more up my street.
One piece that could have turned out a bit comedic if Master Murray hadn’t emphasised the need to ‘play it straight’ was the Porgy and Bess medley. It was one of my favourite pieces, evocative and sultry and simply beautiful. We were allowed to play it up a little in places, and as a bit of a Diva I must say I did enjoy looking longingly and coquettish at the basses and tenors during ‘Bess, you is my woman now’. The acting from some of the tenors (who shall remain nameless) was worthy of an Oscar.
Which brings me to the show stopping performance from Oskar Marchock of ‘Strange Fruit’, which made every hair on my body stand up the first time I heard him sing it in rehearsal. It makes me so proud that the choir can utilise all the skills of its individuals and encourage and support everyone to do things that many would not undertake outside of our supportive environment.
Summer seasons would not be the same without our special guests, and this season we had the true pleasure of hosting our Icelandic friends ‘Hinsegin Korinn’, a marvelously creative, warm and glorious group of people who participated in every aspect of our brand of cultural exchange with aplomb. Sitting in the gallery with anticipation of their first set I was blown away by their rendition of Aqua’s ‘Barbie Girl’. To me it epitomized the Icelandic take on life – have fun, challenge yourself and don’t take things too seriously. For such a young choir (only four years old) they are so polished and creative – it really was a joy to watch them perform. My favourite song from their set was Bohemian Rhapsody, a song that really changed the world for me when I first saw it on Top of the Pops back in the mists of time. It made me stop dead and transported me to a different world at the time and their version did exactly that last Saturday.
There are so many songs that could have fallen into the season’s theme that I’m sure the music team had a very difficult decision on which ones to pick. I for one am grateful they chose ‘Rise Like a Phoenix’, even though it is barely a year old it has already become an anthem to and for change. Personally I have explored the song to its fullest extent by singing it with 11 other Pinkies in full Conchita mode with beards and all during a Pinkies weekend away at the end of last year. That was really fun, but the arrangement for the whole choir by the lovely Simon P blew me away the first time I heard it. It is a piece I will treasure singing for years to come.
That’s the thing about being a Pinkie, each season we get to interpret the words and feelings of great composers, moving from one mood to another celebrating and reveling in true community singing. This is what keeps bringing our audiences back time and time again – our love of the songs and our desire to share that love with all who need it. Thanks for the last ten years Pinkies and bring on the next show!