Why do we sing?

What do songs evoke in you? Why do we sing? Ahead of our next concert, ‘SING!’, we asked 10 Pinkies to describe what singing means to them:

philip-rescorlaIt is easier for me to express my feelings in song than in speech. Singing lets me go through all the emotions; from joy to sadness. Singing with a choir (especially an LGBT one) is very special as you share those feelings with the rest of the choir and hopefully inspire and move our audiences. Philip Rescorla (tenor).

kate-nWhen Emelda and I got married the music we had chosen for the ceremony wouldn’t play, but luckily there were so many of the choir there that they sang us up the aisle with L.O.V.E. so it is lovely to sing it again this season! Kate Nicholroy (alto).

charly-miltonApparently, before I could speak I was singing. A Police song was my first. Singing has been a major part of my life since. It’s brought my family together, made me forget bad things and remember good things, made me cry and laugh. On the whole, it makes me very happy! Charly Milton (soprano).
Pride 2015I wouldn’t last without music; a restorative bathe in sound for me, restorative but also uplifting. Massive Attack’s ‘Protection’ came out in 1994. Since then its laconic spirit has seen me through love, loss, pain and growth. It’s about being strong and unique: two things I always strive to be. Jezza Donovan (alto).

jess-cheesemanSinging makes me feel better when I’m low and it’s firmly entrenched in my identity. I was sung to when I was little and, in turn, I’ve been singing all my life. I’ve always liked performing with other people as well, it’s a deep and unique form of connecting. I’m hooked. Jessica Cheeseman (soprano).

murray-hipkinMy work as a choral enabler is important to me because singing is physically, emotionally and socially therapeutic. It decreases stress levels, releases endorphins, benefits heart, lungs, posture, self-esteem, concentration and memory, brings people together, encourages a sense of purpose, touches souls, stirs emotions, broadens creativity and communication, crosses generations and cultures, helps to pay my mortgage and sounds quite nice when done properly. Murray Hipkin (Musical Director).

sophie-partridgeSinging has been something that’s always been there for me. It’s personal, emotive, and in the hardest times it makes me feel like I’m not alone. With music we can express so much, and I find singing helps me to tell the stories I’d otherwise be too scared to let out. Sophie Partridge (soprano).

ben-roetsWhen I think about music it’s the songs that evoke a memory that stand out for me. My favourite song is ‘Killing Me Softly’ by the Fugees; I heard it for the first time in 1999, in Covent Garden market. It was very early and people were just setting up their stalls. A musician began playing on the corner of the street, and as they did, it began to snow. It was absolutely magical for a South African like me who had never seen snow before! Even now, every time I hear those first few beats, my heart goes back to that day. Another song that’s engrained in my heart is McFly’s ‘All About You’. It was our wedding song and every time I hear it, my mind travels back to Thailand to our honeymoon. Music truly is the dance track to your soul. Ben Roets (tenor).
cilla-wrightI love ‘Aquarius’. This song was around when I was a child and became an unofficial anthem of the USA Apollo mission. It was a number 1 hit for 3 months before Apollo 11 made the first moon landing in July 1969. The first part – with the open jazz chords and unusual melody – evokes feelings of tentative optimism. We know love will steer the stars with harmony and understanding. I think this captures the mood of the USA in the 60’s. To me, the song captures the promise of progress. I do wonder if progress is really just another myth among the many myths we believe, but if it is, this is one of its best hymns. Cilla (alto).
Paul TEarly in my career I was dubbed by my colleagues ‘the singing nurse’. It stems from a day when I was working in the neonatal unit and was caring for a tiny premature baby who wouldn’t go to sleep. I was singing ‘His eye is on the Sparrow’ from Sister Act 2 to the little mite. Little did I know, most of the ward staff had gathered behind me in the bay. A rather embarrassing moment but one which very much defines my relationship with music and singing.

Come and see us all ‘Sing!’ on 14 January at Cadogan Hall! Click here to book.

Why I love to sing

SunnyOur next concert, Sing!, is only six weeks away! In it, we’ll be exploring the significance of singing and how we often use song to both express and contain our deepest feelings. In this blog, soprano Sunny talks about the importance of song in her life, which is complemented by her own delightful illustrations!

Hi, this is Sunny – ‘newbie Pinkie’ for this season. This is the first time I’ve been in a choir and I’m loving it.

There are many ways in which I love to sing. Laaaaaaaaaaaaa! I love pretending to be a rock star and singing Here I go again on my own in my best gravelly stadium voice. I love singing along with my vinyl records and wondering if I’ll ever sing in a low-lit smoky jazz bar, with a double-bass, trombone and accordion playing along. I love Eva Cassidy’s Tennessee Waltz and wish I could sing it more beautifully, and I wish I could reach both the low notes and the high notes in the same key of All The Things You Are. My colleague from years ago at work still reminds me that I used to sing out loud with my headphones on all the flipping time, in our oh-so-silent office. I’m sure it was endearing.

Sunny picMost of all, I like to sing with other people. 50 Yorkshire lads and lasses crammed into a tiny pub, drinking ale and bellowing out Sheffield Carols is one of my most precious experiences ever. I lose it laughing at that excruciating thing at weddings where everyone feels too awkward to sing properly, and we all fail to meet the high notes and fall down an octave at various points. I’m a firm believer that you should sing with gusto in such situations even if you are tone deaf.

There is something about harmony which is just magic to me – I have always adored it. Learning to sing a harmony and clashing all over the place until it comes together and sounds perfect – amazing. Listening live to close harmony singers sends me into a dream – I just love it. That’s one reason why I’m finding the Pinkies choir such a treat.

Sunny picAt rehearsals, when we have some bars rest and the tenors and basses sing, I often just want to stop and listen for the rest of the song. There’s a part in Eric Whitacre’s exquisite Seal Lullaby – a song featuring in our upcoming concert, Sing! – where the basses sing “Where billow meets billow, there soft be thy pillow”, which makes me melt every single time.

I don’t have a great voice. It’s ok, but I’m never going to be wowing the crowds with my haunting solos. Somehow I got into the Soprano section of the Pinkies despite my high notes in the audition sounding – to my ears – like a bat trying to play the oboe.

I’m naturally a fun singer, so I’ve totally fallen for our upbeat songs like Bonnie Tyler’s Holding out for a Hero and L-O-V-E. I guess in those I can act like someone else, so it feels like I can perform. I also like to laugh. A lot. So I enjoy the giggles as one person yet again sings in the unexpected rest, or we flail tryign to find the harmony for several bum notes. (It will be alright on the night, promise!). But I’m also finding some of the slower songs just gorgeous to be a part of – for example, Never Walk Alone I found hard to start with, but now I find it so poignant and beautiful.

10906422_10152659605370745_6189493634646752383_nAnd then there’s the emotion of singing. There is something in raising your voice in song that awakens and releases emotion in an incredible way. Often, it is emotion that I didn’t know was there, and then it becomes so powerful. The week my Grandad died, I was in the musical Singin’ in the Rain. I could hold it together and give a performance, but in the vocal warm up when I was just singing as me, my heart just fell out every night. And for six months afterwards, every week I went to church to sing, the words would fail me after a couple of phrases, and I would just cry. It wasn’t the words I was singing that did it, it was the act of sending your heart out in the form of music. There is healing in the emotion of singing, I’m sure of it. There is that magic in music – the magic that bonds people who sing together, the magic that envelops the listener too and makes them part of the whole. There’s something spiritual in it, there’s a lot of love in it; there’s a lot of recognising frailty and choosing beauty.

There is also a lot of fun. I’m so glad to have finally joined a beautiful choir so I get to be a part of this magic so often.

Come and see all 90 of us ‘Sing!’ – plus our guest choir Equivox – at Cadogan Hall on 14 January! Tickets available here.

Free World AIDS Day Concert this Thursday

15179033_10154682968283638_5606084014645711693_nThis Thursday, 1 December, we’ll be performing a concert at St John on Bethnal Green to mark World AIDS day. We’ll be joined by George Green’s School Choir and Trudy Howson, LGBT Poet Laureate.
Doors Open 6.45pm for a 7pm start, and admission is FREE!
This concert is funded by Tower Hamlets Council in conjunction with ELOP and Positive East. We’ll be singing a sneak preview of songs you can hear in our January concert, SING!
Click here for the Facebook event details.

Introducing Equivox

Our guest choir at our forthcoming concert, Sing!, is the wonderfully eclectic Equivox choir, from ‘Gay Paree’. (Sorry, couldn’t resist that one). 😉 Established, in 1989, at the Gay Games in Vancouver, the 80-strong choir has been singing chansons for 27 years (making them almost as old as the Pinkies!).
“Zany, fun, friendly, creative is how I would describe Equivox”, says Pink Singers tenor, Liang. “Their presence and staging is second to none. I have performed in a concert with them three times, once in London, and twice in Paris. Some of my favourite memories include doing the conga to “Let the Sun Shine” at the post concert brunch; and hearing the Parisian audience request an encore of “La Mer” which we had sung in our best French accents”.

Equivox, led by Musical Director, Babeth Joinet.

As Liang mentioned, this won’t be the first time the Pinkies have performed with Equivox. In 2008, they came to London and, we ourselves have traversed the Channel a couple of times as their guests in Paris. One such memorable occasion was in 2009, when we joined them for the ‘Des Voix Contre le SIDA’ (Voices Against Aids) concert. Soprano Tanya tells us more:
“2009 was a busy year for the Pinkies: we performed in two London concerts, co-hosted Various Voices at the Southbank Centre and went on two international trips (Paris in April and Malta in July). The April concert was my fourth foray into organising a Pinkies trip and my second to Paris. This was a little more special though. Why? Well, apart from it being our third performance with Equivox, it was also the first concert any French Health Minister had attended (quite a big deal for our French friends).
‘Des Voix Contre le SIDA’ was in its twelfth year, bringing together other Parisienne LGBT choirs (Equivox, Les Caramel fous, and Mélo’Men ), to raise awareness and funds for HIV and Aids associations. We were very honoured to be part of such an auspicious occasion. 42 Pinkies plus our Musical Director and Accompanist descended on the Trianon Theatre – a beautiful, if somewhat jaded Art Deco building in the heart of the LGBT district, for what was to be a for a fabulous evening.
Worried and anxious faces frantically tried to remember the words to the three (!!) French songs we were singing; radio mic malfunctions beamed backstage nonsense out to the theatre (thankfully only during the dress rehearsal); there were mad Equivox costumes (including a cow, a nun and a Gaultier inspired Madonna, to name but a few); the amazing, frenzied fairy ‘Babette’ (Equivox’s Musical Director) conducted in bare feet on an orange box, and of course, there was lots and lots of laughter.

Equivox and the Pinkies en masse!
Equivox and the Pinkies en masse!

It was a wonderful concert that received a standing ovation from the Minister for Health (and the rest of the audience), as well as lots of publicity and funds raised for the associations working with people affected by HIV and AIDS. This concert really deepened our connection with Equivox, which happily, continues to grow year on year”.
If our French guests have tickled your fancy, why not come and see both them and us perform in January at Cadogan Hall? Visit our tickets page for more info and book now!
To find out more about Equivox, click here.

Thirty years with the Pink Singers

Michael DerrickLast month, Pinkie veteran Michael Derrick celebrated his third decade in the choir. Whilst an active singing (and dancing) member, he has also been the Musical Director (1988 – 1992), accompanist and one of our favourite arrangers. Here, he describes how the choir has (or hasn’t) changed over the last thirty years and what being in the choir means to him.

My first rehearsal was on the last Sunday of October, 1986. It was on a Sunday afternoon because that was the only time the whole choir was free: before the liberalisation of opening hours, pubs closed after lunchtime drinking and didn’t open again until the evening. What else was there to do? Join a choir, obviously.

The rehearsal was in the basement of the London Lesbian and Gay Centre: a dingy space with a low ceiling, out-of-tune piano, no natural light, and the smell of cigarettes and beer from the previous night’s disco. We ‘suffered for our art’. There were about 15 regular singers; all men. The repertoire consisted of show tunes, protest songs, and earnest post-war German cabaret lieder. The other choirs in Europe were into pop songs and classical music but they tolerated our seriousness because we had Margaret Thatcher, Section 28 and an age of consent of 21. They knew that we were “Pink” because that was the colour of the triangle that homosexuals were forced to wear by the Nazis.

“Every rehearsal was part of a build-up to a concert: a performance and then a new set of repertoire and so on. And at every rehearsal there was the aim of putting on the next concert. So there was a very well defined set of objectives for each rehearsal. That was the choir that I joined and it’s more or less the structure that has survived to this day”.

As well as celebrating his 30th anniversary with the choir, Michael also turned 70 this year!
As well as celebrating his 30th anniversary with the choir, Michael also turned 70 this year!

Thirty years later we are still Pink, still protesting, and still rehearsing on Sunday afternoons; but a lot has changed. Most notably we are a mixed choir. “Mixed” usually means Men and Women. I am proud to say that we are much more mixed than that!

We are bigger, of course, and the repertoire is wider. Early photos show us using music – now everything we perform is off copy; early video shows us standing still or walking about on stage making simple gestures – now we have full choreography. When I go for a health check-up I always tell the nurse that I do a four hour singing and dancing rehearsal each week. This always convinces the nurse that I am keeping fit…

A strength of the choir is the large number of members who write arrangements. In the early days, arrangements had to be written because that was the only way we could perform the songs we wanted to sing. When women started to join the choir, songs were regularly re-arranged to give the increasing numbers of higher voices something to sing. We continue this tradition and it makes us very special – not many choirs do it.

“The first concert I conducted was the first concert the Pink Singers gave with women and men performing. Before that, there were women and men together on the marches, but it was the first concert. And for every single concert since then there has been a range of voices and genders in the choir. And that’s something I’m extremely proud of.”

There have been many other changes over the years but one thing has stayed exactly the same: after my first rehearsal we all went to the pub. The social side of the choir is very strong. It has often been described as a family. Friendships have been made and relationships forged. It has been a complete delight to have been a Pinkie for thirty years.