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Britten’s Advance Democracy – A rallying cry for us all

Our upcoming concert on Saturday 11th January at London’s Cadogan Hall will feature homegrown arrangements from our talented choir members. In the run up to the concert we are sharing information about some of our favourite arrangements, some of the artists and pieces we will be performing and how we go about creating such a magical sound that delights our choir and audience alike.

Charlotte Rushworth

Soprano Charlotte Rushworth talks about her music choice for the concert and what the piece means to her.

As a child I lived in a coastal area on the borders of Suffolk and Essex. It’s a beautiful area of the country; flat, marshy, salty, windy and remote. I would play music, sing music, listen to music and dream of becoming a famous musician travelling the world and breaking free from this eerie coastal backwater. I lived in an area that was immensely proud of its connection to our most famous local musician Benjamin Britten. We could all sing or hum his ‘big numbers’ by heart and loved and adored him and his fantastical ability to paint in music the surroundings and environment in which we found ourselves.

When I was asked to find a piece of classical music that could be sung in the fantastical environment in which I now find myself, the obvious starting point was Benjamin Britten and I spent a blissful two days listening to every choral work he wrote searching for a connection to the theme of this concert.

And eventually I found it.

Advance Democracy was commissioned in 1938 by the London Co-operative Society as the writing was on the wall for the outbreak of the second world war and Europe was swirling in a mire of pure evil. It was designed as political propaganda to be used as a rallying cry against a pan-European dictatorship. 

This incredible piece of music documents the rise of fascism with staccato rhythms and clashing intervals. A deeply disturbing legato soprano introduction (repeated through all the voices) evokes the creep of fascism. The unison rhythmic lines unite in a call to resist the rise of evil. And the section towards the end where the word time is repeated 8 times invokes the listener (and performer) to resist evil, question the world we want for ourselves and empowers us to seek change and a more equitable future free of menace.

Advance Democracy has the magic ability to transcend the twentieth century and travel forward to where we find ourselves today – in turmoil with the world that surrounds us. We need a rallying call to rise up against the menacing powers that creep forward to pollute, discriminate and divide. It’s as if Benjamin Britten has risen from the salt marshes and pebble beaches and has come forward to shake us around the necks and implore us to “rise as a single being … time to rise up and cry”. 

Charlotte Rushworth

By Special Arrangement – Part 2
Saturday 11th January 2020 – 7.30pm
Cadogan Hall, Sloane Square, London SW1X 9DG

By Special Arrangement – Part 2

Saturday 11 January 2020 – 7.30pm
Cadogan Hall, Sloane Square, London, SW1X 9DG

The Pink Singers: By Special Arrangement – Part 2 celebrates over 35 years of our musical development, showcasing the diversity and talent of our members through our very own arrangements and compositions.

The concert will feature a handpicked blend of songs, tailor-made to delight your ears with full eight-part harmonies. With music from artists such as Queen, Adele, Rag’n’bone Man, The Carpenters, Kylie Minogue and Beyoncé, we will be performing your favourites as you’ve never heard them before.

Alongside these home-grown arrangements, our 90-strong choir will also perform commissioned works by the likes of Benjamin Britten and Eric Whitacre.

Rye Arts Festival

Saturday 21 September 2019 – 6:45pm
St Mary’s Church, Rye, TN31 7LB

On Saturday 21 September we will be performing at the famous Rye Arts Festival! Featuring numbers from our recent show Divas Through the Decades, the evening will celebrate the likes of Barbara Streisand, Kylie, Annie Lennox, Diana Ross and many more – all wrapped up in gorgeous 8-part harmony.

Who’s your favourite DIVA?

Since our upcoming concert is all about “divas”, the choir have been talking about who THEIR favourite diva is. You might be surprised by some of the answers (and not so much by others!)

My favourite Diva song is I’m No Angel sung by one of the great divas, Mae West. One of the most controversial and iconic women of the early 20th century, she wrote her own Broadway plays as well as the screenplays to her films. Her play The Drag (1928) was one of the first plays to feature gay men in a positive light and, of course, got banned.  She is still best known for her cheeky double-entendres. “When I’m good, I’m very good. But when I’m bad I’m better”. “When I have to choose between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before.”

Philip Rescorla, Pinkie 1987 – present

My favourite Diva is Shirley Bassey because she knows how to belt out a ballad and sparkle in her sequinned gowns. Even her body language screams: I’m magnificent…turn away if you dare! And she once shared a spliff with my mother back in the early sixties…super cool.

Simon Harrison, Pinkie 2008 – present

The person who springs to my mind is Freddie Mercury. He knew exactly what he wanted and he went out and got it. Plus he wasn’t afraid to slip into a sexy black miniskirt and pink top for the video of I Want To Break Free. And what an incredible voice!

Ali Milton-Doyle, Pinkie 2014 – present

Barbra Streisand…Watching her with my first girlfriend in A Star is Born singing Black Black widow… with the Oreos, tssss zap ooocha koo choo. First time i really understood how vocal parts jigsawed together. Plus the immortal answer to “Ms Streisand, how do you hold your notes so long?” reply: “Because I want to”. Diva.

Philip Engleheart, Pinkie 2015 – present

My favourite diva is Pink! I really love big pop songs and she does them so well. She also really advocates for the LGBT+ community – her music videos feature same sex couples, she talks openly about not conforming to gender norms, and speaks up about equality and the importance of being true to yourself. Wait! Can I have two? I cant mention divas without talking about…

Lady Gaga! I think she is the true definition of a diva. She makes such a statement with whatever she does, and is not scared of what other people think of her. She is also an amazing musician and has written some of the best pop songs of the last 20 years…if not ever. She is also a really prominent LGBT+ rights advocate. She is openly bisexual and speaks out about bi-erasure and the importance of being inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities; her Born This Way Foundation does really important work with LGBT+ youth groups; her infamous meat dress was in fact in protest of the US Armed Forces’ “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy which prevented members being openly gay whilst serving in the military…I could go on. A true legend – and absolute diva!

Kirsten Pulley, Pinkie 2012 – present

One of my favourite divas, though it’s hard to choose one, is Keith Flint from The Prodigy. Keith was renowned for donning heavy eyeliner, spiky hair, gurning and leaping around on the stage like a possessed wild child. I fondly remember getting into dance music when Firestarter was released and me and my friend going bananas, dancing just like him. He really was unique; even though he wasn’t heavily involved in making the music he was the person who made The Prodigy shoot to stardom. Sadly Keith passed away this year, but he’ll always be remembered for his vivacious energy. RIP Keith.

Charly Milton-Doyle, Pinkie 2012 – present

Who’s your favourite diva? You might find that they feature in our show next Saturday 15th June, at Cadogan Hall. Get your tickets now before they sell out!

Timeline datestamp: 4 June 2019