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Launching Our New Album

We’ve remastered our By Special Arrangement Part 2 concert into a live album!

David Baxter, Artistic Director

I am so proud to announce the launch of our brand new album The Pink Singers – Live From Cadogan Hall. The album features 13 tracks from our sell-out concert By Special Arrangement Part 2 which we performed in January 2020 immediately before we were plunged into lockdown. 

The album showcases some of our best-loved arrangements throughout the decades as well as some brand new compositions from our talented, in-house arrangers. The album includes one of our earliest arrangements from 1995, Corner of the Sky, revised by a long-standing member and previous MD, Michael Derrick, as well as versions of some of your favourite songs as you’ve never witnessed them before; from the classic 80s Together in Electric Dreams right through to the grime of Rag’n’Bone Man’s Human.

As well as some of our more contemporary numbers, the album includes some opera.  Composer Iain Bell worked with the New York City Opera on a piece to commemorate 50 years since the Stonewall riots. We were extremely lucky to perform the world premiere of the finale which Iain turned into SATB 8-part harmony, commissioned by the Pink Singers.

Back in 2016 we presented By Special Arrangement at Cadogan Hall and followed the concert up with a studio album. We were planning to do the same with this concert, but then Covid happened. Having listened back to our recording that evening, we made the decision to remaster many of the songs from the live concert and release a live album. 

If you were at the concert I’m sure you will appreciate this recording. If you missed it, here is a chance to hear the Pink Singers at their finest and get a taste of our uniqueness, exuberance and passion for performance.

The album is available to purchase from iTunes for £7.99 and can be streamed on Apple Music, You Tube Music, Amazon Music, TikTok, Instagram, Deezer, Pandora, and 150+ more. CLICK HERE to stream or download now! Or search for Pink Singers Live From Cadogan Hall.

So sit back, relax, listen…and enjoy!

David Baxter, Artistic Director

Live From Cadogan Hall

New album – Live From Cadogan Hall

Available now to stream and download, our Jan 2020 concert features 13 songs, remastered into one new album.

Performed to a sell-out crowd, our concert ‘By Special Arrangement Part 2’ was the second in the series (By Special Arrangement was in 2016) to solely feature arrangements by choir members as well as special commissioned works.

How to listen

The album is available to purchase from iTunes for £7.99 and can be streamed on Apple Music, You Tube Music, Amazon Music, TikTok, Instagram, Deezer, Pandora, and 150+ more. CLICK HERE to stream or download now! Or search for Pink Singers Live From Cadogan Hall.

You can stream the album straight from Spotify below. 

About the album

As well as 12 brand-new arrangements by choir members, the album features a world premiere performance from the finale of the Iain Bell’s new opera Stonewall which was arranged specifically for us.

If you were at the concert you will want this recording. If you missed it, here is a chance to hear us at our finest and get a taste of our uniqueness, exuberance and passion for performance. We hope you enjoy listening as much as we enjoyed performing.  

Track list

  1. Together in Electric Dreams – Phil Oakey & Georgio Moroder, Arr.  Giancarlo Galliani Pecchia
  2. Corner of the Sky – Stephen Schwartz, Arr. Rice Majors & Michael Derrick
  3. December Will Be Magic Again – Kate Bush, Arr. Simon Pearson 
  4. What About Us – Pink, Arr. Ian Faulkner 
  5. Human – Rag‘n’ Bone Man, Arr. Simon Pearson
  6. All of Me – John Legend, Arr. Zoe Burdo
  7. Closer to Fine – The Indigo Girls, Arr. Naomi Berwin 
  8. Rolling in the Deep – Adele, Arr. Nicki Wakefield 
  9. Rainy Days and Mondays – The Carpenters, Arr. Simon Pearson 
  10. Much to be Done (Stonewall) – Iain Bell
  11. Define Me – Ryan Amadour, Arr. Chris Chambers
  12. The Show Must Go On – Queen, Arr. Chris Chambers
  13. Proud – Heather Small, Arr. Simon Pearson

With special thanks to our concert team:
Musical Director – Murray Hipkin
Accompanist – John Flinders
London Novello Ensemble (Strings) – Gavin Davies, Karen Anstee, Tina Bowles, David Robinson
Bass Guitar – Naomi Anderson
Drums – John Clark
Artistic Director – David Baxter
Concert Producer – Simon Wilkinson

And our album team:
Sue Kendrick, David Baxter & Ben Thorner
Shaun Davies – Recording
Dom Kelly – Album artwork

And you can check out our other Pink Singers albums here.

Let’s talk about race, baby!

As October is Black History Month, Charly from our Communities Team, talks about the conversations and actions we’ve been taking this year to make our choir a more inclusive and diverse space. She also talks about her learning journey and what she has pledged to do to make herself more aware.

Charly

Following on from George Floyd’s death and the Black Lives Matter protests this summer, race seems to be the hot topic on our screens, social media, work places, at home and our community spaces. For a lot of us, it was one of the first times that race was really at the forefront of everyone’s conversations and made us question our perspective and attitudes that we had towards others of another skin colour. I was immediately sickened by the death of George Floyd and hearing the stories of other victims making their way into the headlines. I couldn’t quite believe that this level of racism existed in today’s society but then hearing from others who were around me it compounded the fact that these attitudes were still very prevalent in the UK and our everyday lives. 

Not only were these instances affecting us personally, they were also making us look inwardly at our social groups and communities and how inclusive and safe these spaces were for people. At our Pink SIngers rehearsals, we started to hear from some of our black, asian and ethnic minority (BAME) choir members and learn about their experiences of living in London as well as being in the choir. I know that when I look at pictures of the choir we are predominantly white and I wanted to understand what that meant to a person of colour, how did that make them feel and how could we improve the environment for them? 

Let’s talk about race, baby!

During our summer break, the Communities Team held two workshops for members of the choir entitled ‘Imperfect Conversations about Race’. Thanks to choir members Hsien, Shauna and Paul for making this happen and to Adè Adeniji our wonderful host. Adè is a certified coach, group facilitator, consultant and mediator who works with individuals, teams and organisations to give voice to unspoken words and behaviours, with a view to having conscious courageous conversations. He was the perfect person to create a safe space for us to have these conversations about race and challenge our thinking.

The first workshop was around the personal and relational and allowed us to explore our own personal experiences and how that had shaped our perspectives. We looked at the first time we knew that race existed and how often we thought about the colour of our skin. It made me think about my own childhood and I hadn’t realised how white it was. I was really into hip hop, soul and Motown music featuring lots of black artists but did I really know what it was like for those people growing up? We then looked at how we personally responded to slogans such as BLACK LIVES MATTER and how that made us feel and why. 

The second workshop then moved from the personal to the collective, and in our situation, our choir community. We broke up into smaller groups and discussed what needed to happen to make the choir more inclusive for more BAME LGBTQIA members and potential members. We then discussed how we could extend anti-racist priniciples to the community and wider audiences. Despite at times feeling very uncomfortable throughout both workshops and feeling like I was going to say something wrong, they enabled me to ask questions, to learn and recognise how I could change and make things better. I always thought of myself as a good ally but was I doing enough, was I standing up for them and transferring the benefits of my privilege to those who lack it? 

One participant commented:

Having been a Pink Singer for 18 years now, and having seen the issue of racial diversity, particularly with reference to the black community, come up at least 3 or 4 times over the decades, I am really glad that we are finally taking action. It is easy to absolve oneself of responsibility by saying that people of a minority want to hang out with other people in that minority, but I believe that people want to find spaces where they feel comfortable. For that to happen we need to get our own house in order and to invite people in, rather than ask why they don’t want to play with us.

Since the workshops and our conversations over the summer, some of those ideas we discussed are now coming into light. We have a working group pulling together an Equal Opportunities Policy, we have changed some of our processes to ensure we have representatives from all kinds of backgrounds in our creative and musical teams. I pledged to do some comms for Black History Month on our social media channels and to read more personal stories from people in the black community. We all made pledges to raise our race consciousness and be more aware of the issues.

My final point is what are the steps YOU can take to raise your race consciousness?

Here are some things YOU can do to be a better ally:

  • Be open to listening
  • Be aware of your implicit biases
  • Research to learn more about the history of the struggle in which are participating
  • Use your privilege to amplify (digitally and in person) historically suppressed voices
  • Learn how to listen and accept criticism with grace, even if its uncomfortable

Not sure where to start? Try visiting the Black History Month page for inspiration.

Read Pink Singers initial response to the Black Lives Matter movement, which also contains links to some charities you may wish to support.

Charly, Soprano

Timeline datestamp: 01 October 2020

Eastern Europe Project: LGBT+ lives in Russia (Part 2)

Our choir project for 2021 is focused on Eastern Europe. We kicked off the project a few weeks ago by watching the film Welcome to Chechnya  and followed up with a round table discussion to help us better understand the situation in Russia. The film is about LGBT+ persecution in Chechnya and is currently available on BBC iplayer. You can read more about the film and discussion in Part 1.

In Part 2 we hear from Misha Tumasov, head of the Russian LGBT Network. Misha gives us a brief summary of events which have eroded LGBT+ rights in Russia over the last few decades, and highlights how the current situation is still not improving. 

Misha Tumasov

Russia – whether tsarist, imperial, Soviet or democratic – has always had a very complicated attitude towards those seen as ‘different’, including LGBTI people. Like Ireland, Russia decriminalised homosexuality in 1993, but what divergent paths these countries have had! Back then I was 18 years old and people were open and ready to listen. There was a heightened interest in sex and everything connected, there were TV shows including “Pro To” (About it) led by Elena Hanga, and the “lesbian” pop group Tatu.

Since 2003, however, there have been periodic attacks on LGBTI rights. A bill to ban gay propaganda, which amongst other things denied the registration of LGBTI organisations, passed in 2006 in the Ryazan region and was adopted at the federal level in 2013.

Pop group “Tatu”

On the one hand, this has led to an increased anxiety within the LGBTI community. The emergence of organised gangs, whose goals were to search for and harass LGBTI people, led to a surge in crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), in some cases with fatal consequences. On the other hand, the persecution of activists and organisations has led to the growth of a dynamic civil society and stimulated a professionalism in Russian activism. Gradually the Russian human rights community has accepted that LGBTI people have equal rights to privacy. Even amongst well-respected human rights defenders, this was a very new concept, which is not universally agreed upon even now.

Today, Russian LGBT activism involves a wide range of individual actors from small new groups to large established organisations, each with different goals and ambitions. A lack of co-ordination means that groups are competing for limited resources. 

For example, some groups are focused on the “vote of the amendments to the Constitution” which is prioritising activism around marriage equality, currently exclusively seen as a relationship between a man and a woman. At the same time others are pursuing a campaign against the legislative initiatives of conservative and anti LGBT politician deputy Misulina which would erode LGBT rights further.

Autumn begins, and it remains to be seen how this next attack on LGBTI people in Russia will unfold.

Throughout 2021 the Pink Singers will be working on our Eastern Europe Project, centred around building relationships with choirs in Poland and Russia and understanding what it’s like for them in their respective countries. Watch this space for more information #PSEasternEurope.

Eastern Europe Project: LGBT+ lives in Russia (Part 1)

You can read Part 2 of this article here.

Our choir project for 2021 is focussed on Eastern Europe and throughout the year we will be collaborating with two other LGBT+ choirs: Voces Gaudii based in Warsaw, Poland, and Obochina, based in St. Petersburg, Russia. 

To kickstart the project off we took some time to understand what it’s like to be LGBT+ and living in Russia. Pippa gives us a summary of our first #PSEasternEurope event

A few weeks ago, the documentary Welcome to Chechnya (dir. David France) was released on BBC iPlayer. Under the Chechnyan regime, LGBT+ people are routinely kidnapped, tortured, and forced to turn other LGBT+ people in. The documentary tracks the story of a group of Russian activists, working to get people out of Chechnya to a safehouse in Moscow, in the hope that they will be able to go to other, safer countries from there.

Following the release of the documentary, the Pink Singers set up a roundtable discussion with Russian LGBT+ activists for members of the choir, to gain a better understanding of what the situation is like in Russia at the moment. Attendees were instructed to watch the documentary beforehand, and join in the roundtable via video link.

The roundtable was chaired by Ali and Hsien in the choir, with the participants Misha Tumasov  of the Russian LGBT Network, Misza Czerniak of the Poland-based Voces Gaudii choir, Paul J Dillane of Rainbow Railroad. Because of technical difficulties, Максим Дрожжин of Obochina choir could only join for the last couple of minutes, and Olga Baranova (who features in the documentary) of the Moscow LGBT Center was unable to join at all.

While the documentary is beautifully made, it is also incredibly harrowing. Being faced with the direct footage of people committing homophobic violence, and hearing the terrible stories of torture, made it very difficult to feel like there is still any good left in the world at all. On the one hand, this is absolutely necessary: real people are being subjected to this government-sanctioned violence, and we cannot simply pretend that this isn’t the case, just because it makes us uncomfortable.

However, on the other hand, the panel felt a necessary extension of the documentary. Being able not to only see the work that activists do, but also be able to have a conversation, felt central to my understanding of what we can do to stand in solidarity with people in Russia, and Chechnya in particular. One specific discussion that stayed with me, was the discussion around the role of the UK in this issue. Misza Czerniak noted that Russians living in the UK are arguably the richest Russian diaspora in the world, and he voiced his hope that this group, as well as UK-based politicians more broadly, can use their international leverage to make demands of Russia, as well as impose sanctions on the country if it is seen to violate human rights.

Misha Tumasov added that the Dublin III regulation, which covers asylum claims, needs to be updated for a contemporary context. One of the factors taken into account when processing asylum claims is the family unit. However, when someone is in a relationship or a family that doesn’t have governmental recognition, it means that there is no proof to substantiate this claim: a gay Russian couple will not be able to show a marriage certificate to prove that they are a family.

Paul J Dillane added to this that in his work with UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG) that Britain is the only country in Europe which has no time limit on detention of refugees. This means that the UK’s answer to people fleeing inhumane treatment in their countries of origin, is often to lock these people up indefinitely, for the ‘crime’ of seeking a life free of fear and torture. Indeed, there is much that can be done in the UK to provide a safe and dignified haven for LGBT+ migrants, including Chechnyan migrants.

Look out for more posts about our Eastern Europe Project. The ‘Storyville – Welcome to Chechnya’ programme is still available to watch on BBC iPlayer https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000kjnt

You can read Part 2 of this article here.

Timeline datestamp: 11 September 2020