Pinkies do Pride

Duong talks through a busy Pride for him and the choir and how this year has been particularly poignant. He talks of how thankful he is to those who have campaigned for our rights over the past 50 years and how the past few days have given him a new perspective on being human as well as LGBTQ+.

Duong, Tenor

Wednesday 30th June

After a full on weekend performing with our friends Voces Gaudii and marching in Warsaw Pride the choir were back 72 hours later at the Science Museum lates. We’ve performed here before, so it was familiar territory and is always a fun gig. It was the first opportunity for many of our members to perform some of our new repertoire and the audience were really enthusiastic throughout our two sets. Some of us also partied into the small hours.

Friday July 1st 2022: Afternoon

Charly picked me up on the way to the Gay Liberation Front march at midday. We carried the Pink Singers’ banner, excited and happy, as we knew there would be brothers and sisters marching with us. 

Fifty years is a long time in LGBTQ+ history, but it is even longer in the lifetime of human being. The Pink Singers are so fortunate to have Philip as one of our members and I am so proud of what he has done for the LGBT+ community. Philip was there in 1972. He was part of the Gay Liberation Front and he was involved in the first Pride march in London.

The original marchers reunite for the 2022 GLF march

When the original marchers from 50 years ago stood together under the rainbow flag to start the 2022 Gay Liberation Front march, I could not hold back my tears. Being queer today is not an easy life, but I realised that I have taken so much for granted. And without Philip and all the members of the GLF who stood up for what they believed in and who have relentlessly campaigned over the years, I know that my life could be so much worse. 

Duong with Philip and Charlie

Philip, thank you very much for fighting for us, for teaching us not to give up and for telling your story. We love you!

Friday July 1st 2022: Evening

I went from the march to perform with the Pink Singers at the Liberal Judaism Synagogue. I confess that I know very little about religion (not just the Jewish religion, but other religions too). I grew up in a non-religious household and whilst every street has a pagoda,  they were more like communal gardens than a holy place. Having said that, I am aware of being respectful of any religious space. 

As with any other performance, the choir first warmed up, got organised and then got ready to be on stage. But this time things felt different. I don’t know whether there is a strong connection between the LGBTQ+ and the Jewish communities but what I did see was that music and love connected us all. The synagogue was filled with emotions from warm hearts. Audience members of all ages clapped, danced and sang with us and above all, joined our love. It was very touching that after our performance, many people came to us sharing their feelings about our music. I realised that there should be no barriers between humanity. No one was born with prejudice and no one should be judged by their sexuality, gender or faith. I learnt a beautiful lesson on that night.

Saturday, July 2nd 2022

This year The Pink Singers again sat out the main Pride in London parade while the organisers are working on some equality and diversity issues. But we still celebrated Pride by gathering at a picnic in Embankment gardens. It was a beautiful day with lots of sunshine and it was an opportunity to catch up with people that  I haven’t seen in a very long time. We sang (as if we ever don’t) and felt the rainbow atmosphere from London. There were lots of Pinkies hugs and kisses after watching and waving to LGBTQ+ friends in the parade. I could not ask for more.

Sunday July 3rd 2022

To round off a full-on Pride week the choir gathered together to record the audio track of our next video.  It will be super special as it is being done with a brand new artistic idea visually. All will be revealed soon…. Can you guess what song it is?

Duong, Tenor

Warsaw – My first pinkies trip

The Pink Singers trip to Warsaw to sing with our friends Voces Gaudii was our first trip abroad in over two and half years. Tenor Will gives us a run-down of all the exciting things that happened over our four-day trip.

Will, Tenor

Two years ago, I was attending a Pink Singers rehearsal over zoom alone in my flat. It had already been a tough 3 months, having to move out of London and move back in with my mum. I was away from friends, alone with my own thoughts and separated from a community who I had only just joined, still riding high from my first pinkies concert at Cadogen Hall. 

Thankfully, each Sunday rehearsal added a little joy to my isolation and kept my going week-to-week. The team running the rehearsals also would share videos from the pinkies past, and in this particular rehearsal we were watching the video of the Pink Singers marching with Rainbow Voices Mumbai. It was obvious how meaningful this trip was to those who went, and looking at all my chosen family smiling, laughing and swapping anecdotes about trips past filled me with hope for the future. 

Well, after over two years, the Pink Singers travelled to Warsaw to sing with Voces Gaudii. We have been in communication with the choir over the last few years and have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak with them and learn about their choir online. As an LGBTQ+ community, it is so important to understand the history and community of our global family. Whilst our stories may differ based on the culture, history or regime, we all share in a perseverance for progress, safety and equality. What I did not expect was to have so many personal stories in common with members of the choir, not to mention the amount we all giggled together! 

On the parade

On Thursday, we had our first meeting with Voces Gaudii in Ramona Bar. It was so lovely to meet the members of the choir and the energy was electric. Our hosts had prepared traditional polish snacks and, as was the case for most of the trip, I am pretty sure I spent the evening with food close by. In true pinkies fashion, it did not take long before we were all singing in both Polish and English, and it was amazing how quickly the two choirs blended their voices. 

Friday was concert day. After a lovely morning with the pinkies exploring the old town of Warsaw, we travelled to Kino Elektronik ready to perform. I am sure that it was a concert that none of us will ever forget and Voces Gaudii blew us all away. The weaving of beautiful traditional Polish anthems, to the power house performances of Muse’s “Uprising” and the particularly camp rendition of the Spice Girls “Wannabe” were particular highlights. However, performing “Born This Way” with Voces Gaudii blew the roof of the building! We spent the rest of the night in a local LGBTQ+ karaoke bar, dancing and singing the night away in metaphorical (and literal) perfect harmony! 

Will with Keri and Rachel

On Saturday we marched in the Equality March. Although no official figures have yet been released, we were informed that it was the largest LGBTQ+ event in Warsaw to date. This was my first pride-like event that I have marched in, and it was particularly momentous to see the happiness emanating from the community. After the march we went to Lunapark, a wonderful and wacky hybrid between a pop-up festival, a drag circus and a community meeting place. As someone who loves drag, it was incredibly special seeing performances informed by Polish culture, both historically, politically and with their own queer reference points. I have to thank the members of Voces Gaudii attending the event, who would whisper in my ear the context for every act so I could better understand what was happening!

Finally, on Sunday we were taken on amazing walking tour of Warsaw run by the fantastic Maciek, which explored the LGBTQ+ history of Poland. It was great to hear about amazing people from history such as the lesbian poet Maria Konopnicka, or about the uprising against queer oppression outside a squat in 2020.

Looking back on the trip now, I completely understand why singing around the world holds a special place in so many pinkies’ hearts. Finding my community in the UK has been incredibly moving, but finding community abroad with people who I have laughed, cried, danced and sang with is not only powerful in its social activism, but it is one of the first times in the last two years where I felt totally myself, supported by a community of incredibly kind and loving people. Thank you so much to Voces Gaudii for making us feel so incredibly welcome, and I am excited for a summer of more gigs with my chosen family. 

Will, Tenor

Statement on Pride in London 2022

On the eve of London Pride and on the exact day 50 years on since the GLF first marched in London, our Chair Paul explains why the choir wont be marching and how we are celebrating pride in other ways this year.

Last year you might remember the Pink Singers decided to not take part in the Pride In London parade or associated events whilst the organisers worked on some equality and diversity issues. We have met with them again at an open community meeting and whilst some progress is being made with regard to new volunteer policies and training, we’d like to see evidence and public communication of some more concrete change.

So what does that mean for this year?

We’ve decided we will again sit out the main Pride in London parade this year. Instead, we will celebrate pride by joining other LGBT+ community pride events in London throughout the summer, including the GLF 50th anniversary march on 1 July, UK Black Pride, London Trans+ Pride and UK Bi Pride. We hope to see you there!

We want Pride in London to succeed and we have already taken part in the Science museum lates pride event this week, which we enjoyed immensely and was a great success. We look forward to participating in London’s pride parade in future and working with its organisers to develop the working relationship and align our organisation’s shared vision of inclusion and equality.

Gone Viral – My Chosen Family #2

Tenor Mathew talks about what it is like joining the Pinkies again after a 33 year break, overcoming initial challenges and the joy of everything coming together in true Pinkie style!

Matthew, Tenor

Technically I’m not a Newbie, I’m a Returnee.  However I’m a particularly long-term returnee because I originally joined in 1988.  In those days the Pinkies was overshadowed by the traumas and losses of AIDS and the music we sang reflected this.  It was tough going.  The various jobs I was doing got more time-consuming and I left the Pinkies in 1989.  

One of the reasons, frankly, I joined back then was to Find A Nice Man.  I didn’t enjoy the pub/club scene and the internet was still a dream.  Sadly, the Pinkies pickings were dire to non-existent. Yet stay with this thread, because in 1992 I met Harry and 30 years later we are still together as husband and husband.  And one of the first things I learned about him was he was a member of the Pink Singers.  So my instinct was correct, only my timing was off.

Over the last few years, as pressures from other work areas lessened, the desire to sing re-surfaced.  I got involved in a number of solo projects, however the joy of a community choir is obviously community.  I wanted something bigger than just me.  I wanted to hold out my hand and have pre-selected sheet music thrust into it.  I wanted to be with a bunch of gorgeous people who were warm, positive and coming together for the common purpose of singing.

It wasn’t all roses and there were a few challenges along the way.  All those years of being on my own and paddling my canoe solo has made fitting into an existing structure, with its rules and regulations, its personalities and ambitions, difficult.  

I can’t really read sheet music so the individual tracks have been crucial, and my husband, as wonderful as usual was entirely supportive of my daily going through the repertoire.  

At 6.5 weeks away from our upcoming concert at Cadogan Hall I broke my toe. Since I was told the toe would take 6 weeks to heal, I had basically 3 days to be back together healthwise.  I didn’t quit, I hobbled to rehearsals on a stick.  Darling Andy, our organising choreographer, kindly put me in the back row so I had to learn only the arm movements.  There was one week when we had a new venue in Brixton and my mobile map director took me a mile out so I then had to hobble the mile back before eventually finding the venue.  I was hot, in pain, and wildly frustrated.  Yet I kept going.

As my toe came reluctantly back into order, the time for the concert drew nearer.  I love a truly dramatic event and arriving at 10.45am for a 7pm show more than satisfied this desire to live dangerously.  We rehearsed while the lighting people surrounded us with lights and occasionally blackened the stage.  We learned to fit our choreo to being on risers and spread out over the stage.  One of the concert highlights was when the lockdown choir onstage began Chosen Family, and they were joined by the Gone Viral choir, marching down the aisle, onto the stage.  Then we all belted out our loudest and most accurate notes for a great end of the first half.

I’d say if you are thinking of joining that taking a fairly long-term attitude is best. Don’t worry if it seems impossible, if the choreo seems overly complex or you are concerned you won’t be singing the same notes as others in your section. My experience has been that everyone has been open and supportive and particularly the various section leaders are ready to help newbies. The rewards much outweigh any sense of feeling lost or of failure. Since we are always rehearsing for something you don’t have any of that gossip you get at work when people are bored. No one has time to be bored. It’s delightful to just start talking to someone you don’t know, knowing that your shared love of music and singing gives you enough in common to start making a friend. 40 years after we started, and being in some ways a reflection of the world around us, Pinkies will and still rock.

Matthew, Tenor

Gone Viral – My Chosen Family #1

Bass Ken talks about the buzz of our last concert and how joining the choir helped him through his lowest moments during lockdown.

Ken, Bass 1

As I am writing this blog, I can still feel the buzz from our last concert “Gone Viral” performance at the Cadogan Hall. I can honestly say I really haven’t felt this much joy in my life before and the last couple of years have been especially hard.

As an introverted gay man who has been living with general anxiety for many years, the urge to be part of a community was a big driving factor for me joining the Pink Singers. London may look bustling from the outside, but it can also be a very lonely place. Reaching out to find new friends in such a big city can be really hard for an introverted person like me and I had felt very isolated before auditioning for the choir. 

I joined the Pink Singers in early 2020, just a few weeks before the world shut itself down due to the pandemic. In my first few rehearsals with the choir I immediately felt welcome. I had been so excited about being part of the choir’s recording in March 2020, but then everything was cancelled for obvious reasons – the start of lockdown in the UK. 

For me the whole lockdown period was such a roller coaster. Outside my day-to-day work, the Pink Singers’ Sunday zoom rehearsals really kept me afloat. It gave me the motivation to keep going for another week. It may seem funny to say this, but if someone asks me about my most memorable moment during the lockdown, I would say it was those Sunday afternoon zoom rehearsals where I was literally sitting on the floor of my flat-share bedroom with my iPad. Without the weeks of online rehearsal with the choir, I don’t know how I would have survived the isolation during that extended period. The first virtual project of the choir ‘Fix You’ was truly motivating. Despite not having met most of the members in person, I really felt I was part of the family in that video. 

After weeks and months of zoom rehearsals, we first met as a big group again in a multi-story car park in Peckham for outdoor rehearsals (it was the only way we could get together!). That was the first time we sang Chosen Family (an arrangement of the song by Rina Sawayama) as a choir together at one place. I remember the drops of my tears as we reached the chorus, singing in harmony ‘we don’t need to be related to relate. We don’t need to share genes or surnames…’ The chorus just represents how I feel being in the choir. It was in that moment that I knew I was in the right place with my new chosen family in London. 

For many people post pandemic life has been easier, but sadly that hasn’t been the case for me. If anything it’s been worse. The continuous working from home has exacerbated my feeling of being isolated as well as my anxiety. Reconnecting with my pre-COVID friends has been so challenging and again it has been the choir’s Sunday rehearsal that have been keeping me going. At some points it literally kept me alive in my lowest moments. At these not so eventful moments, again I received the care and support from my fellow bass singers. For most, it would be the singing, but to me Pink Singers has been more than just the singing, it is the solidarity within the choir that has been so important for me personally. 

I guess everything culminated at the Gone Viral performance. It was my first ever Pinkies’ big stage performance. Two years is probably the longest time a newbie has ever had to wait for their first performance with the choir and I had the best time of my life that weekend. I can still feel the energy from the crowd when we sang our final song ‘You can’t stop the beat’ as I am writing this. And it was great to have a few of my close friends and colleagues in the audience. That feeling of being able to be who I truly am, doing what I love and being surrounded by people I love is something I will always treasure. 

Living with anxiety means getting motivation in life can be a challenge. I have to say however, that the performance last weekend has given me the motivational boost that has been missing for the past two years. I think I am feeling my best again. Thank you, my fellow Pinkies – my Chosen Family. 

Ken, Bass 1