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Pink Singers For Black Lives

Content warning: discussion of racist, anti-Black violence and murder

Given the news of the past week, it hopefully comes as no surprise that as a choir, we too would like to add our voice of support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Even though we are known for putting on shows that emphasise happiness and joy, we must not forget that our origin, as a choir and as a community, lies in a resistance to legislative violence against a marginalised group: the Pink Singers were formed at a time where Pride was still a protest, rather than a celebration, a time where LGBT+ people were explicitly targeted by the state, by legislation, and by the police.

While for some things have changed for the better since 1983, this does not mean that the fight is over. Police and state violence continues to target marginalised groups around the world, and in particular Black people. Now is the time that we ask our members and friends, to reflect on and learn about the protests happening around the killing of George Floyd. Floyd was killed through strangulation by Minneapolis police officers, and his death has sparked a resurgence of protests under the banner of Black Lives Matter, a campaign which started in 2013 after the acquittal of the police officer who fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

It is particularly important for non-Black LGBT+ people to stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, as our struggles are inherently intertwined. This Pride month marks 51 years since the Stonewall uprising in New York, an uprising which was explicitly in response to continued police harassment of LGBT+ people, many of whom were Black LGBT+ people.

Important Black figures during the Stonewall uprising include Marsha P. Johnson, a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front and Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, as well as a campaigned with ACT UP; Stormé DeLarverie, whose resistance to police harassment has been said to spark the uprising; and Miss Majors, who was present during the night of the uprising, and has since been instrumental in HIV/AIDS activism and campaigning for trans rights. If it wasn’t for Black LGBT+ figures, we very literally would not have Pride today.

Despite news outlets focusing on the US at the moment, it is important to remember that this happens in the UK as well: police violence against Black people is disproportionally high, as are Black deaths in police custody. Particular targets are victims who have mental health issues, a disability, or are struggling with addiction. Particularly in London, the rate of being stopped and searched soars for Black individuals, as well as other ethnic minorities. The targeting and scapegoating of marginalised people is not over yet, and for many it is becoming worse.

Regardless of whether we are currently directly affected by this, regardless of our identity or background, it is everyone’s responsibility to work towards a world in which nobody is subject to police or state violence. Whether that is through protesting on the streets, donating to charitable/community organisation, or educating ourselves on the ways racism (in particular anti-Black racism) is embedded in society. We have a duty to do all that we can, to be part of the solution rather than the problem.

If you have any money at all to spare, please consider donating generously to any of the following:

The Bail Project – an organisation combating financial discrimination in the justice system.

Black Lives Matter – A global network fighting against white supremacy.

The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust – A UK-based organisation set up in memory of Stephen Lawrence. The organisation works through education of young people, and campaigning for a transformed justice system.

The Movement for Black Lives –  A platform for Black organisations and individuals to share strategies and visions, in order to radically transform society for the benefit of Black people.

Pippa Sterk, Alto

A Song of Solidarity Against LGBT+ Prejudice

This month the Pink Singers were due to perform at an International LGBT+ choir festival in Italy. For obvious reasons the festival was cancelled however that hasn’t stopped two of our members from getting involved in an International collaboration to fight for the rights of people across the world.

Pinkies Pippa Sterk (Alto) and Liang Wee (Tenor) joined members from 20 choirs across 6 countries to sing a song of solidarity to recognise the rights of people across the world. Pippa tells us more about the project below.

This year’s International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) fell on Sunday 17th May. The day is observed globally, and is used to raise awareness of LGBT+ rights work being done, as well as the violation of LGBT+ rights worldwide. This year’s observance is particularly poignant from a European perspective, as for the second year in a row ILGA Europe reports that very little progress has been made with regards to LGBT+ rights, and there are even countries that have regressed in terms of LGBT+ rights.

For this year’s IDAHOT celebration, members from 20 choirs across 6 countries came together to sing the traditional song Bella Ciao in a virtual choir. Bella Ciao is an Italian folk song, originally sung to protest the working conditions of female labourers in the rice fields of Northern Italy. Since the 1940s, it has been popularised as an anti-fascist song, and in the IDAHOBIT recording it has been used as a call for recognition of the rights of all people.

The virtual choir recording was put together by Cromatica, the Italian association of rainbow choirs. Cromatica organises a yearly choral festival held in Perugia and the Pink Singers were set to be the first non-Italian choir to perform at this year’s festival due to be held on the Bank Holiday weekend (8-10 May).

The cancelling of the festival was a huge disappointment to us as a lot of organisational work had already gone into planning of the performances and travel.

This made it all the more exciting to have an opportunity to participate in a global project, and affirm that LGBT+ communities will reach out to each other in times of need, even if we can’t leave our houses. The Cromatica team put together the recording and the video with incredible efficiency, and the result is absolutely beautiful.

Can you spot Pippa and Liang?

In particular, it was a joy to know that some of the participating singers were from Omphalos Voices in Perugia (our guest choir for the Summer 2019 Divas concert), and Sing Out! Brussels (who invited us to sing with them in their December 2019 concert). Not to mention the fact that there were familiar faces from our fellow London-based friends, London Gay Men’s Chorus.

Hopefully we will all be able to meet each other in real life soon, but until then it is good to know that as LGBT+ singers, even physical distance will not stop us from joining forces in spirit.

Pippa Sterk, Alto

The Pink Singers Go Online

In the light of the Covid-19 crisis, we Pink Singers have stopped our regular Sunday afternoon rehearsals for the first time in 37 years, and had our first virtual meet-up this Sunday.

It was emotional! We sang, we laughed, we offered support to each other, we shared stories. 

We also danced, laughed, and shared stories of our crazy weeks. We welcomed our new members, applauded our public servants (in particular our healthcare workers) and celebrated recent birthdays. We met each others’ pets. We finished by singing ‘Together In Electric Dreams’ from our most recent concert – which has suddenly taken on a new and deeper meaning for us as we adapt to our new virtual existence, for the foreseeable. 

In future weeks we have plans for quizzes, break-out rooms where we can start to learn new music in small groups, sharing solo performances with each other, and more. We will also perhaps look at making some multi-track recordings. 

Here’s a quick summary of what we did in our first one, and what we learned. We:

  • Used zoom as the platform, on a regular plan. It allows up to 100 participants and worked well for us, with 56 participants. 
  • Set the call to start 30 minutes before the actual start time, to allow plenty of time for tech setup.
  • Made everyone be muted by default, and had one MC (host) who called on people to share by raising their hands first to speak or sing. 
  • Kept it short – an hour or so. Spending time conversing on video chat feels more  mentally taxing than being face to face.
  • Did not sing ‘live’ together. There were 56 of us on the call and it would have been impossible. The varying latency of internet connections makes it very hard to hear each other in sync without special hardware. 
  • Muted ourselves most of the time and sang along with some tracks.
  • Sang warm-ups (all muted) with our MD at the piano
  • Shared some audio that everyone could sing along to, using Zoom’s share screen feature (use the advanced tab: share computer audio)
  • Kept the meeting open for a few people who wanted to hang around a chat for longer
Timeline datestamp: 22 March 2020

Two Gigs in One Day!

On Saturday 22nd February, the Pinkies had a busy day performing not one but two gigs. Soprano Sally-Anne tells us about the day and how she now finds herself unexpectedly into football. Over to
Sally-Anne….

Gigs are like buses, we don’t do any for a while and then two come along at once … luckily geography was kind to us and we were able to perform at two very different venues, to two very different audiences. Firstly we went to the Greenwich Maritime Museum to take part in the “Out at Sea” season where we performed to a lovely crowd of families and children who seemed to enjoy clapping along to our music. It was a lovely atmosphere and it was fantastic to return again (we were there last year) and sing in a larger and more open space.

Avi is definitely ‘Proud’!

We then jumped on the bus and went to Charlton to make a bit of history as the first LGBT+ choir to sing at a professional football match. As part of their commitment to fight discrimination in all forms, Charlton Athletic FC welcomed us to sing at their annual “Football v Homophobia” match. We sang two songs before the kick off to a crowd of c 15,000, including Heather Small’s “Proud”, and I can honestly say it was one of the most wonderful experiences I have had as a Pinkie. We were also invited to watch the match. Having never been to a football match before, I did not really know what to expect, but it was a lovely and family friendly event, and for a person who claims to have no interest whatsoever in sport, I found myself being captivated by the energy and skill of the players.

Francesco and Chris at the stadium

It was a real honour to perform for the football crowd, especially as we were asked to sing the Charlton Athletic “theme tune” (if that is the correct word) “Valley Floyd Road”. Thanks to the Proud Valiants, the official fan group of Charlton Athletic supporters who identify as LGBTQI+ and their allies for inviting us and for making us so welcome. And thanks Paul for your hard work putting this together. It really was a historical occasion and I hope that we can take part in some other sporting events in the future to keep on promoting equality and kick homophobia into the long grass! And congratulations to Charlton Athletic for winning 3-1!

Sally-Anne Smith, Soprano

By Special Arrangement – Part 2

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.

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

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.

Timeline datestamp: 11 January 2020