Blog

Festival 2000

Martin

Festival 2000 brought 140 performing groups and more than 5,000 singers to San Jose for the largest gay and lesbian choral event in history July 22-29.

You can find out more about GALA Choruses on their website, but here’s Martin to take us through the events of GALA 2000 – it might help to know that ‘Philip’ is a longtime Pinkie and Martin’s other half!

Saturday 22 July 2000
Philip was recovering from a bad cold and had hardly any voice (a pleasure for me and the rest of the choir). The opening ceremony at 8pm was great fun, with about 6000 choristers and their camels (the people who get involved with the choir without singing – like me). They are called camels because they end up carrying all the singers’ baggage when they are rehearsing! Kate Clinton was hilarious as keynote speaker and Harvey Fierstein was an excellent presenter.

Sunday 23 July 2000
The day of the Pinkies first concert and my first tour of duty on the choir’s merchandising stall. This was next to the Melo’Men from Paris. They had draped the European flag between the stalls thus reuniting the old enemies France and England as only dykes and queens can.

Monday 24 July 2000
This was the day of the Pinkies’ trip to Monterey and Carmel. They hired two camper vans (well, they were camper after we got in), and we crossed the mountains to the coast where we visited the Monterey aquarium. The display of sealife was interestingly set out, especially the jellyfish. The way they kept moving aimlessly but somehow reached their destination was an allegory for the Pink Singers. An evening meal in Carmel involved a lot of walking around in growing gloom and fog, until we eventually went back to the first restaurant we had seen. 8,000 miles to California and we ate in an “English pub”; but the food was good.

Tuesday 25 July 2000
The Pinkies were singing at the Expo at 5:30, so I looked after the stall while they were on. I could hear some of their act from the stall, and they seemed to be well-received. They were asked to do an encore, as if they wouldn’t anyway. Philip went with Paolo to see the No-Talent Show. This is a performance of non-choir-type things by members of the choirs. Philip said I missed a treat: the Ethels were very funny – six Ethel Mermans, and a silent Ethel as signer (Kevin).

Wednesday 26 July 2000
Portland Gay Men’s Chorus upset all my prejudices about commissioned pieces with stirring and effective songs about coming out in the words of Portland’s young gay women and men. People have been coming up to Philip and saying how great his jokes were. Philip is attempting to look modest and unconcerned but he doesn’t fool me.

Thursday 27 July 2000
The Pinkies were still rehearsing when the Expo closed for a couple of hours, so I went to the London Gay Men’s Chorus tea party in the park – the Boston choir didn’t throw it in the fountain, so I guess that problem is sorted.

Friday 28 July 2000
After lunch we saw the Men’s Chorus from Tulsa. One of their members had flirted with Philip on the Pinkies stall (to his undisguised delight) and had been to every one of the Pink Singers performances so we had to support them. We went on the last ride up the View Tower at sunset – it was spectacular. They had closed all the gentle rides and all that were left were the check-your-brain-at-the door stuff, so we ate fairground schlockfood instead. The park, to quote Glenn, was neither “Great” nor “America”, but it passed an evening.

Martin Edwardes
FOPS (Friend of Pink Singers)

Timeline datestamp: 22 July 2000

Hand in Hand

Made in 2000, Hand in Hand was the first CD by the Pink Singers, compiled from recordings made at various concerts, including at the Royal Academy of Music.

  1. Italian Salad (Genee)
  2. Bohemian Rhapsody (Mercury)
  3. If We Hold On Together (Jennings/Horner)
  4. I Heard It Through The Grapevine (Whitfield/Strong)
  5. Night And Day (Porter)
  6. Big City (Quan)
  7. When You Tell Me That You Love Me (Hammond/Bettis)
  8. Happy Together (Gordon/Bonner)
  9. Satin Doll (Ellington/Strayhorn/Mercer)
  10. Don’t Cry For Me Argentina (Rice/Webber)
  11. Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (Raye/Prince)
  12. Trout Medley (Schöggl)
  13. Stand By Me (King/Leiber/Stoller)
  14. Corner Of The Sky (Schwartz)
  15. Always On My Mind (Thompson/James/Christopher)
  16. Rhythm of Life (Fields/Coleman)
  17. Hand In Hand (Rodgers/Walker)

£5

 

Gimme Gimme Gimme

Andy, Bass

Andy joined the Pinkies in 1996 and became one of our talented composers and arrangers. Let’s go back to the turn of the millennium…

It was the time of pre-millennial fever and everyone was either planning the biggest party in history, or stocking up on tinned food, ready for the Y2K bug. How appropriate then, that the Pink Singers should receive an invitation from the makers of BBC2’s ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’, asking us to appear as special guests for their special millennium episode. How could we say no?

Of course, it wasn’t as straightforward as that. As so often happens, we were only contacted a few days before the TV shoot, and the choir would be required for half a day. Most Pinkies couldn’t make it, as they weren’t able to arrange the time off work. In fact, it looked as if we wouldn’t be able to take part, and a golden opportunity would be missed. A compromise was reached – the TV company would hire extras to make up the numbers. That’s right, we had wannabe Pink Singers in our midst!

Gimme Gimme (outside studio 1)

I was lucky enough to be able to arrange time off work, so I met up with my fellow Pinkies – all six of us – at the TV studio on the day of filming. I’d never seen a TV programme being recorded before, and the first thing that struck me was how small the set was. The second surprise was seeing how short the lead actors were, so maybe television screens just magnify everything.

For those who haven’t seen ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’, the show is about a gay man sharing a flat with a straight woman; neither of them can get a man. Kathy Burke and James Dreyfuss played the lead roles, both of whom are heroes of mine. We sat in the audience seats watching them rehearse, which gave us a sneak preview of the show. In between scenes, Kathy would chat to anyone who was around – I remember her talking about having some building work done to her house. Apparently she would take the builders to the pub to keep them sweet.

Our job was to appear right at the end of the show, singing the song Tomorrow from the musical ‘Annie’. Of course, none of us had ever sung it before. Fortunately we only had to sing a few lines. We had a chance for a quick run through of the words, and then we had to go on the set to work out how we would enter, where we would stand and so on. Then we rehearsed the scene with the leads a couple of times – we were awful! We kept forgetting words, losing time, and everyone seemed quite intimidated by being on the set. The producer was looking quite worried, and kept telling us not to be so timid.

After that, we had a few hours to wait before the show was filmed. We were kitted out with clothes from the costume department, and then we just had to hang around, grabbing a bite to eat as the audience arrived. Other programmes were being recorded that night – we saw Boy George, who had just been interviewed for a chat show. He was most intrigued when we told him who we were!

Gimme Gimme (outside studio 3)

Tension mounted as we were gathered backstage for our big moment. We had to be extremely quiet hiding behind the set, as our appearance was to be a huge surprise for the audience. Time seemed to drag, as the crew fiddled around with lighting and microphones for the scene. We all knew that we had to get it right first time, because glitter, balloons and streamers were going drop all over the set, and they wouldn’t have time to clean it all up for another take.

We were on! I was the first on to the stage, and I ran out, waving my arms around and trying to look as bold and confident as possible. We sang at the tops of our voices, with a conductor hidden behind the camera to keep us in time. Glitter flew in all directions, and the audience gasped and laughed as we burst onto the set. And we were wonderful, even if I do say so myself. The crowd loved us, and we spent ages basking in the applause. The producer was exuberant, saying how we had been “infused with the spirit of theatre”!

Gimme Gimme (Tim, Philip & Steve)

And then it was all over. We were invited to the after-show party, which was nice, so we browsed the buffet and chatted with the stars. Then we had to wait, excruciatingly, for weeks before we could see the final product. What did I make of it? Well, I thought that I looked like a chipmunk in a pink smock, but I was really proud of our appearance. The episode was repeated a few times on the BBC, and then endlessly on cable stations, so there were plenty of chances to see it. I have friends who still have it recorded on video for posterity! I’ll never forget that day, and it has gone down as a classic moment in Pink Singers history. Here’s looking forward to our next TV appearance!

Timeline datestamp: 29 December 1999

New MD – Mladen Stankovic

Mladen

A Serbian music teacher, Mladen Stankovic had previously conducted the Yugoslav National Opera and the Sarajevo Symphony Orchestra. He is the longest-serving Musical Director to date, staying with the choir for 13 years.

Under Mladen’s direction, the Pink Singers developed enormously. The size of the choir doubled within this period to around 80 singers, requiring us to seek out larger rehearsal space to accommodate us all. As a result of this growth and a more rigorous audition process, the standard of our singing and performances improved considerably. We moved concert venues several times as our audiences grew (including the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of Music) before we settled on our now familiar home of Cadogan Hall.

Mladen consistently programmed classical music and established the balance of classical and popular music that we have today. It was also during this period that we produced our first ever CDs – Hand in Hand and Pink Singers Live which are still selling strong and available to buy today.

Many people in the choir remain today who have fond memories of Mladen’s time with us. Everyone no doubt has a favourite memory from his 13 years as Musical Director, although perhaps the best evidence of his achievements is the second place the Pink Singers achieved in the Manchester Amateur Choral Competition in 2009.

Timeline datestamp: 18 May 1996

Stonewall Equality Show

Onstage at the Equality Show

Directed by Ian McKellen and compered by Sandi Toksvig, the show included the first live performance by Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders as Patsy and Eddie, Lily Savage, Marc Almond, Michael Barrymore – recently “out” – and topping the bill, Elton John, whom the Equality Choir was to accompany.

The Pink Singers formed the basis of the 80-voiced choir, which also included members of the London Gay Men’s Chorus, with the Pinkies turning out a record-breaking 61 singers – our biggest ensemble ever.

We rehearsed weekly (in Aldgate) without Elton John who was then touring the States. It was arranged that he would fly in and out on the day of the concert (a Sunday) via Concorde and we would rehearse with him from noon at the concert venue. We were positioned at gallery level behind him and were able to sit there throughout the evening.

We jointly rehearsed I’m in Love With a Wonderful Guy, and were most surprised and intrigued when Kylie Minogue joined him and they sang Sisters. He completed his set with “There is Nothing Like a Dame”. The latter song also proved to be a surprise – what a strange combination we whispered amongst ourselves, but all was explained when he appeared that night dressed in enormously high heels, a black cocktail dress and waist-length hair – it was a drag act!”

Read more about the show on the Royal Albert Hall website.

Bill Barry
Tenor
Pinkie since 1995

Timeline datestamp: 22 October 1995