To celebrate Pride season Heathrow Airport invited us to sing to travellers as they arrive back in the city. It was the first time the choir had performed in an airport. Simon tells the story…
It was up, up and away for the Pink Singers as we participated in our first “Pride Events at Heathrow” on Sunday the first of July 2018. Around forty Pink Singers fastened their safety belts and boarded the Heathrow Express early that morning to take part in the event. After a quick briefing from the ground crew, our first set took off in Terminal Five at 11.45am.
We had a great response from the surprised passengers in arrivals who found themselves serenaded with songs from our summer concert including This Is Me, Waiting for a Star to Fall, Rainy Days and Mondays, Freedom 90, Set Fire to the Rain, and Proud Mary. It was cabin doors to manual as we flew over to Terminal Four and delighted the unsuspecting arrivals there too. After that we returned our musical director to upright, folded our piano keyboard away and disembarked in an orderly fashion!
On 27 June 2018 the Science Museum, in collaboration with Pride in London, opened it’s doors for an evening of LGBTQ+-inspired Lates. This colourful evening featured live performance, talks, music, activities and even a silent disco. The Pink Singers followed on from queer cabaret act Rhys’s Pieces and performed a short set of songs from the June concert to an audience which filled the exhibition room.
Gay Star News said ‘Europe’s longest-running LGBTI choir Pink Singers stole the show on the ground floor with their repertoire of anthems, including What’s Up by 4 Non Blondes’. We had a fantastic time and hope to be back next year!
The 14th Various Voices was held in Munich and 92 choirs took part, from 23 countries. For the “pinkies” it was a chance to renew old friendships and make new ones, and for some it was their first chance to experience the wider LGBT choral world. As the oldest LGBT choir in Europe, the Pinkies’ performances are always well attended and receive a great reception. However, it does mean we put a certain amount of pressure on ourselves to give an outstanding performance for everyone!
Our repertoire in Munich gave us the opportunity to perform songs from a diverse range of musical styles, from the wondrous “Oh Radiant Dawn” for which we received many, many compliments, to Old Pinkie Favourites “Set Fire to the Rain” and “Proud Mary” with full choreography. For me one of the highlights was to see 3 members of the choir perform solos at their first Various Voices.
It was also exciting to see the range of performances from other choirs: from the sheer polish of the established American choirs, to the enthusiasm and joy of the choirs who were attending the festival for the first time. I can only imagine how the choir members from Ukraine, Poland & Turkey felt being part of such an inspiring and emotional 4 days.
Prior to joining the Pink Singers in September 2012, I had always wondered “Why join an LGBT choir?”. Having attended the last two Various Voices, I see that although the countries we live in may all be at different stages in terms of equality and justice for LGBT+ people, we are all travelling on the same journey. The one thing we all know is that singing as part of a group is something very special, and being supportive of other choirs in whatever way we can is a privilege.
Wahooo! Newbie Mark relives the excitement of our recent concert, A Night At The Movies, the sequel. Which was epic.
I’d been waiting for this day to arrive since I joined the Pink Singers in the Autumn of 2017. With my outfits packed and a bubbling sense of excitement in my belly, I treated myself to an Uber that drove me through Chelsea to Cadogan hall. I thought it quite rare and fortunate that this particular driver was playing a classical compilation CD in his car, which set my anxious and excited mind somewhat to rest as I absorbed the lovely architecture on the way to the hall.
I arrived, and eagerly ran to the door because I was, as always, fashionably late. At the door I was greeted by Penny, elegantly puffing the last embers of a fag before our call, and she directed me down through the somewhat arcane stairways of the former Church of Christian Science to the basement changing rooms. Once downstairs, I was able to greet a few of my chorister comrades before the pre-concert work would begin.
The day was long and hard. We spent it practicing entries and ironing out creases, and I tried my best not to annoy an anxious Murray and poorly Jerome. Our lovely hostess’s sass kept me entertained as we ran through the numbers and the various steps we’d have to take in, out, and about the stage. Seeing the video accompaniment for the first time, I’m once again impressed with the talent that this choir endlessly seems capable of deploying.
At last, a coffee break. A cigarette (or two). And then running through the second half. By now the excitement was welling within me. We had our pre-concert dinner break and I wolfed down the squashed yellow sticker sandwich I’d bought on the way in. Night had fallen and some people were arriving at the hall. I couldn’t wait to see the rows of seats full of our Pinkie friends.
We’ve worked hard on this one. All those Sunday afternoons’ labours were about to come to fruition. I’m lined up on the stairs, taking deep breathes to calm my nerves. Simon informs me that I’ve been referred to as the one with the Tarzan hair. I ruffle my mane in response. Basses and Tenors are joshing about in hushed (not always) voices as we wait for a cue to walk on stage. These moments of pre-performance excitement are my favourite. In this moment, the potential for beauty is almost palpable. I dwell momentarily upon the collective intention, logistcal efforts, thought, planning, practice, talent, and no small measure of love too, is about to collide into a musical explosion.
This is it. My first Pinkie’s concert. I think it was somewhere in the middle of the Indiana Jones theme that I’ve taken my position. I’m scanning the crowd for my brother, but can’t seem to see much past the lights. Of course, I notice a few cute faces in the crowd. There’s so many people! It’s basically a full house! And then there’s the banner of Richard’s face hanging from the balcony. Legendary. Cue the Universal theme, and we’re off!
The first half goes so quickly. It feels like being in an altered state of consciousness, where the music flows our of me without deliberate effort. My whole attention rests on integrating my memory of the music, the auditory information from around me, and the motions of Murray’s hand guiding our collective voice. And the dancing. I’m proud of myself for changing my attitude to choreography. My confidence has grown. I’ve found a new way to express myself.
It’s interval. I should quit smoking… Maybe not just yet. Time for a quick wardrobe change. Gods! This is a damn good looking choir! Adorned in all the colours of the rainbow, these beautiful bodies, voices, and souls stand proud and ready. We’re back, and looking fabulous! My feet hurt, my eyes feel strained, but the adrenaline is coarsing through my veins. I’m giving it my all, playing the congas, shouting about your mum in the tube hole, focusing on keeping time and sensitive dynamics, and not bashing my neighbour when we Flashdance for our final number.
When I was later to see the videos my brother took of some of the performance, I learned that I look so happy when I let myself go and just do the moves without self-doubt. And you know what? I realise how lucky I am to have this space to be my gay self with pride. Being part of this choir has helped me accept myself more as a gay man; an ongoing process for many if not all LGBTQ+ folks. I’ve grown in a way I could never have done otherwise than being a part of this choir. I am grateful for this unique opportunity.
The concert is done, and we’re milling about Cadogan before heading off to the afterparty. I say a few hellos, and all I hear from everyone is about how they absolutely loved it. My brother is impressed, and finally understands why I disappear for hours every Sunday. He can’t believe how professional it was. Born Slippy and O Fortuna were his favourites. I have a last puff on my post concert fag (this really has to stop soon though!) before heading back in to lend a hand setting down the stage. After lugging bits of stage and poles to the van, one of the stage crew asks if I’d like an old confetti cannon that the theatre was throwing out. I jumped at the opportunity, stroking my new one-use toy. I have a plan.
I rush off to the afterparty. Good cheer abides! And what an epic venue – Kirsten is a genius. I can’t quite remember how I got the drinks I did, but they were hardly necessary given the elation one feels post-concert. The bodies are moving. Colours are everywhere. Smiles, joy, new faces and familiar ones, young, and old, and all shapes and sizes. I’m waiting for my moment. The DJ plays Born Slippy. I wait for the wall of sound, poised on the balcony above the dance floor. The beat stops and the moment arrives. I unleash the confetti and it feels like time slows down. Colours flitter in the air. It’s one of those pure and rare peak moments in time. I am happy.
See you next season!
The original performance of ‘A Night At The Movies’ was on 20 January 2018 at Cadogan Hall, London
This summer, we returned to Cadogan Hall for a sizzling evening of choral music to mark 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Our repertoire was drawn from LGBT composers and performers as well as music that has been meaningful to these communities.
Entitled ‘From Queer to Eternity’ – Songs of Struggle and Celebration, the evening covered music from a rich variety of styles and genres including artists such as Leonard Bernstein, Dusty Springfield, Queen, Erasure, Joan Armatrading, Mika, Radiohead, George Michael, Lady Gaga and Christine and the Queens. Classical numbers included a rousing chorus by Handel and a moving spiritual by Michael Tippett.
We were delighted to be sharing the stage with two special guests choirs: Out Aloud from Sheffield, and – to highlight the work being done around the world on legalising homosexuality, as part of a year-long exchange project – we were also joined by Rainbow Voices Mumbai, India’s first LGBT choir.