The Big Pink Chill

In the Pink(ies)‘ is a blog on the life and times of a Pink Singer, known only as the ‘Pink Insider’. This is their account of our concert “The Big Pink Chill” in 2010.

Every concert is a special event, not only because we have been rehearsing for the twelve or so weeks prior to it, but because every single one is different. The Pinkies’ last concert – the Big Pink Chill – was no exception, but for me, there were a number of changes this time round which made this particular experience more memorable.

The most significant difference actually began a week or so before the concert itself when we had news that the tickets had sold out. I’m not sure of the ins and outs of it, but it looks like this was due to a combination of more tickets sold by members, combined with a trebling of the tickets we sold through the website. Now, usually we do, especially in the winter season, sell out, but to do so so far in advance certainly caused Simon W a bit of a headache and more than a few late, sleepless nights.

The Royal College of Music is fairly familiar to us now, given that this is our second time there, so there are fewer surprises in terms of the venue itself. Nevertheless, since this time we were performing with two other choirs, Purple Harmony and Sing Out Bristol, rather than by ourselves, it took significantly more organizational work to make sure everyone was in the right place at the right time.

None of this would have been possible without the volunteers like Kate D who kept Sing Out Bristol entertained and updated, but a great deal of credit goes to our UK Concerts director Ben P. I have no idea how he does it, but he manages to co-ordinate moving nearly 150 people in and around the theatre, set out instructions to the production crew, and act as the general lynch pin of the whole operation, while still keeping a calm exterior and still singing! The fact that, as a choir, we just have to concentrate on our own performance, and not worry about all the extraneous logistical issues is down in no small part to Ben’s hard work.

The Pink Singers are about singing, true, but the creation of the end product requires so much input from a huge number of people. It is salutary to observe that it is no longer just the people in the committee doing all the work; there is a whole phalanx of Pinkies helping out in other ways, from choreographing our moves, to making announcements, to performing solos, to arranging sectionals, to recording multimedia, to organizing social events. All of these things create a much richer experience for all the members. And all of these Pinkies are doing this as volunteers at that, so it is good that we now have a tradition of recognizing their efforts at the concert.

One of the big events this season has been our inclusion of religious music in our repertoire. To be correct we have, for a long time now, sung music with a sacred theme, but the songs have largely been in Latin or classical, or about Christmas. So if you really want to split hairs, this is the first time we have sung modern Christian songs which are not carols in English. Hopefully that just goes to show how arbitrary the classification is, but it would be remiss of me if I did not acknowledge that this caused some consternation in the choir. We are an LGBT choir, and many of our members have an uneasy and occasionally fractious relationship with the Christian faith. So it is with some pride that the choir still stuck together to perform these songs well, despite any individual reservations.

The result was, for me, the most significant event of the evening, which was when Purple Harmony joined us on stage to perform. They are a children’s choir from Surrey, and the choir in which Cass used to sing when she was a little one. To me their being on stage with us was a profound statement of how far our society has progressed in terms of inclusiveness and equality. In rehearsal, our joint song Rutter’s Look At The World sounded beautiful, but with children’s voices it was sublime. I had to stop myself from choking with tears during the song itself it was so transcendent. The performance defied all stereotypes of what an LGBT choir is, and I certainly hope that the more conservative elements will at least have had some of their prejudices questioned.

I also want to highlight our other guest choir, Sing Out Bristol. They are one of the newest LGBT choirs in the UK, being just over two years old, but already they have over 60 members, 40 of whom came to London. I met them for the first time at Various Voices back in May 2009. Speaking to some of their members, they face the same problems we do – deciding on a direction for the choir, managing a large group of people and dealing with the right balance between the needs of the individual and needs of the choir as a whole. There is so much to learn, from each other, and it is wonderful what we can give each other the platform to perform at and support each other in the way we do. I can see our relationship growing from here on in.

All of this is wonderfully virtuous, but the best part is that the Pinkies really know how to have fun, so after the concert it was on to a raucous karaoke at the Imperial College bar, followed the next day by an understandably more subdued post-concert brunch at the Ku Bar in Lisle Street. Time to put away the pink accessory for another season; see you at the end of February for Summer 2010!

You can read the original blog post here.

Timeline datestamp: 16 January 2010

Malta

Alex Field

The collaboration between a British gay and lesbian choir and a Maltese Christian choir was always going to raise eyebrows, especially if they met in Malta, where Catholicism holds sway and the Gay Rights Movement is almost non-existent.  In July 2009, however, the Pink Singers managed just that, taking their show to Malta to promote social equality through their music. 

There were two immediate dilemmas; how would the fervently religious Maltese community react to a gay choir, and would it be possible to pair the Pinkies with another choir given these circumstances.  “The gay scene in Malta is still quite backwards and limited”, Andrew says, “there are no gay choirs in Malta and they have no idea what a gay choir is…people were thinking it was going to be all feather boas and being camp”. 

Under the leadership of Andrew Francalanza, a Maltese national, the Pinkies took the first small step towards a brighter future for Malta’s gay community, achieving the seemingly impossible for a minority without a voice. Andrew Francalanza became a Pinkie in 2007, and quickly learnt “how much fun it is to go abroad and sing with another choir”.  In his capacity as International Concerts Co-ordinator, Andrew broached the idea of taking the choir to his native Malta.

At the Malta Gay Rights Movement’s suggestion, Andrew approached Symphonik, the choral branch of a Christian organisation that seeks to promote social equality through music and mirrors the Pinkies in intention and method.  “It ended up growing from just a basic concert to being something really huge” Andrew recalls; “a gay and lesbian choir singing with a Christian choir underneath the Gay Rights Movement’s umbrella to promote equality”.

Eight months of frantic organisation later, the Pinkies headed to Valetta for a large scale concert in the City Theatre, with fifty choir members travelling to Malta’s capital for the event.  Due to Andrew’s prior communication with the Maltese media and his own network of friends and contacts, the island was awaiting their arrival with a mixture of curiosity and wariness.  As predicted, some called for the Church to take a stand against the choir’s promotion of homosexuality, but the majority of the community gave the Pinkies a warm welcome.  “95% of feedback was really good” and the concert audience was very positive; “we blew them away!” Andrew says.

The joint concert was scheduled as the grand finale of Malta’s Pride week, which the majority of the Pinkies attended, having also sung at London’s Pride march two weeks previously.  “London Pride and Malta Pride are two different concepts” Andrew explains.  “London is in a place where it can celebrate being gay” with “a whole day and a big party in the streets where you can just have fun and be silly”.  Malta Pride is “an hour…half an hour of marching, half an hour of speeches, and it was…quiet.”  There was a feeling of silent anger amongst the marchers, whose banners displayed rage rather than celebration.  “Even though it wasn’t said, [the silence] was a way of saying ‘we don’t have a voice’” Andrew says. 

The Pride march had a great emotional impact on the Pinkies, with their Chair, Mark Winter, describing the scene as “London twenty years ago”.  Their presence changed the atmosphere completely, bringing joy and fun to the event and doubling the number of marchers to almost a hundred.  The Pinkies showed the Maltese gay community the way Pride should be; full of fun and, most importantly, pride in who you are.  Their positive attitude, alongside their banners and rainbow flags, had an instant impact.  The Maltese EU parliamentary representative stood up and professed his ignorance regarding the gay rights movement and his desire to work with the community towards a greater acceptance and social freedom. 

Amazingly, the Maltese Prime Minister followed his lead and has now established a lobby group to promote gay rights on the island.  Further to this, the Malta Gay Rights Movement has set the wheels in motion for the formation of a gay choir, an amazing development considering the current social ramifications of being openly homosexual in Malta.

The concert and Pride march were both an astounding success and provided the Pink Singers with a moving experience as well as new friends from Symphonik, who joined them at Malta’s only gay bar for the concert after party.  The trip’s success demonstrates the impact small actions and a positive attitude can have.  “For the choir the [trip] was a really powerful experience…it wasn’t just us singing and having fun, it was such a big political message” Andrew says, “they keep asking me when we’re going back.”

Alex Field, guest writer

Timeline datestamp: 13 July 2009

25th Anniversary Concert

The Pink Insider

In the Pink(ies)‘ is a blog on the life and times of a Pink Singer, known only as the ‘Pink Insider’. They give us the inside scoop on our 25th Anniversary Concert.

Well it is now the day after the day after, but I am still riding high after our 25th anniversary concert. The past few months have been long and arduous, but it all paid off in the end – what an amazing concert we gave!

We gathered backstage as Mark Bunyan introduced the Pink Singers. Unfortunately, we couldn’t hear anything of what he said, but in his ten minute preamble he gave a little bit of the history of the Pink Singers, and apparently led the audience in song with I Am A Homosexual, the first song the choir ever sang at that Pride twenty-five years ago. I think it must have been quite a surprise then when we got onto stage and opened with Locus Iste!

I am always nervous on stage, and more so when I know I have to make an announcement or sing a solo piece. That said, from the moment we finished singing the Bruckner Motet, I knew that this was going to be an amazing concert. We have never sung that piece better, and there was a wonderful union of voices. It certainly set the tone for what was to follow. The final piece of the first half was Ave Maria, one of the songs we performed at the IndigO2 a couple of weeks ago, with Gari Glaysher returning his visit.

By the time we got to the second half things were much more relaxed and I think the whole choir really got into the performance aspect. America certainly gave us a chance to interact with each other, and a friend who came for the first time remarked how much it looked like we were having a good time as part of a team. I couldn’t agree more.

Of course, the lynch pin in all of this is our wonderful musical director Mladen. it is impossible to emphasize how important an MD is in tying together the various sections and music, and Mladen does it all with panache. Even if you have only been in the choir for one season, Mladen’s directions are like an open book: one gesture and you know when to really go for it, when to slow down, when to hush your voice, when to stop. The Pink Singers would definitely not be at the standard we are without him.

There are times when Mladen has to step aside, and that was certainly the case for the choreography-rich Forever Motown. And what a way to end the concert! The audience was clapping and singing along and we were having a whale of a time. This was followed by a standing ovation from the wonderful and enthusiastic crowd. I almost didn’t want it to end.

But end it eventually did, and I have to say that I was running on empty by the end of it. To me, it was the best concert I have ever been priveleged to have participated in, and an example of how far we have come. This season the choir has been pushed harder vocally than ever before and it was very rewarding to see it all come to fruition. At the same time it was so much fun and I’ve made many new friends this year.

We have just one more gig in Brighton in a fortnight and then it is the end of the summer season. Summer 2008 will definitely go down in my memory as one of my best ever Pink Singers experiences. Pinkies rock!

The original blog post can be found here.

Timeline datestamp: 12 July 2008

Concerts in Paris

Jenny

Like a family?‘Your choir is like ours’, smiled Aline, my host for the weekend, having met Cilla, Jo, a particularly exuberant Johnathon and I at Gare du Nord. ‘Everyone seems really friendly and welcoming’. ‘Like a family?’ I suggested. We both laughed. What a wonderful weekend followed! Equivox were the most charming of hosts, everyone enjoyed themselves and, I must say, it was one of my favourite foreign trips with the Pink Singers so far.

The dismal weather, which continued all weekend, precluded any proper sightseeing, so we headed back to Aline’s cosy flat, where she made tea and my gift of all-butter highland shortbread biscuits went down a treat – ‘now we can have tea and biscuits, just like in England!’ she laughed. Aline’s English was rather more polished than my rusty degree-level French but, with her encouragement – and Johnathon’s – we took it in turns throughout the weekend to talk in both languages.

Tea was soon followed by a memorably delicious dinner with fellow Pinkies at ‘Le Coude Fou’, a traditional French wine bar/restaurant in the Marais. By the time we got to the Open Café to meet the others I was starting to wilt a little and only managed one drink before calling it a night.

I awoke the next morning to noises from the kitchen and the smell of something delicious and savoury wafting under the bedroom door…Aline was preparing a savoury ‘cake’ for the pre-concert brunch and this was the first of several home-cooked treats over the course of the weekend – I can still taste the quiche she prepared for the brunch on Sunday, which was rapidly devoured as soon as it arrived.

‘C’est le troisième, c’est chic!’, I was told as we entered the very grand and ornate town hall in the 3rd arrondissement, where the two concerts were to be held. We warmed up in a side room, then squeezed onto the tiny stage for the rehearsal. The few hours before the first concert flew by, as they usually do when you’re so focussed on the music, Mladen’s conducting, remembering words in Latin, French and English (and trying to talk in all three), devouring savoury ‘cake’ and swigging Normandy cider!

Equivox were highly entertaining and gave a quite compelling performance. Babette, their vivacious and theatrical ‘chef de choeur’ is not so much a conductor as an artistic inspiration. She really engages each and every singer with infectious enthusiasm, demanding passion in every song. Very French! The outfits are quite a hoot too, this year’s theme being ‘beach party’.

Our own performances went down very well with the audience, who particularly loved the French pieces. It was really heartening to see people in the front few rows fondly singing the words to ‘Hymne à l’amour’ – the French still have a great affection for Edith Piaf. Aline congratulated us backstage after the first concert, saying she’d been very moved – ‘Now I can really understand the great English choral tradition!’, she enthused.

For me, one of the highlights of the weekend was our joint performance, with Equivox, of ‘Let the sunshine in’, complete with extended chorus and grinning, arm-swaying audience participation, presided over by Babette in her absolute element. It’s one of those great moments when the song leaves the stage with you and echoes through the corridors and in your head for days afterwards. What a fabulous end to the show!

by Jenny
Soprano

Timeline datestamp: 08 December 2007

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