According to the Oxford dictionary (and thesaurus) there are 2,730 positive adjectives beginning with A and honestly I could use pretty much every one to describe the Pinkies latest jaunt to Amsterdam for the AmaSing festival.
As an Aussie, it is very exciting to travel interstate to perform. Travelling internationally to do so is always a dream, and – as a part of the Pinkies – I’ve been fortunate enough to do that twice now. Firstly, Dublin and more recently, to Amsterdam – not just to sing anywhere but in one of the best concert halls in the world, the Concertgebouw.
The trip officially started off with registration at Het Scheepvaartmuseum (National Maritime Museum) where a few pinkies started to congregate. I don’t think you really appreciate your friends until you haven’t seen them in a while, so there were lots of hugs all round. The organisers then put us on a great canal cruise which allowed us to see Amsterdam from the water and helped get our bearings in this horseshoe city.
The cruise dropped us off at Het Amsterdam Museum for our official meet-and-greet which really gave us a great feeling for what was to come. With all the recent hate crime in the world, it was incredible to get together with 600 of our LGBT+ family to chat and to sing.
After a great afternoon, most of the Pinkies retired early to prepare for our big day of performances (which turned out to be of epic proportions).
Friday saw the first of our performances: a 15 minute outdoor set and a beautiful set inside the Conservatorium Hotel. Both were greatly received with a request for more from the patrons of the hotel; however, these gigs were just the warm up for the night to come. Later that day, we had a quick sound check inside the Concertgebouw, which reduced a chorister from another choir to tears. He said, “Our opening of ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’ gave him shivers and made his eyes well up”. (Wow, we only sang 16 bars)!
The pinnacle of the festival was the main concert in the spectacular Concertgebouw. The acoustics of this hall are world renowned (it has a reverberation time of 2.2 seconds, for those playing at home) and was certainly a spectacle to behold – for a full 6.5 hours (!!), as the concert inevitably over-ran… It’s definitely the first time I have finished a concert the day after it started.
The organisers of AmaSing had hired a park on the banks of the canal where all the choirs could leisurely watch the parade from. They even provided lunch (!) and we all sat around chatting with our new choral friends and enjoyed the stunning day that celebrated everything we believe in (and of course there were impromptu performances from various choirs as well…).
Amsterdam is synonymous with taking mind altering substances 😉 and the Pinkies’ excursion to this wonderful city certainly left us on a high.
A huge thanks must go to the AmaSing team for a brilliant Europride event and to basses Gary and Paul for organising the trip from our end!
The choir perform the first anthem ever commissioned for London’s Pride festival, ‘Together’ by Seán Doherty and Duncan Day, on the main stage in Trafalgar Square. Sopranos Abigail and Clare have taken part in London Pride before, but not with the Pinkies. Here are their accounts of what it meant to them.
I don’t often start my Saturdays at 7am, but on the 25 June I made an exception. With a 9:45am call time for the Pinkies’ sound check on the stage in Trafalgar Square, I could barely sleep the night before!
There was something very surreal about the whole day. It was my third Pride, but my first with the Pink Singers, and I was right to be excited. The day began with singing 90 seconds of Pride in London’s 2016 anthem on stage whilst wondering if it was really happening, and it only got better.
As for many in the LGBT+ community, Pride is one of the highlights of my year. Apart from the fact that it gives me a chance to wear a sequined corset, neon fishnets and a rainbow tutu in public without feeling out of place, it’s the one day of the year that the whole city is out of force, singing, chanting, marching and even just standing in solidarity with the ‘controversial’ idea that everyone should have the right to be themselves and love who they love. And my goodness was I ready to sing.
The singing started long before the marching for us! As we gathered near the head of the parade waiting to start off, we couldn’t help doing a few performances for our neighbours – including a particularly special rendition of Blow Gabriel Blow accompanied by the London Gay Symphonic Winds.
The thing which really stood out to me about the parade itself (apart from the fact that I was part of a 90-voice LGBT+ choir singing as we marched through central London, of course) was that we were right behind the US Embassy’s bus.
At Pride 2015, I marched with Keshet UK, is a Jewish LGBT charity, and we found ourselves near the US Embassy bus as well, but the circumstances felt very different. Last year, Pride was happening the day after the US Supreme Court ruling on equalising marriage, and the air was full of celebration. This year, we were marching in the shadow of 49 of our family being murdered in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando fewer than two weeks before.
It’s amazing, though, the show of strength everyone experienced. Orlando was in everyone’s minds, but showing that everything continues as normal was, for me, the most important thing for our community to do.
It was a powerful statement for us as a choir, then, when we stepped up on the Trafalgar Square stage later that afternoon to sing the specially-commissioned anthem Together. The song speaks of honouring those before us who fought (and sometimes died) for our freedoms, but also of looking to the future with hope for what’s to come. There could never be a more important message to send out in light of recent events:
Together we have the chance to be who we are,
Together we are stronger,
Together we are Pride.
For me personally, I am so grateful that I got to spend so much of Pride with the Pinkies. June, which began with our summer concert and also had the impromptu #SingForOrlando benefit concert, ended with us singing in front of thousands in central London. Pride took me full circle, as I first heard of the Pinkies two years ago when I saw them perform at Pride 2014, my first Pride. Now I get to stand with them, Together.
I’ve gone to London Pride before but only as a spectator. Since coming out I’ve always wanted to march in the parade but never had the opportunity till now. Since Joining the Pink Singers last season I’ve been involved with many gigs and concerts but this was different. I had the chance to march in the parade to be a part of something truly amazing. from beginning to end. It certainly lived up to its expectation plus the weather held out to.
I decided to march at the front of the parade; I wanted to stand tall be proud of who I was and what I was part of. I felt famous waving to the crowds that have gathered to witness this special day. It felt great reliving some of the concert songs plus having the audience join in was really special.
Everyone was really supportive and I couldn’t help but take lots of selfies! The Pink Singers made Pride a very special day for me and I will look forward to what’s ahead.
The Pink Singers and the London Gay Men’s Chorus take part in a vigil in Old Compton Street, standing in solidarity with the Florida LGBT community the day after the mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando. Alto Jeremy’s moving piece which reflects on the horrifying massacre in Orlando and the subsequent vigil, which saw thousands of Londoners – and a strong contingent of Pinkies – gather in Soho on Monday evening to pay tribute to the victims.
Our Pinkie hearts are heavy. Like most of you, most of us are still in shock at the horror of it all, but when we came together at London’s vigil in Old Compton Street on Monday night, we found it in us to sing, and so began the process of healing.
We were so honoured to be present at such an important event for our community. As soon as we knew the vigil was going ahead we knew that the Pink Singers would be there, in full voice and full heart.
Most of us heard about the news via Twitter and other social media whilst we sat in the Alban Arena in St. Albans on Sunday morning. A large contingent of the choir had travelled to compete in the first round of the ‘Choir of the Year 2016‘ competition. We had been the first choir on stage to perform in the morning session, which saw 12 choirs doing their thing on stage. We sang our hearts out, raised the roof, and sat down to enjoy the other performances.
The compères had encouraged everyone to live-tweet the occasion, so we did, and word passed round of the violent attack in Orlando. We wondered, ‘should we say anything?’ But as it was still unclear what was actually happening we kept quietly mindful and carried on. As the day wore on we left the arena, went back to London and many of us joined together for food and company. As it turned out, the gruesome figure was said to be ‘about 50’.
It was about 50 Pinkies that had made it to the competition. As we 50 sang, 50 of our brethren were being slaughtered. The people in Orlando had gone out for joy and community, love and life, and to dance with freedom. The second song we sang for the judges was our Pinkie classic, an arrangement of Whitney Houston’s hit, ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’. An eerily prescient coincidence. We had gotten together that Sunday morning to achieve the same things that those lost souls had.
What if we had gone out that day but never come back? It was the question we were all thinking but not many of us were asking. We knew it could just as easily have been us.
Monday dawned with little joy in it. Overnight there had of course been the infamous Sky News Interview with Owen Jones that left people exasperated, angry and sad. Some very deluded and clearly disturbed people had a new ‘hero’ and were singing his praises online. LGBTQI people woke up everywhere, feeling lucky to be alive. And we were lucky, it’s just that we should be alive anyway, not relying on luck. Most of us have found solace and sanctuary in LGBTQI venues, our first trip to one often being a seminal moment in our understanding and acceptance of who and what we are. I always remember a creative writing tutor once telling me that the most distressing stories of horror and pain take place where one usually feels safest. She was right.
LGBTQI spaces are not always perfect: they can be beset with intersectional prejudices, from a person’s perceived attractiveness, to their gender and/or gender expression, to judging a person by the colour of their skin. It’s worth naming and remembering that the majority of the people in the club, and those killed, were members of the Latinx and Trans* communities. (For clarity, Latinx is a gender neutral term used by the LGBTQI Latin community in place of the masculine ‘Latino’ and the feminine ‘Latina’. It’s an effective inclusive term that we are wise to be more aware of and consider emulating). Thankfully of course, for many, they were that place of sanctuary, and they will be again.
Hopefully now, we understand clearer than ever before that we are stronger and better when we stand together. I hope sincerely that the Latinx community felt as much love and compassion in the aftermath as we Pinkies did.
But of course, we did all feel the horror, how could we not? They were in that club because they were like us. Something most of us have always feared had happened to our family, and we weren’t going to let them go without solidarity, love, and a lot of noise. There are many flags that represent different groups within the LGBTQI world, and they tend to be bright and colourful. Certainly not one of them is plain white.
The call out to the Pinkies came early in the day, we were to meet early in Soho to warm up. I spent the day getting hold of flags, candles, sheet music and whatever else would be useful. As we discovered, so did thousands of others. As I arrived in Old Compton Street about an hour before the planned silence at 7:05pm, it was already full of people. Flags were out in force, every LGBTQI sign or emblem you could think of was there.
The Pinkies gathered upstairs at VILLAGE Bar, our lively chatter and camaraderie powered by equal amounts of love, anger, fear and familial comfort. There was a touch of bravado about it all, but how could there not be when the reason for being there was so grim. It could have been us. After a quick rehearsal of our most well-known songs we headed out to the packed (and I mean packed) Old Compton Street to take our place, ready to sing.
As the whistles blew at 7:05pm to mark the starting of the silence, every hair on my neck stood up. The silence was astoundingly thorough, flags fluttering in a virtually soundless breeze, quiet tears rolling down the cheeks of people with battered souls. Battered, but still alive, and using that moment of their one and precious life to think of the siblings they will now never have the chance to know.
After the silence 49 balloons were released to symbolise the 49 murdered in the coldest of blood. At this, a roaring cheer rolled along the crowd, the intensity of which stirred every cell in my body. A wall of sound and passionate humanity that, if only for a moment, blew away every memory I have of ever being yelled at, spat on, punched, kicked, beaten or bullied just for being myself. It lasted quite a while and turned into the chant ‘We’re here! We’re Queer! We will not live in fear!’ I have no words to describe what it felt like to swim in that song of defiance and pride.
Then the London Gay Men’s Chorus (LGMC) sang, and it was beautiful. It has been much documented, quite rightly, and they began a healing ritual of intense beauty. As they ended, the Pinkies started up. As we made our way through the crowds to regroup, we started singing an old Pinkie favourite ‘Hand in Hand’, which had been sung by the choir in 1996 in Tampa, Florida. Now of course the song had made a sort of tragic full circle, but the lyrics resonated with so many present there as tears flowed freely, and perfect strangers held onto each other for comfort.
Hand in Hand We’ll be the strongest we can be If we learn to stand by those in need With shoulder pressed to shoulder We will build a mighty wall And nothing in the world Can make us fall, If we stand hand in hand
We sang ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop us Now‘ to an appreciative crowd, and then sang together with the LGMC – ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow‘ reverberated around the streets as hundreds of people joined in. After this we all decamped to the beautiful garden outside St Anne’s Church in Soho – coincidentally the new home of Diversity Role Models, a charity we have been proud to support with our recent CD project. The LGMC sang again, and then we joined in.
At our recent concert, one of the compères, Simon Harrison, quoted Armistead Maupin’s theory of having a ‘biological family’ and a ‘logical family’, the latter being one that you have chosen to support you through life. Like many Pinkies, I see the choir as my logical family, and I certainly don’t know how I would have fared in the last few days without them.
At the time of writing, it seems increasingly likely that the gunman was gay or bisexual himself, raised in an ideology that clearly set him on the worst path imaginable. If this turns out to be true, the human race will have reached a new low. People have since declared #lovewins in the time following the attack, but for that to work we must encourage everyone we know to extend it everywhere, and especially to our own LGBTQI community.
Release your anger, you must, otherwise it will fester within you, poisoning the unique beauty of you. Don’t fall into the trap of looking for a scapegoat, don’t let people talk you into bigotry based on falsehoods; we the Pinkies stand by our Muslim LGBTQI brethren. Whether you are a person of faith or not, swapping one bigotry for another will never solve anything.
Do be brave. Do be yourself. Do love and be loved.
If I said I wasn’t scared after this horror, I would be lying, but if we stand “Hand in Hand, we’ll be the strongest we can be”. Every act of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia is fuel to an ugly fire, but there is hope. The day after the vigil I was working with Diversity Role Models in a school, where 40 children aged 9-11, voluntarily formed an ‘Equality Club’ as a response to a workshop on LGBTQI awareness. We had hoped that this generation would grow up feeling less of the fear we felt when we were younger, which may not happen now, but we and they still have the power to make things better, if we stand Hand in Hand.
Later in June, The Pink Singers, the Adam Street Singers, the London Gay Men’s Chorus, Diversity Choir and the NHS Choir put on a joint concert to commemorate those lost in the massacre and to raise money for the victims’ fund.
The Pinkies send our love to Orlando, and everyone else who needs it right now.
In January 2016, we released an album of tailor-made arrangements and raised money for Diversity Role Models and The Albert Kennedy Trust. The Pink Singers’ fourth album, By Special Arrangement, showcases the performing and arranging talent that the choir has developed over its 33-year history.
You can stream the album straight from Spotify below. It is also available to stream on Apple Music, TikTok, Instagram, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, Deezer, Pandora, and 150+ more. Just search for the Pink Singers By Special Arrangement.
You can also purchase the album from iTunes or buy a CD for £7 using the PayPal button below.
We’re thrilled to have been able to make this album a reality, through the help of those who supported our Crowdfunding campaign in December 2015, which supported Diversity Role Models and TheAlbert Kennedy Trust. Both charities do tremendous work helping young LGBT people in need.
Check out our exclusive ‘behind the scenes’ video to watch the recording process and find out some of the amazing stories behind the music.
Mark Winter, Johnathon Finlay, Ian Stephenson, Guy Keith-Miller, Jay Hirst, Paul Lenz, Colinne, Ivan Benjamin Roets, Helen Drew, Jeremy Donovan, Simon Pearson, Louisa Quinn, Oskar Marchock, Michelle , Gareth Williams , Gill, Nicola Swann, Tanya Wright, Ellie, Gary Davidson-Guild, Ian, Jana & Benjy xx, Sam Mason, Sally-Anne Smith, Caroline Allan, Martin Brophy MBE, Kate, Adrian Ryder, Angie Gayle, Jackie, Ragnar Veigar Guðmundsson, David, Emma Donovan, Cass, Frances Bowen, Claire Lawton , Carolynn BigMomma Briggs, Jessica, Naomi Berwin, Ruth T, Hazel Viveash, Julie Ann Pope, Michael Mann, Ian Faulkner, Jim & Carole Oliver, Zoe Johannes, Barry Dowling, cat tucker, IaconCity, Philip Welch, Zoe B, Alexander Clifton-Melhuish, Mina Candy, Timur Charles, Paul Rumbelow, Amy Wilman, Rachel D, Milton Jolin, Alex Rainford, Sonia Rumbelow, Bruce Chambers, Caroline Miller, Marcus Gomez, Mary Dunn, Rachel Sparks, Camilla.i, manarh, Eddie O’Sullivan, Linda Harley Gillespie, Peter Masters, Tracey Button, Oliver Gilbody, Georges & Charlotte, Simon, Ellie, Sigurlaug B. Arngrímsdóttir, Alwyn Tan, Claire-Lou Sankey, Susan Rudy, Ricky and Liz, Dave Cooper, Kate Sandars, Stephen and Julie Drew, Kelly Taylor, PennyFaith, Michael Mckenna, Adrian Scottow, Mark Donovan, Esther MacInnes, Matt Overall, Hilary Perchard, nicky, Jenny Cousins, Susannah Colgate, Yasi Mak, Rafa Vigata Solano, Tom D, Michael Dann, H. Swift, Simon Harrison, Philip Engleheart, Charly Milton, Karin Read & Lucy Barker, Paul Truesdale, Ali Doyle, David Baxter, Penny Langridge, Joshua Whelan, Iain Reeves , Chris, Jess Talmage, Pouneh Mortazavi, Chris Chambers, Liang Wee, Ben Park, Charlie Gadeken, Eric brown, Emelda Nicholroy, Julie and Jed Whelan, Tex G. Beck, Bill Majrowski, Simon Wilkinson, Roger & Kathy Wilman, Louise Thomas, Richard Greer, Mike Baxter, Rosie, Tim and Tony, The Stefan Magdalinski and Kay Chung Fundation, Jerome De Henau, Hsien Chew, Rod Thomas, Murray Hipkin, MCJ, Paul A Young, Kirsten Pulley, John Flinders, Robin Summerhill, Sue K, Graham & Anne Pearson, Stormy Bubbles, Lynne Michelle Nicholls, Jan Pimblett, Philip Rescorla, Cass
The Pink Singers went to Brighton to join 17 other LGBT choirs from all over the UK and Ireland at the second bi-annual choir festival, Hand in Hand. Bass Ben give us the low down…
The Pink Singers hosted the first festival back in 2013 at the Troxy, London and we’d been looking forward to the next one for months, so I was really excited to be escaping from work early on Friday afternoon to head down to the coast for a great weekend of singing with friends old and new.
Hand in Hand is like a bubble of workshops, concerts and socialising. There’s lots of singing and not a lot of sleep. Our Friday evening started at the Old Ship on the seafront where we met some of our fellow choirs, nearly all of whom we’ve performed with in the past. In the 9 years I’ve spent in the choir I’ve been privileged to meet some amazing people all over the country and it’s always brilliant to see familiar faces coming together.
Bright and early on the Saturday morning we were off to Brighton Dome to register. A few hours later and after a couple of workshops (“Asian Jazz Improvisation”, anyone!?) it was time for the first of the main concerts which was preceded by the first ever Brian Kennedy Long Service Awards. As one of the two original founders of the Pink Singers, Brian did a huge amount of work for the gay community in London and created a place for people to come together and sing. Incredibly, his legacy lives on today in the Pink Singers that I am proud to be a part of and I’m incredibly grateful to him and Mark Bunyan for deciding to get a group of singers in a room and start note bashing. During the awards it was brilliant to see so many singers who have sung in their own choirs for ten and twenty years. I look forward to my bronze medal at the next Hand in Hand!
We were delighted to open the evening concert to a packed house full of friends, family, and participating choirs. I was really proud to sing two of my husband’s arrangements –’Smells like teen spirit’ and ‘Relax’. Our songs were incredibly well received and hearing the applause from an audience who really know what it’s like to be part of a choir and singing with your friends on stage was a brilliant moment, even for a cynic like me.
Our performance was over in just a few minutes and we were able to watch all of the other fabulous performances from the likes of our hosts Rainbow Chorus and Brighton GMC, Diversity, Sing out Bristol and the Deep C Divas. Whilst all the performances were brilliant, two really struck a chord for me: LGMC’s performance of ‘Through the Barricades’ accompanied by a video of the difficulties many thousands of LGBT people continue to face around the world was a stark reminder of how lucky we were to be sat in a concert hall packed full of people who have the liberty and freedom to be honest with the world about who they are, largely without any difficulty. In addition, formed as part of the campaign for a yes vote at the Irish same-sex marriage referendum, Tá for Grá gave an equally moving (if a bit more lighthearted!) performance of ‘Sew on a sequin’ reminded us to be fabulous, even when the going is tough.
I left Brighton on Sunday knackered, hungover, sounding a little hoarse and ready for an early night. More than anything else, I left feeling happy and lucky to be part of such an amazing group of people. The next Hand in Hand takes place in Manchester but isn’t for two whole years! It seems like an eternity to wait, but we’re already looking forward to it.