New Single for World AIDS Day

Pop artist Bright Light Bright Light records a charity single with the Pink Singers and it is released in November for World Aids Day.

Since 1983, we Pink Singers have been entertaining and educating through music, from backing Bronski Beat on “The Age of Consent” to performing at No. 10 Downing Street to celebrate equal marriage, as well as the Stonewall Equality Show in 1995 at the Royal Albert Hall.

As the UK’s longest-serving LGBT choir, many of our members have been directly affected by HIV/AIDS, so when pop sensation Bright Light Bright Light suggested that we release a charity single together for World AIDS Day we jumped at the chance.

You can listen to a taster on the SoundCloud stream below, and whilst the single is released on November 24th you can pre-order now so please do.  At least 20p from each download will go to the Elton John AIDS foundation. Have a listen and let us know what you think in the comments.

Simon and Hsien have written a bit about how the collaboration came about…

Rod Thomas in Avalon Cafe, Glastonbury 2007 (Pic: Simon P)
Rod Thomas in Avalon Cafe, Glastonbury 2007 . (Pic: Simon P)

Simon: I think the first time I saw Bright Light Bright Light live was at Glastonbury festival back in 2007 (then performing as Rod Thomas). I’ve been a big fan since, following his work, seeing his performances in London and following his recent move to New York from afar.

One night at a rehearsal of one of our spin off groups Barberfellas, I played one of his songs to Hsien, who then got in touch to suggest we might work together…

Hsien: I’ve been following Bright Light Bright Light for a while now because I love his brand of electronic music. It always occurred to me that combining his considerable vocal talents with those of the Pink Singers would be a collaboration made in heaven, so you can imagine my excitement when Rod said ‘yes’ to the suggestion. I was even more thrilled when he made an offer to record a charity single together for World AIDS Day to raise funds for the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Performing at the London Lighthouse in 1989
Performing at the London Lighthouse in 1989

Through singing with the Pink Singers I am well aware how devastating a diagnosis HIV/AIDS can be. In the late 80s the choir was based at the London Lighthouse, a hospice for those with AIDS, and has many stories of friends who were lost there. Even now we have members living with HIV who continue to feel stigmatized outside the choir, so it was a natural fit for us to perform on this single.

Rehearsal day!
Rehearsal day!

Simon: putting the track together was easy – I rustled up some simple vocal arrangements together really quickly, we secured some space at a local school, and about 25 of us from the choir came together to record the choral parts. It was great fun, and we all left with the anthem firmly lodged in our brains…

Hsien: hearing our voice parts being laid down one late summer Saturday afternoon was incredible, and listening to them get expertly mixed into the final track you now hear was truly eye-opening. ‘Everything I Ever Wanted’ has a great upbeat sound, but at the same time there lurks a melancholy tinge; it is that fusion of celebration and regret which makes it so irresistible.”

It is has been a privilege collaborating with a talented singer-songwriter like Rod, and a pleasure hearing the final work come together so brilliantly. We hope that ‘Everything I Ever Wanted’ will raise much needed funds for the Elton John AIDS Foundation, and help support their frontline programmes of work helping those living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.

Timeline datestamp: 24 November 2014

Downing Street

2013 was a big year for the Pink Singers and a very special one at that. It was a year of celebration, both for the choir and also the country. Our landmark 30th year saw our 2nd CD Recording as well as our ‘Singing the Changes’ Exhibition. But we had a very special invitation: to sing at No. 10 Downing Street to celebrate the legalisation of Gay Marriage in the UK.

I remember the day we received an email saying that we had been asked to sing at No.10 but at quite short notice (if I recall it was within a matter of days). We managed to form a small group of us quickly and I was lucky enough to be part of the experience, as my Manager at work allowed me to take an extended lunch break to go and sing at quite a momentous occasion.

We all convened on a hot Summer’s day in July 2013 outside the main gates of Downing Street and excitedly gathered outside the main door. I had imagined a Martine McCutcheon-like person to greet us at the door (just like Love Actually) but obviously it was a little more formal than that!

We were given a rehearsal space in one of the Prime Minister’s rooms they used for dining and John, our accompanist, led a warm up for us. Everyone was so spirited and raring to go. We made our way downstairs into the gardens of No.10 and had the opportunity to network with some of the guests who had been part of local society and were LGBT figures and role models, including Clare Balding!

We sang a 20 minute set that consisted of some of our Summer Repertoire including L-O-V-E and Seasons of Love from our previous Winter Season. It was perfectly apt for the occasion and David Cameron even took the time to introduce himself and thank us for our contribution. What stuck in my mind that day is that it wasn’t about what the current government had managed to do, as Cameron specifically thanked Tony Blair and Labour for ‘starting the process’ of allowing Gay Marriage to be legal.

The afternoon finished with celebrations amongst the guests with some Pimms and Lemonade and general high spirits all round. That day I had never been prouder to be a Pinkie and it’s something I’ll never forget. Once again, the Pink Singers made important history and reinforced how important it is to have such communities like ours in this current time.

David
Tenor

Timeline datestamp: 24 July 2013

Hand in Hand 2013

‘Hand in Hand’ festival takes place at The Troxy, Limehouse. Representatives from 21 choirs from around the UK and Ireland took part, with 12 performing in the evening concert. 

Back in July we invited LGBT choirs from around the nation to help us celebrate our thirtieth anniversary with a festival of song, Hand in Hand. We came together at the Troxy in East London for a day of vocal workshops and a spectacular evening concert.

The Pink Singers’ set included the premiere of The Great Choir of London: a pair of pieces written for us by Richard Thomas of Jerry Springer The Opera fame. We’ve made a small film documentary about this memorable day as a thank you to all who made it so special.

You can read more about from Lucy in their blog post.

Timeline datestamp: 14 July 2013

Singing the Changes

Hester

Hester has been singing with the Pink Singers for a number of years and is a key member of the team working on our Singing the Changes exhibition, opening this week. In discussion with fellow choir member Ben, Hester explains her involvement in the exhibition and talks about her experiences with the choir.

Singing the Changes contains loads of amazing images from the choir archive, and also from the press archives of LGBT events and protests in the last 30 years. Have you got a favourite?

It’s extremely difficult to pick favourites from such a wealth of fascinating documents and memorabilia. Some of my favourites are the photos of Pink Singers performing in dustbin liners and assorted hats, in 1986. 27 years later, we still have the same willingness to experiment and risk looking silly in the cause of entertaining our audiences.

BPeditedHugill
Image: LSE/HCA/Pink Singers

Perhaps my serious favourite is the press release put out by the European Lesbian and Gay Festival of Song in 1988, stating their support for the Pink Singers, who were facing the ‘anti-homosexual laws of the Thatcher government’: Section 28. It is very heartening to see evidence of the way ten other gay choirs spoke out in solidarity with the UK gay community at a very difficult time.

Could you tell me what the exhibition is about?

It is a celebration of 30 years of the Pink Singers and an exploration of the changing lives of gay people in London from the 1980s and 1990s onwards. Gay history isn’t taught in schools, and has not been passed to children by their parents, so it’s important for organisations like ours to share their stories.

How did the idea for the exhibition come about?

We realised what an important milestone our 30th anniversary was going to be: we were the first gay choir in the UK and we are the longest-running mixed gay choir in Europe. A lot has changed for the gay community during the time the Pinkies have been singing and we wanted to mark the occasion appropriately, looking back at how far we’ve come, the fun we’ve had and the difficulties we’ve faced.

Has it been tricky to document the history of the Pink Singers?

It has been a lot of work, by many dedicated choir members, but once you start looking, there are all sorts of ways to record our history.  The filmed interviews with choir members were carried out especially for the exhibition and they’re fascinating personal stories, covering all sorts of things not documented elsewhere; they are not just about singing, but about coming out, exploring the gay scene and all aspects of LGBT experience.  The choir’s early history was well covered in documents deposited at the LSE’s collection in the Hall Carpenter Archive. They were donated by one of our early conductors, Robert Hugill, and consist of hundreds of items, from concert flyers and programmes, to handwritten lists of members, letters and sheet music for a song adapted to give it a gay theme. Long-serving members of the Pink Singers have also donated artefacts, programmes and other items, then there are press reports, costumes and audio recordings to build up the picture.

city-limits-1989
Image: LSE/HCA/Pink Singers

Aside from putting together the exhibition, you’re an active member of the choir. Have you worked on projects like this before? How has it felt working on something that forms a part of your own experience?

I’ve never done anything like this before! Some of the work has played to my strengths and some has involved venturing quite a long way out of my comfort zone:  I loved pretending to be an academic at the LSE Archive, compiling an inventory of the Pinkie materials held there (I’m a librarian and history graduate), but interviewing one of the choir’s conductors on film was quite scary.

I’m so pleased to have been involved in the whole process though; I have learnt a lot about gay history that I didn’t know and have found it completely fascinating.

Why did you originally join the choir?

I wanted to meet other gay people who loved music – and more people around my own age; previously I had spent a lot of time going to social groups, and a lesbian walking group, where I had tended to meet women who were a lot older than me.

Are you in the choir for the same reasons now?

I still enjoy meeting new members each season, but the choir turned out to offer a huge amount more than I expected. It has transformed my social life, for the better, taken me all over Europe and the UK, and even shown me that I can enjoy dancing! We are in some ways like a huge, supportive, varied family – I’m so lucky to be part of it.  We know how to have fun and there’s nothing like the buzz you get from singing with other people.  If I’d known about the choreography I’d never have joined, but it’s such a quintessential part of  a Pinkie performance, and so entertaining for the audience, that I quite enjoy it now.

Some of the interviews included within the exhibition are strikingly powerful and I’ve been surprised to hear how far LGBT rights have come in the last 30 years. Clearly we’ve still got some way to go and just watching the news in the last few weeks shows that even in mainland Europe, the advancement of LGBT civil rights has the potential to cause dissent. Can exhibitions like this help inform and educate?

Yes, it is so important that our past is not forgotten, so that we don’t take our current situation for granted: the political and social climate can change to our detriment as well as to our benefit, as demonstrated by Section 28 and the hostility provoked in some quarters by the emergence of AIDS. The  exhibition is also communicating the message that the gay community is a wonderful, varied, supportive network of amazing individuals who know how to have a good time, whether by singing or just by partying!  In this respect, it is playing a similar role to the  ‘It Gets Better’ campaign.

The results of Hester and her fellow curators efforts can been seen at ‘Singing the changes’.

Timeline datestamp: 14 June 2013

Our 30th Anniversary

We celebrated our 30th anniversary year in style in so many ways, that it’s taken quite a while for us to distil the enormity into this 4:30 clip.

Huge thanks to all photographers from within (and without!) the choir who worked on documenting the year: Hsien Chew, Liang Wee, Ben Park, Oskar Marchock, Pete Stean, Simon Pearson, James Cronin, Jake Milligan, Boy oh Boy Photography.

Relive our year and listen along to Richard Thomas’ composition ‘Earth, Wind and Choir’ performed by the Pink Singers and 21 other LGBT choirs at our choral festival Hand in Hand in July 2013.

And if this whets your appetite, check our yearbooks from previous years: 2011, 2010.

Timeline datestamp: 07 April 2013