Category Archives: Tales of the Pinkie

Thirty years with the Pink Singers

Michael DerrickLast month, Pinkie veteran Michael Derrick celebrated his third decade in the choir. Whilst an active singing (and dancing) member, he has also been the Musical Director (1988 – 1992), accompanist and one of our favourite arrangers. Here, he describes how the choir has (or hasn’t) changed over the last thirty years and what being in the choir means to him.

My first rehearsal was on the last Sunday of October, 1986. It was on a Sunday afternoon because that was the only time the whole choir was free: before the liberalisation of opening hours, pubs closed after lunchtime drinking and didn’t open again until the evening. What else was there to do? Join a choir, obviously.

The rehearsal was in the basement of the London Lesbian and Gay Centre: a dingy space with a low ceiling, out-of-tune piano, no natural light, and the smell of cigarettes and beer from the previous night’s disco. We ‘suffered for our art’. There were about 15 regular singers; all men. The repertoire consisted of show tunes, protest songs, and earnest post-war German cabaret lieder. The other choirs in Europe were into pop songs and classical music but they tolerated our seriousness because we had Margaret Thatcher, Section 28 and an age of consent of 21. They knew that we were “Pink” because that was the colour of the triangle that homosexuals were forced to wear by the Nazis.

“Every rehearsal was part of a build-up to a concert: a performance and then a new set of repertoire and so on. And at every rehearsal there was the aim of putting on the next concert. So there was a very well defined set of objectives for each rehearsal. That was the choir that I joined and it’s more or less the structure that has survived to this day”.

As well as celebrating his 30th anniversary with the choir, Michael also turned 70 this year!

As well as celebrating his 30th anniversary with the choir, Michael also turned 70 this year!

Thirty years later we are still Pink, still protesting, and still rehearsing on Sunday afternoons; but a lot has changed. Most notably we are a mixed choir. “Mixed” usually means Men and Women. I am proud to say that we are much more mixed than that!

We are bigger, of course, and the repertoire is wider. Early photos show us using music – now everything we perform is off copy; early video shows us standing still or walking about on stage making simple gestures – now we have full choreography. When I go for a health check-up I always tell the nurse that I do a four hour singing and dancing rehearsal each week. This always convinces the nurse that I am keeping fit…

A strength of the choir is the large number of members who write arrangements. In the early days, arrangements had to be written because that was the only way we could perform the songs we wanted to sing. When women started to join the choir, songs were regularly re-arranged to give the increasing numbers of higher voices something to sing. We continue this tradition and it makes us very special – not many choirs do it.

“The first concert I conducted was the first concert the Pink Singers gave with women and men performing. Before that, there were women and men together on the marches, but it was the first concert. And for every single concert since then there has been a range of voices and genders in the choir. And that’s something I’m extremely proud of.”

There have been many other changes over the years but one thing has stayed exactly the same: after my first rehearsal we all went to the pub. The social side of the choir is very strong. It has often been described as a family. Friendships have been made and relationships forged. It has been a complete delight to have been a Pinkie for thirty years.


Pink rockabilly at Pride

Pride 2015Newbie alto and already-our-new-section-leader (yay!) Jeremy tells us about his first Pride experience as a Pinkie…
It was 1972, the 1st of July, when the first official UK Gay Pride was held in London.  Marches had taken place from 1970, traversing parts of North London, but it was on this day, chosen as the nearest Saturday to the anniversary of the Stonewall riots, that around 2,000 people converged on London. They came to march, protest and fight for the rights which are fast becoming our 21st century reality.
Some of my fellow Pinkies were there, and I bet they could hardly have imagined what Pride would be like a little over 40 years later.  We were certainly extremely happy and indeed proud that they were still there, and with us! Marching side-by-side with the giants whose shoulders we stand upon, was a special experience that I’m sure we’ll keep forever. The theme for Pride this year was ‘Pride Heroes’, with various ‘everyday people’ being rightly lauded for their work, visibility and stoicism in the moves toward equality.
Pride 2015I realise not everyone likes the way Pride goes now, but I guess it was ever thus, the day I see an entire community agreeing on one thing is a day I shan’t hold my breath for! For what it’s worth, it seems to me that a day where people seem to be smiling a lot more, where there is a greater diversity of gender expression and identity, and where couples of all sexualities feel able to do something as simple as holding hands without fear of violence , still has a huge amount of positive worth in it.
The day dawned bright and warm, and most importantly dry. Many of us had been caught in the downpour of Pride 2014, memories of soggy socks and drooping fairy wings had made us extra-happy to see the sun put in a strong appearance from start to finish. We marched together in the parade, banner billowing in the breeze and helium balloons with minds of their own causing scenes of general hilarity. We sang songs from seasons past and present, and the crowds obliged us beautifully by joining in. A notable favourite was the timeless classic ‘Relax’ by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, which has been quite brilliantly rearranged by our very own Chris Chambers, for our Summer concert on the 11th July.
Pride 2015I had chosen the day to try out my new 1950s-style pink rockabilly skirt, and could be seen twirling and dancing a little ahead of the main body of Pinkies with a few others, handing out flyers and stickers to the friendly (and at times vaguely bemused) crowds. The optimism of the crowd was tangible. Only a day after the US Supreme Courts ruling on same-sex marriage, with Ireland’s joyful referendum outcome still ringing in our ears, it seems we are in a great position to be actually  brimming with pride, whilst also mindful that we can’t hang up our marching boots just yet…
Pride 2015So, we danced, we sang, we acquired a parade gatecrasher with a lovely alto range, in short, it was a blast. At the march’s end, we received goodie bags containing gratuitous amounts of officially named (by our very own Kate Nichols and Chris Viveash) ‘Fancy Gay Coffee’, we headed straight to the crypt of St. Martins in the Fields to rehearse for our big moment. We appeared on the main stage in Trafalgar Square in the early evening. At 6.40pm, we were waiting backstage as I was changing into my red stilettos, as you do. I am now known as ‘Dorothy’ to many choir members…  Anyway, there I was, with the shock of having just spent a penny in a portaloo still leaving my system, when the glorious Sandi Toksvig started practising her speech not three feet away from me. I had met her once before, when I was wearing pink glitter dress shoes, which Ms. Toksvig and I named my ‘Vagina Shoes’…but that’s another story.
Pride 2015Sandi was on just before us, giving the most rousing and heart warming speech I’ve heard in a long time, naming everyone there as her ‘Pride Heroes’. We completely agreed, they were the most exuberant and welcoming crowd we could have hoped for. The performance was over in a flash, good things always are, but we sang our hearts out and they seemed to enjoy it. Our classic rendition of ‘Vogue’ went down a storm (i’ve a sneaking suspicion there might have a been a few Madonna fans in the audience, but I may be wrong), and we rounded it off with a song thats coming up in our Summer Concert ‘Key Changes:  Songs that Shaped the World’ at St. John’s Smith Square in London on Saturday the 11th July.  If you want to know what song, you’ll have to come to the concert…
This is my first season as a ‘Pinkie’, and I can honestly say it’s one of the best decisions I have ever made.  When I first marched at Pride a few years a go with another (brilliant) organisation, all I could think about were the many people I had met in my life who had done everything they could to stop me from being there at all. In 2015, all I could think of, and all I could see, were thousands of people who were happy to see us.  Thank You Pinkies…I cannot wait until next time!
See more of our photos from the day here!


Tales of the Pinkie – Tim C

Tim C

Tim C


‘Tales of the Pinkie’ is our irregular series of articles looking back our history through the eyes of our members. This year we’re presenting a range of great events to celebrate our 30 years of singing together. Find out more about our history and the LGBT rights movement in our brilliant exhibition ‘Singing the Changes’ that runs 13th June – 18th August.
Former Pink Singer Tim C chats to our current member Hsien about his memories of singing with the choir, taking part in our European trips and appearing on the set of Gimme, Gimme, Gimme. Continue reading


Why I will be at the London Vigil Against Hate Crime

Jo

Jo


I’ve lived a fairly sheltered life as a lesbian. No overt homophobia, I wasn’t bullied at school but then I didn’t know about gays and lesbians until I was in my 20’s and at drama school and it wasn’t until a little later that I realised that lesbianism explained my feelings towards women and not towards men. I never felt there was something wrong with me and have always lived my life as an “out” lesbian and been accepted as such by colleagues and family. Clearly this is not the case with many of my friends and last year I was brought face to face with a monstrous hate crime when various news reports told us of the death of Ian Baynham who was attacked in Trafalgar Square whilst out celebrating.
Even if I’d not been a member of the Pink Singers I’d have attended the vigil that night but being able to be an active participant gave me a huge sense of community and a feeling that I was helping to make a stand to say enough is enough. Singers came from many of the lesbian and gay communities around the country, not just London and we all joined together with one voice to sing for Ian and all our brothers and sisters who have experienced hatred and persecution around the world. Continue reading


Tales of the Pinkie – Andy

Our appearance on Gimme Gimme Gimme
“Let’s go back seven years. 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!
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. Continue reading