West Palm Beach

In October 1990 the Pink Singers became the first European LGBT+ choir to sing in the USA when 18 of us visited Florida. We had been invited by the 70 strong Gay Men’s Chorus of South Florida to perform with them at a concert called “International Harmonies” in West Palm Beach. To celebrate our visit the Mayor of West Palm Beach named Friday October 26th 1990 “Pink Singers Day”.

The venue for the concert was a huge converted cinema and we were so good even the back row stopped what they were doing!  Our repertoire included “London Is London”, “Always On My Mind” and a medley of songs by George Gershwin. We also introduced the audience to Tom Robinson’s “Glad To Be Gay” with new lyrics for the occasion.

As well as doing the concert, we also did a special fundraiser in aid of the Health Crisis Network in Miami, who continue to support people with HIV and AIDs. At that time, the pandemic had impacted heavily on the local Hispanic community and their children, so we had a very mixed audience who cheered us on our way. The highlight of the event came as we sang the song “Somewhere Out There”, when a typically noisy Miami thunderstorm erupted outside. The song never sounded more impressive.

With the performances over, the Pinkies were also able to enjoy the many delights of South Florida (some pictured here, some not!). A few holiday romances took place and some lasting friendships were made. We were to meet up with the Florida chorus again two years later at the Festival of Gay and Lesbian Choruses in Denver.

Timeline datestamp: 10 October 1990

Loose Ends

On Saturday June 24th 1989 the Pink Singers appeared on the BBC Radio 4 programme Ned Sherrin’s Loose Ends as part of a special show for LGBT London Pride Day. It was broadcast from the roof of BBC Broadcasting House and among the other guests were writer Julie Burchill, art critic Brian Sewell and magician Fay Presto. Here’s a transcript of the Pink Singers’ contribution to the recording.

Ned: Here we have the Pink Singers, a group of gay and lesbian choristers, who are going to send the music of Rogers and Hammestein into orbit, and to give a special send-off to international gay pride weekend.

Ned: You’ve already heard the Pink Singers this morning. They’re a much-travelled English gay and lesbian group, who’ve been singing for 6 years. They include teachers, computer people, civil servants, a banker and a biologist. Together they’ve sung for various charities – not all gay – they’re at the Green Room, Manchester next Saturday; the Tithe Hall Farm, Harrow the week after. And I think they’re going to start this little section by showing us how they sing Spread a Little Happiness.

Ned: You’ve got about 12 people here, you could do with more I suppose?

Sandy: We can always do with more men and women singers. But we would like some more lesbians to join us. Our three lesbian singers that were with us at the festival have left to go to New Zealand, round Europe and stay in Germany. So we are looking for more women.

Ned: Philip Rescorla, how much do you travel around the world? Where does it get you?

Philip: Well we’ve been to Stockholm. Last year we were at Berlin. Of course next week we’re at Manchester, so it’s Budleigh Salterton here we come!

Timeline datestamp: 24 June 1989

Age of Consent

Mike Thorne produced the album ‘Age of Consent’, in which the Pink Singers backed Bronski Beat. This was the band’s debut album, written at a time when the age of consent for gay men was still 21 in the UK.

The first part of I Feel Love’s recording was in London, and this was where the cowboys rode into town, twenty of them in the collective posse of the Pink Singers.

This male voice choir with a difference embraced an extraordinary range of character types, from loudly extrovert to painfully shy. Appearance was just as varied. The group couldn’t resist giggling, non-maliciously, at this odd human assortment. The big sound of the resulting layers, the harmonies of which were recorded one at a time sounds quite Volga Boatmen, belying the hot summer night on which it was recorded in an East London basement studio, sounding considerably larger than the recording room.

It was hot singing, and hot conducting, leaving persistent memories of sweat on the synthesizer keys that I used to lay out the arrangement. An evening of this melts you, and the air conditioning just gives you up as a bad job. But at the end we had our sound. I broke out the champagne I had sneaked in. We might be an odd collection of differing misfits, and the juice didn’t go far among 25 people, but after all it was showbiz and ceremony is important.

The Pink Singers were even more effective on the other cover on the album, of the Gershwins’ It Ain’t Necessarily So. This is possibly the track which shows off the diverse talents of all concerned, starting with Arno (Uptown Horns) Hecht’s clarinet taking the melody at the beginning. Jimmy’s singing is effortlessly fluid, the more remarkable that he is delivering it on his first album. The harmonized scat sections are flawless, although we would admit that they took time.

You can feel the enthusiasm of the Singers. When they enter in the second verse they sound as if they have just been uncaged, which knocked the track nicely out of being comfortable middle-of-the-road anodyne. They were so anxious and anticipating that it was impossible for them to sing at any level less than raucous, even when humming under the a cappella verse.

Timeline datestamp: 15 October 1984

The Beginning

The Pink Singers is the oldest LGBT+ choir in Europe. Mark Bunyan, our first Musical Director (MD) and one of our founding members, recounts how it all began.

I’ll be completely honest and say that my arm was very heavily twisted by Brian Kennedy, and Michael Mason of Capital Gay, to start the choir in 1983. I’d had some success with my musical the year before, and my cabaret career was going great guns, so I must admit that I didn’t really want to commit that much time to it and said that I’d do it for exactly three months.

The first choir meeting was April 7th 1983. Diary reads: ‘The rehearsal for the gay choir survived both my incompetence and the potential splits of cultural/political and male/female but we’ll see how next week goes.’ The first meeting was at the Oval House as was the one a week later: ‘There were only fifteen people at the choir practice but at least two women still. Managed to balance the meeting again between Radfems and SDP Yale Gleeclub (the latter was so silly/awful it make me giggle). Afterwards some of us went to the White Bear… Bob Stratton came in delivering Gay News and gave Brian and I a copy each “because you do things.” He’s off to Devon or would have joined the choir.’

May 15th: ‘Was late to choir practice in County Hall and felt awful and incompetent though when we got it together God Rest You sounded pretty good. The name is now The Pink Singers (over my suggestion That Choir). I enjoy it even when feeling appalling.’ I was hungover.

Saturday July 2nd: ‘Went up for the Gay Pride march – initially heralded by a small group with a large bunch of pink balloons in the middle of Hyde Park. Eventually a large crowd gathered (1500- 3000?) and self and Pink singers were plonked at the head of the crowd and had a jolly time all the way to Malet Street, especially when we all let our balloons rise in Tottenham Court Road.’

I remember Robert being really surprised when I said that not only could he do some of the musical direction but could also take over the whole thing. It was at the last meeting of my promised three months and his arrival could not have been timed better. I’d been assuming that I’d have to go on with it despite my (clear from the diary entries) feeling that this wasn’t something I was too skilled at.

Timeline datestamp: 07 April 1983