Category Archives: Past events

An Epic Night At The Movies

Wahooo!  Newbie Mark relives the excitement of our recent concert, A Night At The Movies, the sequel. Which was epic.


I’d been waiting for this day to arrive since I joined the Pink Singers in the Autumn of 2017. With my outfits packed and a bubbling sense of excitement in my belly, I treated myself to an Uber that drove me through Chelsea to Cadogan hall. I thought it quite rare and fortunate that this particular driver was playing a classical compilation CD in his car, which set my anxious and excited mind somewhat to rest as I absorbed the lovely architecture on the way to the hall. I arrived, and eagerly ran to the door because I was, as always, fashionably late. At the door I was greeted by Penny, elegantly puffing the last embers of a fag before our call, and she directed me down through the somewhat arcane stairways of the former Church of Christian Science to the basement changing rooms. Once downstairs, I was able to greet a few of my chorister comrades before the pre-concert work would begin.

Photo credit: Jess Rowbottom

The day was long and hard. We spent it practicing entries and ironing out creases, and I tried my best not to annoy an anxious Murray and poorly Jerome. Our lovely hostess’s sass kept me entertained as we ran through the numbers and the various steps we’d have to take in, out, and about the stage. Seeing the video accompaniment for the first time, I’m once again impressed with the talent that this choir endlessly seems capable of deploying. At last, a coffee break. A cigarette (or two). And then running through the second half. By now the excitement was welling within me. We had our pre-concert dinner break and I wolfed down the squashed yellow sticker sandwich I’d bought on the way in. Night had fallen and some people were arriving at the hall. I couldn’t wait to see the rows of seats full of our Pinkie friends.
We’ve worked hard on this one. All those Sunday afternoons’ labours were about to come to fruition. I’m lined up on the stairs, taking deep breathes to calm my nerves. Simon informs me that I’ve been referred to as the one with the Tarzan hair. I ruffle my mane in response. Basses and Tenors are joshing about in hushed (not always) voices as we wait for a cue to walk on stage. These moments of pre-performance excitement are my favourite. In this moment, the potential for beauty is almost palpable. I dwell momentarily  upon the collective intention, logistcal efforts, thought, planning, practice, talent, and no small measure of love too, is about to collide into a musical explosion. This is it. My first Pinkie’s concert. I think it was somewhere in the middle of the Indiana Jones theme that I’ve taken my position. I’m scanning the crowd for my brother, but can’t seem to see much past the lights. Of course, I notice a few cute faces in the crowd. There’s so many people! It’s basically a full house! And then there’s the banner of Richard’s face hanging from the balcony. Legendary. Cue the Universal theme, and we’re off!

Photo credit: Jess Rowbottom

The first half goes so quickly. It feels like being in an altered state of consciousness, where the music flows our of me without deliberate effort. My whole attention rests on integrating my memory of the music, the auditory information from around me, and the motions of Murray’s hand guiding our collective voice. And the dancing. I’m proud of myself for changing my attitude to choreography. My confidence has grown. I’ve found a new way to express myself.

Mark (far right) getting into the choreo.
Photo credit: Jess Rowbottom

It’s interval. I should quit smoking… Maybe not just yet. Time for a quick wardrobe change. Gods! This is a damn good looking choir! Adorned in all the colours of the rainbow, these beautiful bodies, voices, and souls stand proud and ready. We’re back, and looking fabulous! My feet hurt, my eyes feel strained, but the adrenaline is coarsing through my veins. I’m giving it my all, playing the congas, shouting about your mum in the tube hole, focusing on keeping time and sensitive dynamics, and not bashing my neighbour when we Flashdance for our final number.

Photo credit: Jess Rowbottom

(When I was later to see the videos my brother took of some of the performance, I learned that I look so happy when I let myself go and just do the moves without self-doubt. And you know what? I realise how lucky I am to have this space to be my gay self with pride. Being part of this choir has helped me accept myself more as a gay man; an ongoing process for many if not all LGBTQ+ folks. I’ve grown in a way I could never have done otherwise than being a part of this choir. I am grateful for this unique opportunity.)

A Night at the Movies: The Sequel Jan 2018
Photo by Jess Rowbottom / Hotfox Media

The concert is done, and we’re milling about Cadogan before heading off to the afterparty. I say a few hellos, and all I hear from everyone is about how they absolutely loved it. My brother is impressed, and finally understands why I disappear for hours every Sunday. He can’t believe how professional it was. Born Slippy and O Fortuna were his favourites. I have a last puff on my post concert fag (this really has to stop soon though!) before heading back in to lend a hand setting down the stage. After lugging bits of stage and poles to the van, one of the stage crew asks if I’d like an old confetti cannon that the theatre was throwing out. I jumped at the opportunity, stroking my new one-use toy. I have a plan.
I rush off to the afterparty. Good cheer abides! And what an epic venue – Kirsten is a genius. I can’t quite remember how I got the drinks I did, but they were hardly necessary given the elation one feels post-concert. The bodies are moving. Colours are everywhere. Smiles, joy, new faces and familiar ones, young, and old, and all shapes and sizes. I’m waiting for my moment. The DJ plays Born Slippy. I wait for the wall of sound, poised on the balcony above the dance floor. The beat stops and the moment arrives. I unleash the confetti and it feels like time slows down. Colours flitter in the air. It’s one of those pure and rare peak moments in time. I am happy.

Mark’s confetti cannon.
Photo credit: Jess Rowbottom

See you next season!
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12 DAYS OF FREEDOM IN 32 YEARS!

It’s hard to believe that a month has passed already since our Indian friends from Rainbow Voices Mumbai arrived on our shores and created a rainbow rollercoaster of excitement, pride, and amazing memories for us all. RVM’s Ashish describes his experience… 
July 6th, 2017 marked in my calendar is one of the most memorable days of my 32 years of life. The first time ever I flew across oceans and lands so far beyond my reach to explore freedom and equality. I had never thought this back in July 2016, that my next summer would be full of excitement, learning and love.
It was conceived when the Pink Singers came to India in January 2017 for Mumbai Pride and our ‘We Shall Overcome’ concert, to support Rainbow Voices Mumbai and the Indian LGBT community to fight for our rights. In January, we mingled, loved, and sang together to a packed audience at the NCPA theatre in Mumbai. The concert was a medium to create awareness and educate people about the hurdles we face in India due to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (which criminalises homosexual activity, introduced under British Rule in 1860). It was one mammoth task for a choir as young as ours to host Europe’s longest running community choir; we managed it successfully and learnt quite a few lessons in organising a standalone concert, which now seems to be a permanent part of the Mumbai Pride Calendar.
We were high on emotions and warmth extended by the Pink Singers and equally mesmerised with the musical abilities of the choir. We were amazed how spot on, entertaining and thoroughly convincing they were with the message they brought with them. I still remember Murray Hipkin, the Musical Director saying, “We have not come to fix anything; probably we can’t fix anything for you, but what we can do is to support you in all possible ways to revert section 377.”
The words were more soothing and actions were even more, when after the concert the Chair of the Pink Singers – affectionately known as ‘Cher’ – Simon Pearson, made the announcement of inviting Rainbow Voices Mumbai to London Pride and to take part in their summer concert. We were overwhelmed with the gesture and yet a bit lost with things that needed to be done! Constant encouragement and successful fundraising by the Pink Singers made the impossible possible for 10 of us (sadly the other eight couldn’t make it because of visa issues!).

Ashish & ‘Cher’


With hopes high and dreams in our eyes, we flew to the land of freedom and equality. The tour started with each of us being hosted by a few of the Pink Singers, which gave us the chance to see and learn how independent lives of gay men and women are, in contrast to India – where we don’t choose to live alone even if we are grown up enough to be married off!
On arrival, my host Simon came to the terminal to receive me, despite his fractured ankle. This gesture of his shows how dear and encouraging was their approach to us. It was my first international trip and it seemed to me a different world: new weather, time zones, people, culture and systems; I was in awe of every little thing I saw. First what struck me was platform 9¾ at Kings Cross! Being a Potterhead, I was enthralled to see it. As I walked the streets with Simon I saw a Pride flag along with the British Flag waving with pride in the front of the British Library – this reaffirmed my belief that equality and freedom are not merely words here, they actually mean it.

Exploring London from the London Eye


My dear friend Hsien met me and we were off to Canary Wharf for a lovely lunch, but before that the Thames Clipper just wowed me! Like a kid in a candy store I was in love with the skyline and monuments on both the side of the river, clicking pictures and noticing the P-flag everywhere we went. A new city, new day,  even jet-lag couldn’t deter my spirits and we explored a few parts of the Naval College and Greenwich.
I believe that destiny had bigger plans for us: we never had heard about anything as big as London Pride and we all were excited to take part. We vogued in style with our Rainbow t-shirts, painted ourselves with rainbows and were ready for the world’s biggest party. As we were waiting for the Pride march to begin I saw people from all walks of life, races, professions and ages joining this mega event. We have never seen such a phenomenon back home; instead we are judged by the people for gathering and walking the Pride march in Mumbai.

London Pride 2017


As we marched up to Trafalgar Square, we saw people waving, cheering us on and even calling for a hug from the other side of the barricades. Such love, acceptance and cheer filled all of us with positivity and re-affirmed that we are walking on the right path to attain freedom and equality for all of us. Then came the moment to go on the Pride main stage where we were to perform to the largest crowd we have ever performed in front of. The moment I addressed the crowds with ‘Namaste’, a huge cheer and ‘Namaste’ I heard back, and the crowd was moved with our rendition of ‘We Shall Overcome’ in English and Hindi. I could see a few in tears when they learned that section 377 criminalizes homosexual activities in India. I think, I was nervous but I knew this was the only time I could talk to London as a city and made sure that I spoke right and conveyed the purpose of our visit.
London has different colours during pride and our friends the Pink Singers made sure we got the best of London and also that we got opportunities to meet the ones who had supported our trip  such as eBay. It was great interacting with the eBay office and we are indebted to them for their support very much.
The city charmed me to the core, whether it was architecture, culture, Soho – the night life for gays was amazing! I watched my first musical ever and my first drag show here in London. The experiences are still sinking in for me and I am unable to really believe that something so surreal happened to me. As we explored, Brighton, Richmond and the city of London, we had so many memorable times with the Pink Singers – singing in parks, at house parties and a lot more.
I had unknowingly become the spokesperson of the choir. I had previous experience of talking to media back home but that was for work. I was told that I was crisp in front of camera and this boosted my confidence even more. In the media coverage – though I am not out as a gay man in India – I did not hide my identity. This is because I got encouragement in my week’s exposure to London and its acceptance; the unwavering support from the Pink Singers filled me with a “come what may” attitude and I put my best foot forward to be heard on all possible platforms. 
The support continued even on the concert stage, when the audience gave the 12 of us a standing ovation before we even started.
I have taken back home  a lot of inspiration, strength, and conviction in what we do and yes, more purpose to the music we do. My hosts Simon and James were the coolest ones and I miss those lanes and bylanes of London… With a dream to come back, I sign off from India!

Photo credit: Jess Rowbottom


Introducing Equivox

Our guest choir at our forthcoming concert, Sing!, is the wonderfully eclectic Equivox choir, from ‘Gay Paree’. (Sorry, couldn’t resist that one). 😉 Established, in 1989, at the Gay Games in Vancouver, the 80-strong choir has been singing chansons for 27 years (making them almost as old as the Pinkies!).
“Zany, fun, friendly, creative is how I would describe Equivox”, says Pink Singers tenor, Liang. “Their presence and staging is second to none. I have performed in a concert with them three times, once in London, and twice in Paris. Some of my favourite memories include doing the conga to “Let the Sun Shine” at the post concert brunch; and hearing the Parisian audience request an encore of “La Mer” which we had sung in our best French accents”.

Equivox

Equivox, led by Musical Director, Babeth Joinet.


As Liang mentioned, this won’t be the first time the Pinkies have performed with Equivox. In 2008, they came to London and, we ourselves have traversed the Channel a couple of times as their guests in Paris. One such memorable occasion was in 2009, when we joined them for the ‘Des Voix Contre le SIDA’ (Voices Against Aids) concert. Soprano Tanya tells us more:
“2009 was a busy year for the Pinkies: we performed in two London concerts, co-hosted Various Voices at the Southbank Centre and went on two international trips (Paris in April and Malta in July). The April concert was my fourth foray into organising a Pinkies trip and my second to Paris. This was a little more special though. Why? Well, apart from it being our third performance with Equivox, it was also the first concert any French Health Minister had attended (quite a big deal for our French friends).
‘Des Voix Contre le SIDA’ was in its twelfth year, bringing together other Parisienne LGBT choirs (Equivox, Les Caramel fous, and Mélo’Men ), to raise awareness and funds for HIV and Aids associations. We were very honoured to be part of such an auspicious occasion. 42 Pinkies plus our Musical Director and Accompanist descended on the Trianon Theatre – a beautiful, if somewhat jaded Art Deco building in the heart of the LGBT district, for what was to be a for a fabulous evening.
Worried and anxious faces frantically tried to remember the words to the three (!!) French songs we were singing; radio mic malfunctions beamed backstage nonsense out to the theatre (thankfully only during the dress rehearsal); there were mad Equivox costumes (including a cow, a nun and a Gaultier inspired Madonna, to name but a few); the amazing, frenzied fairy ‘Babette’  (Equivox’s Musical Director) conducted in bare feet on an orange box, and of course, there was lots and lots of laughter.
Equivox and the Pinkies en masse!

Equivox and the Pinkies en masse!


It was a wonderful concert that received a standing ovation from the Minister for Health (and the rest of the audience), as well as lots of publicity and funds raised for the associations working with people affected by HIV and AIDS. This concert really deepened our connection with Equivox, which happily, continues to grow year on year”.
If our French guests have tickled your fancy, why not come and see both them and us perform in January at Cadogan Hall? Visit our tickets page for more info and book now!
To find out more about Equivox, click here.
Equivox


I Amsterdam, I AmaSing

Daniel CraigThe Pink Singers were delighted to perform at the presigious Het Concertgebouw Amsterdam as part of the Europride Amasing Choir Festival earlier this month. Massive thanks to our wonderful hosts Manoeuvre – Gay Men’s Chorus Amsterdam and Galakoor. Here’s the low-down from bass, Daniel… 
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.
Amsterdam 2016The 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)!
Amsterdam 2016The 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.
Amsterdam 20116A 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!


10 years on, and the Pinkie 'magic' rolls on!

TanyaOur lovely alto, Tanya, sums up our summer concert and reflects on her tenth anniversary as a Pink Singer…
(Photo credits: Pete Stean).
This summer I celebrated 10 years as a Pinkie and 50 years on the planet, all in the same week! It was a truly amazing way to celebrate with my Pinkie family, fabulous Icelandic guests and a really appreciative audience.
The Pink Singers have changed immeasurably since my first summer concert with them in 2005. Back in the old days there was a lot of standing in the same position, very little choreography, no artistic vision or presentation and less than 40 singers. However there are still the same core values: great singing, freedom to be yourself and supporting the LGBT community.

Key Changes, Summer concert 2015

Team alto: (left to right) Kirsten, Tanya and Kate.


When I joined I planned to stay for a season or maybe two. 20 seasons on, I’m still here! I’ve found a home and a family with the Pinkies and I can’t ever imagine being outside of that. Every concert I’ve done has been an amazing experience. There is nothing comparable to being immersed in the centre of that incredible sound of an eight-part harmony. The first time it happened it was a spiritual experience and it hasn’t changed at all over the years. Our summer concert, Key Changes, was no different.
Newbie Pinkies, 'popping their concert cherries'.

Newbie Pinkies, ‘popping their concert cherries’.


I loved the theme this summer; it brought together an eclectic repertoire that was both enjoyable to sing and entertaining to listen to. So many songs that were great to sing but as I was born into a political family, singing Between the Wars and The March of the Women really resonated with me, and I must say I had a bit of a lump in my throat as Sally-Anne’s soaring vocals were added to layer by layer as the choir joined in. The introduction speech by our new Alto Jeremy (soon to become leader of all altos!) was a joy to listen to: beautifully constructed, the right tone but with a laugh at the end to lighten the mood. His words reflected my beliefs and I was a very proud to be his Alto Mamma.
Once again, we were lucky to have not one but three fabulous arrangers ‘in-house’: Simon Pearson, Michael Derrick and Chris Chambers, who understand the choir’s dynamics so well they produced some unforgettable pieces for us. What better way to open the concert that to sing Chris’ incredible rendition of Relax? It certainly got the audience’s attention!
Key Changes, Summer concert 2015

‘Relax, don’t do it, when you wanna…’.


Now some of us are great movers, others a little reticent and some (including myself) are somewhat slower at picking up the moves. When we started back in February, Relax was my most challenging piece both vocally and choreographically; I was sure I would never put both bits together. Yet slowly but surely I managed to fit my ‘tschts’ and ‘digga diggas’ together with the appropriate moves and the piece came alive. The reason? The choreography/artistic team, under the direction of the wonderful Oliver Gilbody, who manage to get the balance just right for us to look amazing and yet be accessible to all 70+ members. This is no mean feat, but something they manage time after time. It was a little bittersweet at the end of the concert as Oli has stepped down as artistic director after five fabulous years. The choir has become slicker and more secure in itself under his vision and direction but I’m sure his replacement David Baxter will add his own vava’voom and build on what Oli started.  Thanks Oli, its been a blast!
Key Changes, Summer concert 2015

Lesbian legs?


Our concerts always have a bit of tongue in cheek, so it didn’t surprise me that we had a wee bit of Sweet Transvestite,  brought to life by the inimitable Simon Harrison, whose legs are the envy of many a lesbian… He is a true ‘thesp’ and a fabulous performer, and I was over the moon to have been in that number when the split pieces were announced. The other half of the choir sang Lillibulero, and pretty as it was, let’s just say that high camp is certainly more up my street.
One piece that could have turned out a bit comedic if Master Murray hadn’t emphasised the need to ‘play it straight’ was the Porgy and Bess medley. It was one of my favourite pieces, evocative and sultry and simply beautiful. We were allowed to play it up a little in places, and as a bit of a Diva I must say I did enjoy looking longingly and coquettish at the basses and tenors during ‘Bess, you is my woman now’. The acting from some of the tenors (who shall remain nameless) was worthy of an Oscar.
Which brings me to the show stopping performance from Oskar Marchock of ‘Strange Fruit’, which made every hair on my body stand up the first time I heard him sing it in rehearsal. It makes me so proud that the choir can utilise all the skills of its individuals and encourage and support everyone to do things that many would not undertake outside of our supportive environment.
Iceland choir

Our incredible friends from Iceland.


Summer seasons would not be the same without our special guests, and this season we had the true pleasure of hosting our Icelandic friends ‘Hinsegin Korinn’, a marvelously creative, warm and glorious group of people who participated in every aspect of our brand of cultural exchange with aplomb. Sitting in the gallery with anticipation of their first set I was blown away by their rendition of Aqua’s ‘Barbie Girl’. To me it epitomized the Icelandic take on life – have fun, challenge yourself and don’t take things too seriously. For such a young choir (only four years old) they are so polished and creative – it really was a joy to watch them perform. My favourite song from their set was Bohemian Rhapsody, a song that really changed the world for me when I first saw it on Top of the Pops back in the mists of time. It made me stop dead and transported me to a different world at the time and their version did exactly that last Saturday.
Key Change, summer concert 2015There are so many songs that could have fallen into the season’s theme that I’m sure the music team had a very difficult decision on which ones to pick. I for one am grateful they chose ‘Rise Like a Phoenix’, even though it is barely a year old it has already become an anthem to and for change. Personally I have explored the song to its fullest extent by singing it with 11 other Pinkies in full Conchita mode with beards and all during a Pinkies weekend away at the end of last year. That was really fun, but the arrangement for the whole choir by the lovely Simon P blew me away the first time I heard it. It is a piece I will treasure singing for years to come.
That’s the thing about being a Pinkie, each season we get to interpret the words and feelings of great composers, moving from one mood to another celebrating and reveling in true community singing. This is what keeps bringing our audiences back time and time again – our love of the songs and our desire to share that love with all who need it. Thanks for the last ten years Pinkies and bring on the next show!