In the run up to our winter concert ‘Sleighing It!’, Debbie Lammin (Choir Director for Chamber Choir of Burntwood School) writes a message to the Pinkies.
Greetings from the Chamber Choir of Burntwood School! We are very much looking forward to joining all of you Pinkies for the Christmas extravaganza at Cadogan Hall!
As Gareth, Pink Singers Events Manager, noted when he sent us your invitation, our two choirs are very close in their aims. We are also very close in age – just three years younger than you. The choir was born in 1986 when Mayfield and Garratt Green Schools amalgamated to become Burntwood, and we started with about a dozen girls singing in unison. Now you need quite a big chamber to fit us all inside, and the singing has grown in stature too – over the years we’ve sung at every major concert hall in London, recorded with the RPO at Abbey Road and Pinewood Studios, represented England at the Llangollen International Eistedfodd, sung for HM the Queen three times and danced in the aisles of St Martin in the Fields with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to mention just a few of the highlights.
We’ve had a busy term so far, singing at the British Museum on World Peace Day and then performing Lucy Pankhurst’s new Suffragette Anthem at the Women of the Year lunch (we sing wearing the colours of the women’s suffrage movement!), but the nature of school choirs means that we have a constantly rolling membership and as we were last at Cadogan Hall in 2013, this will be a new and exciting experience for almost all of the choir – definitely another highlight in the making.
Our performance style is very different from yours, so hopefully we can celebrate the differences and enjoy coming together for the festive finale – none of the girls are old enough to remember the original Stevie Wonder, but I’m afraid I am!
Choir Director, Burntwood School
Don’t forget tickets for our next concert Sleighing It! on 15 December 2018 are on sale now – Grab them here!
This summer, we returned to Cadogan Hall for a sizzling evening of choral music to mark 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Our repertoire was drawn from LGBT composers and performers as well as music that has been meaningful to these communities.
Entitled ‘From Queer to Eternity’ – Songs of Struggle and Celebration, the evening covered music from a rich variety of styles and genres including artists such as Leonard Bernstein, Dusty Springfield, Queen, Erasure, Joan Armatrading, Mika, Radiohead, George Michael, Lady Gaga and Christine and the Queens. Classical numbers included a rousing chorus by Handel and a moving spiritual by Michael Tippett.
We were delighted to be sharing the stage with two special guests choirs: Out Aloud from Sheffield, and – to highlight the work being done around the world on legalising homosexuality, as part of a year-long exchange project – we were also joined by Rainbow Voices Mumbai, India’s first LGBT choir.
There’s just one week to go until the Pinkies are joined on the Cadogan Hall stage to perform songs of celebration, struggle and hope – marking 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK. Kirsten, one of our resting altos, introduces the two choirs who will be performing with us – Sheffield’s Out Aloud and Rainbow Voices Mumbai who have flown in all the way from India!
Rainbow Voices Mumbai (RVM) are only three years old, but already they are making their mark in the fight for LGBT equality. For their members a version of UK Victorian Law – Section 377 – is still in place – criminalising them and tens of millions of others just for being who they are. Whilst the fight for equality here is not yet over, on the 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK we are working with RVM to highlight the significance of inequality faced by our Indian friends.
Politics aside, RVM are a fabulous, fun and talented choir. When we visited them in Mumbai in January they moved us with their heartfelt performances – and their wonderfully warm personalities. With a mammoth effort from both RVM and our #PSIndia committee this project has come to life, and I hope we can be as welcoming as they were to us, on the second leg of this unique exchange.
I for one can’t wait to see their set at Cadogan Hall next weekend – from feisty pop songs to moving traditional Indian pieces, their performance is not to be missed!
We will also be joined by Out Aloud – Sheffield’s LGBT choir. Formed in 2006 and led by Val Regan, they have a diverse repertoire including jazz, classical and soul numbers. We are very excited to be singing with our northern friends again! And if you want to hear more, why not make the trip up to Sheffield Pride at the end of this month, where Out Aloud will be performing!
So come to Cadogan Hall next Saturday and prepare to be taken on a musical journey with us all: from hidden to visible… from shame to pride… from Queer to Eternity!
Following our recent visit from Rainbow Singers Across Borders, Pinkie alto Sarah tells us a bit more about the day, why the choir exists, and the shocking reality of Hate Crime both at home and further afield – and how, together, we can work for a brighter future. If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning, I’d hammer in the evening, All over this land, I’d hammer out danger, I’d hammer out a warning, I’d hammer out love between, My brothers and my sisters, All over this land. If you’d have been passing the Pink Singers rehearsal several weeks ago, these are the words you’d have heard ringing out on to the street from the studio below. I’ve been singing with the Pink Singers for five years now, clocking up about 200 rehearsals (gulp); of all those occasions this was definitely one of my favourites. We invited the Rainbow Singers Across Borders to come and sing with us: a choir made up of members of a voluntary self-help group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender asylum seekers who are fleeing from the persecution of oppressive homophobic and transphobic regimes. We kicked off with a fantastic performance from our guests of some traditional African songs. Later Herbert Bulindi, musical director of the Rainbow Singers, led us all in singing the beautiful Swahili song Malaika. You can hear a previous performance here (spot Sally-Anne from the Pink Singers moonlighting in the video!). To finish we sang a song together that was familiar to us both – If I Had a Hammer. Great fun, great music and most importantly, some great people. To end the day we all piled into our local haunt of choice, the New Bloomsbury Set – where it must be said the bar staff did a sterling job of dealing with our larger than usual number of drink orders! As they said goodbye we were generously treated to a parting gift from the Rainbow Singers of another of their favourite songs: a perfect end to a lovely afternoon and evening.
Many of the Rainbow Singers Across Borders have come to the UK from Uganda, where in 2014 the widely supported Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Act – which originally included a death sentence for certain acts – was only dropped on a technicality. Hate crimes and abuse apparently soared around the time of introduction and under the act those who reported any attacks or discrimination based on their sexuality could, instead of finding protection, find themselves arrested. Whilst this law was overturned, a new proposed piece of legislation has been accused of seeking to make any form of LGBT organization illegal, potentially cutting off community support for those who desperately need it. In the face of this, the fact that the LGBT+ community of Uganda has managed to celebrate Pride in the last few years feels, to me, nothing short of remarkable. In contrast, in the UK today – due to the incredible campaigning efforts of our community heroes – we now receive public funding towards Pride, celebrated the legalisation of gay marriage in 2013 and have had legal protection from discrimination and harassment from the Equality Act since 2010. From 2005 any attack on an individual motivated by their sexuality was legally defined as a hate crime, allowing for tougher sentencing. We chose October to join the two choirs in order to mark Hate Crime Awareness Week – hate crime being an issue we felt united both of our choirs. Whether our laws define it as a crime or not, hate is something the LGBT community sadly sometimes finds itself faced with. Tracey Button, from the Pink Singers shared her experience with us: “In July 2008 I was on a night out with friends at a bar in London and I ended up kissing one of my female friends. Another person in the bar began hurling homophobic abuse at us. A friend told us we should stop what we were doing because not everyone agreed with it. My friend and I just laughed it off. At closing time I remember the door staff holding us back; they advised we wait until she left before we did. Once she had gone we began walking to the bus stop. Unfortunately, our abuser reappeared and following an attempt to snatch my friend’s phone, I was called a disgusting lesbian and then she attacked me. I don’t recall a huge amount of what happened next, but I ended up on the ground being punched and kicked in the ribs and head. I remember a man walking by during the assault and I begged for help, but he told me he “didn’t want to get involved.” My attacker eventually left and shortly after the police arrived. She was arrested and charged with ABH but only given a Caution. Thankfully I only suffered cuts and the fairly substantial bruising healed in a few weeks, but the psychological damage has taken a lot longer to recover from. I was offered counselling by a LGBT liaison officer from The Met, but I turned it down. I felt so ashamed by what had happened and wanted to forget the whole incident. I went into denial about my sexuality and it was another five years until I finally accepted that I was gay.”
Tracey’s experience was from 2008. LGBT rights in the UK have grown markedly stronger since then, yet hate crime reporting is on the increase according to Stop Hate UK; this may mark confidence in reporting or show something more sinister. Stop Hate UK still estimate that in the UK hate crime related to sexual orientation is a daily occurrence and are confident that gender identity hate crimes remain significantly under reported. Race, Ethnicity and Nationality related incidents were the most commonly reported Hate Crime strand this year. Hate Crime Awareness Week is over now, but it’s important that we always remain vigilant and challenge persecution, hate and oppression where we see it. It’s important that we carry on raising awareness and campaigning for the right support for those who become a victim. We must support those in our community who need it and welcome those who need a community. My life has changed dramatically since I joined the Pink Singers, having access to such a warm and supportive group, with countless strong role models mean that I’m now able to feel confident about my identity in a way that I don’t think I ever was before. I’m so pleased knowing that the Rainbow Singers Across Borders are able to offer that same sense of community to those newly arriving in the UK who have had to abandon their homes to escape persecution. I am pleased that we have been able to welcome them in our community and I hope we continue to make joyous music together.
Simon Harrison, Tenor, summed up what the experience meant for him: “It was such a pleasure to meet the Rainbow Singers Across Borders. It made me aware of something very important: that it takes an effort to reach out and welcome the stranger – our instinct might be to turn to the familiar and not risk a potentially awkward moment that comes when two worlds meet; but the risk is worth it! We are changed and enriched by our contact with what appears to be “different” and it stretches our sense of who we are. As Herbert led us in learning one of their songs with his warmth and generosity and the two choirs mixed together, I could feel hearts softening, smiles broadening, and souls opening. I hope we all find safe places where we are welcomed and in which to grow and prosper.” So, if the Pink Singers had a hammer what would we do? Building bridges and creating those safe spaces seems a great place to start.
Come along to Notes from a Small Island, our concert celebrating the best of British songwriters and composers this Saturday at Hackney Empire, and you’ll get to see not just the Pink Singers, oh no – you’ll be entertained by three choirs from across the UK. First up is Citi Choir, a brand new chorus of about 30-40 singers who all work, rehearse and sometimes perform at Citi Bank in London’s Canary Wharf. They’ve been singing for just over a year after appearing on a very big television show fronted by a very famous name in choral circles, but that we aren’t allowed officially to name for reasons of mystery and suspense. The group contributes to Citi by performing at client and employee events and has started to support charitable causes, recently performing in New York City for an event for the American Cancer Society. Secondly are the wonderful South Wales Gay Men’s Chorus. Formed in 2008, they now have about thirty regular chorus members and a jam-packed schedule of performances booked throughout the year. They are very proud to be part of a strong Welsh heritage and proud to be playing an active role in the local community. At the heart of the choir is a passion for music, for expression, for fun and for connecting with friends in South Wales and across the globe. These fine chaps have built a fierce reputation over the years and we’ve sung with them many times before, most recently back in October 2013 in Cardiff. It’ll be a real treat to perform alongside them once again and we know our audience will love it. Still time to get your tickets for Notes from a Small Island – buy tickets from the Hackney Empire website or by calling 020 8985 2424.