35 years of perspective

Gareth leading the Pinkies London Pride march

Our new Events Manager, Gareth, reflects that our core purpose has never changed, even though the times have been a-changing.


Having a birthday always brings a few things into perspective, so when the Pink Singers turned 35 (and I reached 36) this year it encouraged me to learn a bit more about where the choir has come from, where we are now and what the future holds.

A quick rummage on the website brought me face-to-face with the immeasurably profound online archive Singing the Changes, compiled to celebrate the Pinkies’ last big milestone of 30 years. Taking time to read through this lovingly curated potted queer history set against my own milestones was a really moving experience and I thoroughly recommend you head over and learn, or remind yourself, of the tenacity displayed by groups like the Pink Singers to make it through a far bleaker situation for the LGBT+ community than that we currently face. Joining a group with such a history can be an intimidating thought, but there are countless inspirational testimonies from past and present members as well as plenty of footage underlining the primary purpose of the choir: spreading joy through song.

Pink Singers perform the Winter 2018 concert “A Night At The Movies: The Sequel” at Cadogan Hall, London, 20th January 2018

Moving on to the present and my first year with the Pinkies, I find that primary aim still very much in place. Joining the choir for my first performance at the Cadogan Hall, I was struck by how much joy this odd-ball bunch of 90 people from across the gender spectrum is capable of exuding in each and every number from .Nuxx’s Born Slippy to Irene Cara’s Flashdance and even Fauré’s sumptuous In paradisum. The reactions I’ve had from friends, family and loyal Pinkie fans, showed me that, even after thirty years of singing in choirs, there’s still a huge amount for me to learn about putting on a good show.

Warming up for our recent Mixtape Concert – June 2018

From a celebration of the best of cinematic music to our own 35th celebratory mixtape, my time with the Pinkies keeps throwing out glorious moments and learning challenges The choreography to Livin’ Joy’s Dreamer and the scrunching harmonies of Chris Chambers’ beautiful arrangement of Boy Meets Girl’s Waiting for a Star to Fall are amongst these, not to mention the difficulties of being heard above the rumble of the Central Line.

The Pinkies say “Love” at eBay’s Pride Party

The season ends with a whole host of exciting small gigs icing our birthday cake as pride fever sweeps the nation. From moving performances at the Science Museum’s Sexuality Lates and eBay’s Pride Party, to a welcome home that passengers at Heathrow Airport will never forget and wonderfully colourful days singing and marching at Pride London and UK Pride on the Isle of Wight; we’ve been dosed up on rainbows, unicorns and glitter for the next few months at least.

And so to the future; what do the next 35 years hold? My crystal ball has been a bit off of late, but I can definitely tell you to save the date for our first December concert in a decade! On Saturday, 15th December we take to the stage of the Cadogan Hall for a host of seasonal specialities and festive favourites as the Pinkies perform some of the classiest and campest Christmas number ones and songs from the most iconic Christmas movies (and yes, that might include Die Hard) as well as a few more traditional winter favourites.

December 15th – Save The Date!

We’re looking forward to seeing you there in the hope that your days will be ‘merry and bright’ as we once again ‘make the Yuletide gay’.

Happy 35th Birthday, Pinkies!!

Joey

Our beloved Joey wishes the Pinkies many happy returns of the day, and explains why this choir means so much to him.

Join the Pinkies as we celebrate our 35th Birthday in our own inimitable way at our June concert: The Pink Singers Mixtape: Celebrating 35 years.


The Pink Singers turn 35 today!

The Pink Singers, London’s magnificent and quintessentially fabulous LGBT+ choir turn 35 today! Arriving in a new city without any friends, I joined the choir when the Pinksters turned 25. Fast forward 10 years and those closest to me trace their roots to the Pinkies. I can’t quite imagine London in a pre-Pinkie era! There have been so many Pinkie fairy dust moments: singing at St Pancras Church in the aftermath of the Orlando nightclub shooting; marching in the first Maltese Pride March in Valletta; numerous Prides in Trafalgar Square; standing by Mumbai’s first LGBT+ choir, to name just a few.

The choir is love, LGBT+ love, pure and simple.

Today’s milestone for the Pink Singers is not only a milestone for the Pink Singers – it is a milestone for all those who may once have felt alone and found consolation through others – it is a milestone for anyone who has ever felt persecuted and been given a helping hand – it is a milestone for anyone who has ever felt unloved and found a hug.

Anyone who has ever been involved in The Pink Singers shares today’s birthday.

So I wish each and everyone of them a piece of Pinkie magic today.
Because, no matter what, once a Pinkie, always a Pinkie.

From Queer To Eternity

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.

From Queer To Eternity, 15 July 2017, Cadogan Hall Featuring special guests, Rainbow Voices Mumbai and Out Aloud Sheffield Photo credit: Jess Rowbottom

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.

Timeline datestamp: 15 July 2017

Hello, my name's Claire and I'm a lesbian.

What does it mean to be part of the LGBTQ community? Why is there a need for one? Our next concert – on 15th July – seeks to explore this, as we mark 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality. In the run up to the show, which we’ve called ‘From Queer to Eternity‘,  alto Claire shares what being part of the LGBTQ community means to her…
Lesbian.  It’s a word.  It’s a word that I use to describe myself.  I’ve used this word to describe myself for a long time, but truly it is only the last few years that I wear this word like a layer of skin; an epidermis; a fully functioning part of myself that exists in peace rather than a badge that gets brought out on occasion.  It’s part of my identity that I share and I don’t care who knows.
I realise I am in a fortunate position – this country has come a long way to protect the rights of LGBTQ people and the way the community is perceived.  Growing up in Thatcher’s Britain, there was Section 28, homophobic mainstream media, no positive gay role models on TV that I could identify with, the word ‘lesbian’ thrown around my classroom like a shameful slur…. In short, growing up as a gay kid in the 80’s was a lonely experience. To quote the fine words of Skunk Anansie, ‘It takes blood and guts to be this cool, but I’m still such a cliché’.     
I think it is human nature to reach out to others like yourself and being part of the LGBTQ community, I have done just that: joining the Pink Singers (coming up to 15 years now..  eeek!) not only normalised my gayness but I have also been blessed with amazing friendship, companionship, laughter, LGBTQ campaigning buddies (home and abroad), and compassion – all wrapped up in a big glitterball of song and sparkle.
By being part of the LGBTQ community I have had the opportunity to perform and campaign all over the world: Iceland, France, Ireland, Denmark and more recently, India.  I feel it is my duty as part of this community to campaign for the rights of our friends abroad who are not as fortunate as we are in the UK; to campaign for equality and to address hate in all forms.  I am so excited to be welcoming our friends from Rainbow Voices Mumbai in July this year to march with us in London Pride and perform with us in London – part of a year long, life changing cultural exchange.
The brief I was given for this blog was ‘how has being LGBTQ changed your life’.  Well, to be honest, it is my life, it is who I am.  But only one part of me: I am also a daughter, sister, friend, lover, singer, performer, colleague, activist, transport nerd, indie tunes enthusiast, fan of drinking tea and dancing (although not necessarily at the same time) and so much more.
Hello, my name is Claire and I am a lesbian.
There’s still time to book tickets to see us and our special guests, Out Aloud from Sheffield and Rainbow Voices Mumbai. Please click here to book!

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.