The Pink Singers logo is actually the latest in a long list of designs we have used over the years. The logo you see here has itself undergone at least three major revisions. It was created by Dragan Lonchar, and we adopted it in October 2002. One of our basses, Dragan had this to say about how he was inspired:
The design has “a deeper meaning – Yin-Yang, duality of life, polarities in nature, notes and shapes creating a ‘P’ and ‘S’. We are a ‘choir of a kind’ uniting the ‘impossible’ – fags and dykes, with occasional female members who sing tenor and male members who sing alto, all being butch and camp at the same time – we all fit like a hand in a glove. Therefore the Yin-Yang inspiration – this symbol represents two sides of everything that belong together, just like the Pinkies. Only the Yin-Yang dots turned to musical notes because we use ’em!
Festival 2000 brought 140 performing groups and more than 5,000 singers to San Jose for the largest gay and lesbian choral event in history July 22-29.
You can find out more about GALA Choruses on their website, but here’s Martin to take us through the events of GALA 2000 – it might help to know that ‘Philip’ is a longtime Pinkie and Martin’s other half!
Saturday 22 July 2000 Philip was recovering from a bad cold and had hardly any voice (a pleasure for me and the rest of the choir). The opening ceremony at 8pm was great fun, with about 6000 choristers and their camels (the people who get involved with the choir without singing – like me). They are called camels because they end up carrying all the singers’ baggage when they are rehearsing! Kate Clinton was hilarious as keynote speaker and Harvey Fierstein was an excellent presenter.
Sunday 23 July 2000 The day of the Pinkies first concert and my first tour of duty on the choir’s merchandising stall. This was next to the Melo’Men from Paris. They had draped the European flag between the stalls thus reuniting the old enemies France and England as only dykes and queens can.
Monday 24 July 2000 This was the day of the Pinkies’ trip to Monterey and Carmel. They hired two camper vans (well, they were camper after we got in), and we crossed the mountains to the coast where we visited the Monterey aquarium. The display of sealife was interestingly set out, especially the jellyfish. The way they kept moving aimlessly but somehow reached their destination was an allegory for the Pink Singers. An evening meal in Carmel involved a lot of walking around in growing gloom and fog, until we eventually went back to the first restaurant we had seen. 8,000 miles to California and we ate in an “English pub”; but the food was good.
Tuesday 25 July 2000 The Pinkies were singing at the Expo at 5:30, so I looked after the stall while they were on. I could hear some of their act from the stall, and they seemed to be well-received. They were asked to do an encore, as if they wouldn’t anyway. Philip went with Paolo to see the No-Talent Show. This is a performance of non-choir-type things by members of the choirs. Philip said I missed a treat: the Ethels were very funny – six Ethel Mermans, and a silent Ethel as signer (Kevin).
Wednesday 26 July 2000 Portland Gay Men’s Chorus upset all my prejudices about commissioned pieces with stirring and effective songs about coming out in the words of Portland’s young gay women and men. People have been coming up to Philip and saying how great his jokes were. Philip is attempting to look modest and unconcerned but he doesn’t fool me.
Thursday 27 July 2000 The Pinkies were still rehearsing when the Expo closed for a couple of hours, so I went to the London Gay Men’s Chorus tea party in the park – the Boston choir didn’t throw it in the fountain, so I guess that problem is sorted.
Friday 28 July 2000 After lunch we saw the Men’s Chorus from Tulsa. One of their members had flirted with Philip on the Pinkies stall (to his undisguised delight) and had been to every one of the Pink Singers performances so we had to support them. We went on the last ride up the View Tower at sunset – it was spectacular. They had closed all the gentle rides and all that were left were the check-your-brain-at-the door stuff, so we ate fairground schlockfood instead. The park, to quote Glenn, was neither “Great” nor “America”, but it passed an evening.
Andy joined the Pinkies in 1996 and became one of our talented composers and arrangers. Let’s go back to the turn of the millennium…
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.
For those who haven’t seen ‘Gimme Gimme Gimme’, the show is about a gay man sharing a flat with a straight woman; neither of them can get a man. Kathy Burke and James Dreyfuss played the lead roles, both of whom are heroes of mine. We sat in the audience seats watching them rehearse, which gave us a sneak preview of the show. In between scenes, Kathy would chat to anyone who was around – I remember her talking about having some building work done to her house. Apparently she would take the builders to the pub to keep them sweet.
Our job was to appear right at the end of the show, singing the song Tomorrow from the musical ‘Annie’. Of course, none of us had ever sung it before. Fortunately we only had to sing a few lines. We had a chance for a quick run through of the words, and then we had to go on the set to work out how we would enter, where we would stand and so on. Then we rehearsed the scene with the leads a couple of times – we were awful! We kept forgetting words, losing time, and everyone seemed quite intimidated by being on the set. The producer was looking quite worried, and kept telling us not to be so timid.
After that, we had a few hours to wait before the show was filmed. We were kitted out with clothes from the costume department, and then we just had to hang around, grabbing a bite to eat as the audience arrived. Other programmes were being recorded that night – we saw Boy George, who had just been interviewed for a chat show. He was most intrigued when we told him who we were!
Tension mounted as we were gathered backstage for our big moment. We had to be extremely quiet hiding behind the set, as our appearance was to be a huge surprise for the audience. Time seemed to drag, as the crew fiddled around with lighting and microphones for the scene. We all knew that we had to get it right first time, because glitter, balloons and streamers were going drop all over the set, and they wouldn’t have time to clean it all up for another take.
We were on! I was the first on to the stage, and I ran out, waving my arms around and trying to look as bold and confident as possible. We sang at the tops of our voices, with a conductor hidden behind the camera to keep us in time. Glitter flew in all directions, and the audience gasped and laughed as we burst onto the set. And we were wonderful, even if I do say so myself. The crowd loved us, and we spent ages basking in the applause. The producer was exuberant, saying how we had been “infused with the spirit of theatre”!
And then it was all over. We were invited to the after-show party, which was nice, so we browsed the buffet and chatted with the stars. Then we had to wait, excruciatingly, for weeks before we could see the final product. What did I make of it? Well, I thought that I looked like a chipmunk in a pink smock, but I was really proud of our appearance. The episode was repeated a few times on the BBC, and then endlessly on cable stations, so there were plenty of chances to see it. I have friends who still have it recorded on video for posterity! I’ll never forget that day, and it has gone down as a classic moment in Pink Singers history. Here’s looking forward to our next TV appearance!
Directed by Ian McKellen and compered by Sandi Toksvig, the show included the first live performance by Joanna Lumley and Jennifer Saunders as Patsy and Eddie, Lily Savage, Marc Almond, Michael Barrymore – recently “out” – and topping the bill, Elton John, whom the Equality Choir was to accompany.
The Pink Singers formed the basis of the 80-voiced choir, which also included members of the London Gay Men’s Chorus, with the Pinkies turning out a record-breaking 61 singers – our biggest ensemble ever.
We rehearsed weekly (in Aldgate) without Elton John who was then touring the States. It was arranged that he would fly in and out on the day of the concert (a Sunday) via Concorde and we would rehearse with him from noon at the concert venue. We were positioned at gallery level behind him and were able to sit there throughout the evening.
We jointly rehearsed I’m in Love With a Wonderful Guy, and were most surprised and intrigued when Kylie Minogue joined him and they sang Sisters. He completed his set with “There is Nothing Like a Dame”. The latter song also proved to be a surprise – what a strange combination we whispered amongst ourselves, but all was explained when he appeared that night dressed in enormously high heels, a black cocktail dress and waist-length hair – it was a drag act!”
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.