Hand in Hand, Asia

On the 30th of October 2015, some of the Pink Singers travelled to Taipei, Taiwan, for Asia’s first ever LGBT choral festival. Here, our chair Simon explains more. 

32 years ago when The Pink Singers was started, I wonder if our founders Mark Bunyan and Brian Kennedy would have dared to imagine that in three decades’ time, we’d be singing on stage with a host of new and established Asian LGBT choirs, 6,000 miles away in Taipei?

The Pink Singers go East

Four weeks ago, ten intrepid pinkies crossed the globe to beautiful Taiwan, having been invited by the wonderful G-Major chorus to the inaugural LGBT choir festival in Asia, Hand in Hand. But how did this come about?

Proud Voices choir at Various Voices 2014, Dublin
 Proud Voices choir at Various Voices 2014, Dublin

Well, last year the Pink Singers attended Various Voices 2014 – Europe’s LGBT choral festival, then in its 13th iteration. We wrote about that trip really rather a lot. Present that year at the festival were delegates from two asian choirs – the Beijing Queer Chorus and G-Major, Taipei – who joined forces into a scratch choir organised by Proud Voices.

So inspired were our Asian visitors by their experience of Various Voices in Ireland (and with a little nudging from our very own Hsien Chew…), they decided to start a festival of their own, and Hand in Hand Asia was born.

Getting the party started with the British Council

Pink Singers and G-Major chorus at the British Council in Taipei
 Pink Singers and G-Major chorus at the British Council in Taipei

Fast forward 15 months, and a gaggle of jet-lagged, starry-eyed pinkies were 26 floors up, singing some songs ourselves and alongside the G-Major chorus, in the British Council’s offices in downtown Taipei, kicking off the pride festivities.

A very warm welcome

Dancing at the welcome party (Photo: Hsien Chew)
 Dancing at the welcome party (Photo: Hsien Chew)

A few hours later, we arrived at the Hand in Hand welcome party in a restaurant downtown. On arrival we are greeted by beaming faces of the G-Major, the hosts, as well as G-Voice & Unnie from Korea, Singapore Men’s Chorus, GAPA from California, choirs from Beijing, Chengdu and Shanghai. 

We were all treated to plate after plate of delicious Taiwanese food and tasty local beer. And of course there was lots of getting to know each other. And some rather energetic dancing. Later, we crossed town to a club where we danced the night away – with each choir spontaneously in succession teaching others their dance moves…

Sharing the moves at Funky nightclub
 Sharing the moves at Funky nightclub (Photo: Hsien Chew)

Music and dance – an international language, indeed.

Standing together with pride

Pink Singers in central Taipei on the march
 Pink Singers and friends in central Taipei on the march

The following day, through some canny scheduling, all the choirs were able to march in Taipei pride together – which was a real treat.

The rain held off and a humid, electric atmosphere ensued, with tens of thousands marching and more looking on. I think us Pinkies were taken back by the scale of the march, Asia’s largest, and how welcome we were made to feel as some of the only westerners around. After posing for lots of silly photos we were treated to yet more delicious food.

Jerome shows off his heels with the fabulous Unnie choir from Korea
 Jerome shows off his heels with the fabulous Unnie choir from Korea

Hand in Hand – the festival

 G-Voice from Seoul

And then to the main event itself – Hand in Hand. Held at the beautiful concert hall in Taipei University of the Arts, it was very humbling to have the chance to see so many varied and talented choirs perform. First up was Men’s Voice Kansai from Japan, whose outfits revealed more than a little leg, who opened the afternoon concert with a wonderfully rich-sounding set of Japanese folk songs. 

In quick succession this was followed by three more choirs from China, performing separately and combined, whose delicate sounds lifted the whole audience. I particularly enjoyed the soloist’s performance of ‘Can you feel the love tonight’.

Other stand-out performances came from Korean choir G-Voice – whose hip gyrations made most of the audience more than a little hot under the collar. Their set featured a lot of hilarious wordplay including ‘Gays are a girl’s best friend”.

Unnie choir
 Unnie choir

And I can’t forget the sultry Unnie who made us all want their ‘Rainbow Feminist’ t-shirts by the time they finished their set which featured on-stage kissing and a wonderful arrangement of ‘Royals’ by Lorde.

We Pinkies took to the stage to perform a couple of our favourite songs, as did one of our subgroups the Barberfellas, before being joined by a few friends from Seattle, Paris, Vancouver and Dublin to form the Proud Voices scratch choir.

Together we sang a variety of songs including a local song, ‘Yi ren yi ban’, in Taiwanese dialect, hokkien. We did all this under the careful eye of our conductor, Frances Bowen, who did a marvellous job of getting us performance-ready in about three short rehearsals – one of which featured a pint-size keyboard for accompaniment!

Proud Voices choir (Photo by 터울)
 Proud Voices choir (Photo by 터울)

And then to the main performance – G-Major chorus’ annual concert, and what a treat it was. The choir performed flawlessly and seamlessly switched genres effortlessly – led by the skilled Weylin Gabriel.

Their performance of ‘L’amour est un oiseau rebelle’ from Bizet’s Carmen was a real stand-out – with everyone on stage engaged to the full. But the performance of Labi Sire’s ‘Something inside so strong’ was the number that actually brought me to tears – such a solid sound, such passion and belief in the lyrics briefly overwhelmed me. It was stunning.

G-Major chorus dancing in rehearsal
 G-Major chorus dancing in rehearsal

G-Major: if I could come to every concert of yours, I absolutely would.

And suddenly – it was all over! So many new friends, so many goodbyes. But pinkies being pinkies, we needed a nightcap, so we decamped to the trusty Goldfish bar in Zhongzheng – where we did a quick Skype call to our pinkie friends rehearsing back in London. Many other choir members joined us and celebrated into the small hours.

And what a way to visit Taiwan for the first time. Such a beautiful country with rich history and culture – with such brilliant local hosts we had the best time hiking, eating, adventuring across the country. I’d go back in a heartbeat.

 Wen Wu temple at Sun Moon Lake

Watch the video

You can see Hsien’s video montage of the festival for Proud Voices below.

And what a way to round off a fabulous 2015 for the Pink Singers – having attended not one, but two brand new LGBT choral festivals in Spain and Taiwan. I look forward to more!

Timeline datestamp: 30 October 2015

Rainbow Singers Across Borders

On 11 October 2015, the Rainbow Singers Across Borders, a choir made up of LGBT asylum seekers based in Croydon, visited the Pink Singers at our rehearsal for National Hate Crime Awareness Week.

We exchanged songs, then sang and danced together, learning about the challenges they face but realizing that we have so much in common.

Two choirs, one message: stop hate crime.

For more information on Rainbow Singers Across Borders please visit:

Timeline datestamp: 11 October 2015

Pinkies do Mallorca!

The Pink Singers have just returned from Spain’s first gay chorus festival in Mallorca and what a time we had! Get the low-down on parties, pride, palm trees and performances from soprano Louise and newbie tenor Keith as they relive their favourite Mallorca moments… 

Louise’s Mallorca Moments: 


Wow! Such fun! Where do I start?
There are quite simply TOO MANY stories to tell! I’m getting a little stressed just thinking about telling all you avid readers of the Pink Singers blog just how amazing it is to go on a foreign trip with the Pinkies. How can I condense the entire experience into a few short paragraphs? Waaah! What’s that I hear you say? Relax? PINK SINGERS SAY RELAX? OK. Relax. Because I can now, after a hectic, inspiring, exhausting, humbling, exciting, sun kissed weekend on the beautiful island of Mallorca.


This was my first trip abroad with the Pink Singers and the more I get to know the members of the choir, the more I feel that I am a member of the wide and much loved Pink Family. I felt extremely privileged as a teacher to have been granted some unpaid leave by my very supportive head teacher and to be topping up my tan during term time….oops, I mean singing with three other wonderful choirs at Spain’s first gay singing festival – the Mallorca Gay Chorus Festival!


At the first sound check I felt daunted that we would be performing three times in three days. I really wasn’t sure of the choreography and I was anxious that my claps, steps, swishes and step digs would be out of synch and I’d come at the wrong time. Aarrghhh! But when you get into the swing of it, it all falls into place, all the hard work pays off and you just want to put on a tip top show for the audience and the other choirs.

Wow! The other choirs! We loved meeting them and hearing them sing – the incredible Barcelona Rainbow Singers, the mesmeric Equivox from Paris and the inimitable Mallorca Gay Men’s Chorus.  We felt such great support, love and passion from and for the other choirs and I love knowing that I am part of a dynamic and vibrant international LBGT community. And what a treat to sing in three different venues in Mallorca – the first being a castle surrounded by mountains basking in the setting Mediterranean sun! And all of this live on Mallorcan TV!


This was the start of a rollercoaster of performances, parties, raspy sex noises, strange fluorescent green drinks, forgotten shoes, forgotten trousers, standing ovations, sleepless nights, legendary dancing (you know who you are), Pride (In The Name of Love) on repeat,  cava on the beach, wishing we had one more day…..

Alas, we couldn’t have done it without the hard work and dedication of two much loved choir members Charly and Albert who organised, reorganised, negotiated, waited, telephoned, translated and smiled patiently to ensure that the Pink Singers had a successful and thoroughly enjoyable trip. So thank you from the bottom of our Pink hearts for making it all happen!

Keith’s Mallorca Moments:

Being picked up at the airport and driven straight to the venue to perform is probably the closest I’ll get to knowing what it’s like to be Beyonce. Having just landed for the Mallorca Gay Chorus Festival, the evening would be my initiation into life as a fully-fledged Pink Singer.


The superstar treatment didn’t stop at the airport pick up though. The Festival’s first evening was to be an open air concert held in a castle set amongst stunning scenery.  On arrival, it was straight to a sound check in the warm breeze, between rows of palm trees, as the sun set around us.

The starry evening allowed no time for me to feel any nerves about popping my cherry as a Pinkie. The Mallorcans had rolled out a real red carpet experience and we were presented to Spain’s media before a reception with the officials of Andratx, the town where we were performing first.


The Pink Singers had jetted out to Mallorca at the invitation of the Mallorca Gay Men’s Chorus. Taking part in three performances over three nights, we were joined by choirs from other European cities. There were the tres chic Frenchies, in the form of Paris’s Equivox, with their energetic conductress, sexy sounds and tight performance.

Then there was the Barcelona Rainbow Singers, with traditional ‘coplas’ which had me wishing I could speak more Spanish. With each flick of their fans, they sang wonderful tales of love and drama, the meanings of which I could only imagine. Of course there was the Mallorca Gay Men’s Chorus too – a gorgeous bunch of guys who know how to party as much as they know how to get the audience going. Their version of Bad Romance will always be the most memorable for me.


The festival culminated in an evening of electrical atmosphere at the Trui Theatre in Palma. The turn-out, support and energy of the audience made it hard to believe that it’s been just two years since the Mallorca Gay Men’s Chorus formed.

The final performance hit home for me what an amazing event I was taking part in. It wasn’t only a chance for a bunch of people who love to sing to get together, it was an opportunity to raise the positive profile of the gay choir on their island. It clearly meant a lot to our hosts, and did to me too.


Having nervously stepped up to audition for the Pinkies just ten short weeks before the Mallorca Gay Chorus Festival, it was a surreal experience to be performing with the choir. My most recent steps onto a stage were probably 23 years ago before I’d even hit my teens, so I’m sure there were bum notes, missed cues and lyrical slip-ups throughout.

Despite any performance mishaps, the Pink Singers really made me feel part of the Pinkie family in Mallorca. While the superstar experience was pure fantasy, what was very real was the chance to feel part of a group of such wonderful people and amazing performers, as well as the opportunity to celebrate with other gay choirs from around the world.

So how was that as my initiation into choir life? Pink Singers, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I’m glad you were the one to pop my cherry!

Timeline datestamp: 07 May 2015

Reflecting on Various Voices 2014: Pt4


Tenor Liang remembers joining the Pink Singers back in 2005, and his experience of Various Voices 2014

Various Voices Dublin 2014, what a blast, what an adventure, what an experience.
Let’s rewind to January 2005. I had just watched a concert by the Pink Singers and thought, these guys are quite good and I want to have a go at it. With no training in music or singing, I joined the choir with some trepidation. Having only done karaoke, this was a new experience for me as the need to cooperate and listen to each other encouraged a sense of togetherness which extended beyond the confines of the singing and fostered a community spirit.
Fast forward to June 2014 and Various Voices Dublin. The festival was looming. With 4 days to go, I was not perfect with the “movements” (greens, Jenny?) to Shine and found myself rehearsing this to passers-by giving me weird looks. Singing in the City was a programme organised by VV Dublin to perform to and engage the public. Our first performance was in this programme at Axis Ballymun alongside the Rock Creek Singers from Washington D.C. It went down a treat and we formed a new mutual appreciation society with our American brothers. You can see a picture of us all together at the top of this post.

Barberfellas performing at Spurious Noises - Various Voices' evil twin
Barberfellas performing at Spurious Noises – Various Voices’ evil twin

With the first concert in the bag, I knuckled down to the remaining three I had to do. In between erecting the exhibition, watching the other choirs, late night partying coupled with early morning rehearsals and meeting friends old and new, this turned out to be an exercise in concentration and application – not something that I was expecting. Singing at 1am as the last act with Pink Singers small group, the Barberfellas, in Spurious Voices was overwhelming and that was the moment when I wanted to crawl away and have a little me time.
Every choir brought its own personality to the festival. It was a joy to be sharing the stage with our fellow choristers. It was an honour to be singing with representatives from Asia where LGBT choirs are barely tolerated in some countries. I laughed at the comedic shows and I cried at the heart rending performances.
Night after night, the Pink Singers took over the dance stage to show off our choreography to Proud Mary, Shine and other songs. There was probably a mole whispering to the DJ to play our songs and in true Pinkie style, we took up the challenge and jumped at every opportunity to strut our stuff, including the ridiculously difficult line dance for 9 To 5. By the 3rd night, the other delegates were joining in with Proud Mary – success!
To fully enjoy VV, you have to embrace the concept, throw caution to the wind, talk to everybody. Be prepared for anything and expend all your energy in the few short days of the festival. Who needs sleep? – we can get that when we return home.

Liang, Josh and Peter enjoy some downtime at Various Voices

Come the end of the festival, I was exhausted but exhilarated. But the fatigue was what allowed my barriers to break down and let me bare my emotions. I rarely cry but I had shed a few tears here. It was time to go home to recover and revel in the memories of being a part of an event that had brought so many people together in a show of humanity. Various Voices Dublin, I salute you and I look forward to Munich in 4 years.
Don’t want to wait until Various Voices 2018 to see the Pink Singers? Get your tickets now for Notes from a Small Island, our celebration of British composers and songwriters on Saturday 19 July 2014 at Hackney Empire.

Reflecting on Various Voices 2014: Pt3


Chair Mark writes an open letter to future Pink Singers to tell them how awesome Various Voices in Munich in 2018 will be…
Dear Pinkies of January 2018,
No doubt the Management Committee have been banging on for a while now about Various Voices in Munich and badgering you to register so we can have a viable choir to send. As a semi-veteran of these events (Dublin, London, Paris, Montreal and Denver) I cannot recommend it highly enough.
For three days you’ll be safely wrapped in a choral bubble surrounded by like-minded singers from around the world.
You’ll not care what’s going on in the outside world. You’ll be on a constant emotional rollercoaster. You’ll be amazed by the sheer brilliance of some of the choirs. You’ll want to give standing ovations. You’ll feel for choirs appearing for the first time and visibly showing their nerves and having to start a song again from the beginning.

Sam asleep before our set. Photo by Bruce Chambers
Sam asleep before our set. Photo by Bruce Chambers

You’ll be torn between wanting to grab a short nap or going to the next concert block. You’ll probably go to the next concert block. You’ll find the Pinkie magic flows with abundance whenever the choir is together. You’ll realise that the Altos/Sopranos/Tenors/Basses* (delete as applicable) aren’t as scary as they seem at home. You’ll feel you belong. You’ll wonder how on earth you can get to see all 80+ choirs performing. You’ll be moved to tears by some sensational performances. You’ll wear your Pinkies t-shirt with pride and not want to take it off. You’ll laugh and probably drink too much. You’ll probably cry again at some point. You’ll beam from ear to ear whenever anyone says “the Pink Singers were just stunning – how do you get that sound?” You’ll walk just that little bit taller when you come off stage. You’ll be in awe of the organisers who move 3,000 people around with effortless grace and good humour. You’ll sing in bars and stairwells and on street corners. You’ll love it. You’ll want to stay for more.

Dancing on stage! Photo by Liang Wee
Dancing on stage! Photo by Liang Wee

You’ll come back with dozens of new Facebook friends from around the globe. You’ll wonder how you managed to keep going and wish you’d booked a bit more time off work to recover. You’ll wish you had learned the obligatory dance moves to Proud Mary. You’ll keep your delegate badge when you get home. You’ll talk about it for weeks to come. You’ll keep smiling. You’ll experience withdrawal symptoms. You’ll wait anxiously for the video of our performance to be posted on YouTube. You’ll wish there was another one next year. You’ll be exhausted. You’ll sleep. You’ll feel incredibly proud and lucky to be part of an amazing choir. You’ll realise how fucking/freaking* amazing the Pinkies are and how we’re looked up to by other choirs as an example of choral perfection and teamwork.
You’ll have no voice left.
Mark (Bass and Dowager Chair) x
Don’t want to wait until Various Voices 2018 to see the Pink Singers? Get your tickets now for Notes from a Small Island, our celebration of British composers and songwriters on Saturday 19 July 2014 at Hackney Empire.