As part of LGBT history month, every Thursday this February we’ll be posting a video from the archive.
Here’s a short documentary filmed in 1994 and presented by Jonathan Reithmueller on the LGBT choir scene in London at the time. Choirs covered include Vocal Minority, Diversity and us Pink Singers. It even features an interview with one of our tenors who’s still in the choir 21 years on, Philip Rescorla.
There’s another scene in London, a scene that not too many people know about, that can be just as fun and a lot more sociable. Welcome to the wonderful world of London’s queer choirs.
There’s nothing like those nights in London when, despite the nip in the air, you can feel that winter is slipping away, and the evenings are starting to stretch out. The dusk is a cobalt blue and the faded orange of the setting sun is amplified by the glow of sodium floodlights.
The 27th of February 2014 was just like that when a band of Pink Singers gathered in preparation for a performance at the Houses of Parliament.
This year has been a momentous one for the Pinkies. Last summer we sang at No. 10 to celebrate equal marriage, and so to perform in the Palace of Westminster to mark the end of a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Trans History Month which focused on music was not only a privilege and an honour, it also gave us a sense of completeness. We were there at the invitation of ParliOUT, a cross-party networking group which does amazing work from within the Houses to advance LGBT issues.
This being my first visit to Parliament, I felt a lot like a tourist, in awe of the amazing spaces we passed through to get to our stage on the terrace. I confess to gawking open-mouthed at the massive hammerbeam roof of Westminster Hall, the oil paintings of St. Stephen’s Hall and the ornate mosaic floors and gold leaf ceilings of Central Hall as we were ushered to the Commons.
There was hardly any time to take in the views before the event kicked off. John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, started with a light-hearted and self-deprecatory speech, before turning with seriousness to the recent noxious legislation in Russia, Uganda and Nigeria. On a world stage where innovation and talent makes a country competitive, governments must give their people, regardless of sexuality, every opportunity to flourish and grow. Persecuting minorities in the name of a perceived national identity does exactly the opposite and is self-defeating.
It was in that spirit that we started our set with ‘Hand In Hand’, a Pinkies’ and LGBT choir standard about how we are stronger when we stand shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters. Normally a Pink Singers concert consists of 80-odd people on stage which brings with it a powerful visual as well as audible solidarity. At this performance, however, the comparatively intimate group of just 16 singers actually lent it a greater poignancy. We then performed a series of songs from our recent ‘A Night At The Movies’ concert, including ‘My Heart Will Go On’, ‘Jai Ho’ – with choreography – and ‘9 to 5’. Tracey even told us what it was like to be ‘Out Here On My Own’.
Judging by the whoops and applause the audience seemed to really enjoy our performance, and with the sheer number of phone cameras which were pointed in our direction I await the inevitable on-line videos with both eagerness and dread. We are always told to smile when we perform, but I hate visual reminders that my self-conscious grimace isn’t quite right yet!
A confident stage presence is clearly not an issue for the very talented Andrew M. Pisanu who followed us on. He sang several of his own songs and then a number of crowd pleasers such as ‘I Know Him So Well’ and ‘Borderline’. By this point the increasingly enthusiastic audience, and the Pinkies of course, were joining in too. What I had imagined would be a rather staid evening turned out to be an enjoyable and unforgettable night filled with song: a perfect way to bring LGBT History Month to a close.
They say life begins at 30…and for the Pink Singers it doesn’t seem to have stopped since the anniversary concert! As a choir we were honoured to accept the invitation to perform at the Victoria and Albert Museum (arguably the most prestigious museum in the UK). The performance concluded a whole day’s events organised by the LGBT curatorial group at the V&A as part of the LGBT History Month.
A stone’s throw away from where Queen Victoria was born lays a museum packed with variety ranging from neo-classical paintings to the finest ceramics. As suspected the men paid a lot of attention to David that day…(created by Michael Angelo).
After warming up thanks to the 14 flights of stairs we headed to our performance space and on the way I walked past my second favourite place in the museum, the café…and if that wasn’t good enough I then walked past my third favourite place…the shop (a crying shame I didn’t get to visit my favourite place which is the Theatre and Performance exhibition…naturally).
Amidst renaissance and medieval paintings and statues (with Christ hanging over us) the choir gathered to sing some of the repertoire from P.S. We’re 30! An intimate crowd of 150 – 200 people turned out to hear us sing a range of music ranging from Massive Attack’s Teardrop to Mozart’s Lacrimosa. Opening with Hand in Hand seemed both prominent and appropriate to celebrate LGBT History Month and still reinforce the strong message it prevails.
The audience ranged from familiar friendly faces to those who may have been visiting the museum for the first time, who stopped, listened and acknowledged the work of a community choir that has grown over the years. One highlight for the onlookers seemed to be our rendition of the William Tell Overture which didn’t surprise me really as I know a few members had felt a little hoarse that day.
As the famous phrase goes they say ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ but in this instance it was the keyholder. Closing our set with Hand in Hand (of course) we were then strictly escorted back to a Seminar room to collect our belongings as the Museum was officially closed….time for Victoria and Albert to reflect on the days activities and remember the day the Pink Singers created history in the spectacular V&A. And if you missed it…fear not. We’re back on Friday 15th March just because we loved it so much!
The Pink Singers are proud to celebrate LGBT History Month 2013 with a special performance in the galleries of the Victoria & Albert Museum. We are singing as a part of unique series of events where you can experience performances and listen to curators discuss alternative queer readings of Museum objects, discover the histories of the people who made them and explore how sexual identity can inform the way we interpret the past. All events are free. Saturday 23 February 2013 at 5pm. For more information, please visit the V&A website, or add this to your Facebook events.
On a freezing Wednesday last week a group of intrepid Pinkies made their way through biting winds to Glaziers Hall on the south bank of the Thames by London Bridge. The date was the 1st February and our mission was to sing in the start of LGBT History Month in Southwark.
This was one of many events taking place across the country, that day and over the coming month, celebrating the lives and histories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people – ordinary and extraordinary – who have left their mark on the history of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. LGBT History Month has become a fixture on the Pink Singers’ calendar since its launch in 2005, and we have watched it grow and reach out to people everywhere.
It was my fourth time singing at this event and for me it was special for a number of reasons. It was our first gig after our big winter concert and a real tonic to the bleak weather, bills and New Year’s resolutions that I’d already broken. Not only was it a chance to get a shot of Pinkie magic during our post-season break, but also a great opportunity to catch up with other Pinkies over a couple of sweet sherries in a very cosy pub after the show.
I always find smaller gigs challenging as we usually don’t know the venue, where we’ll be performing, how close we’ll be to the audience or how many will be there, and this was no exception. In addition to all that, I was singing the solo in Sit Down You’re Rockin’ The Boat….. gulp! It had been performed brilliantly by Larry in our concert two weeks earlier, and was my first solo performance (not in the shower) for nearly 20 years! With our lovely Alice at the helm for a solo conducting flight across an entire gig and me not wanting to cause a crash of any sort, I was feeling the pressure somewhat.
I’m not sure which is worse and I’ve experienced both – the gigs we do in cavernous town halls where we are up on a huge stage looking down on the audience who are just a tiny dot in the distance, or the ones where we are actually in the front row with them, on their laps! Well, this one was the latter and it was quite an experience for them and us.
When the time came I think I can safely say that we managed to pull it out of the bag and gave a performance that, although it may not go down in Gay History, was worthy of the Pink Singers and certainly gave our audience something to warm to on a very cold February night.
As we exited stage left and made our way to that cosy pub I mentioned, we were congratulated by Peter Tatchell who said his favourite part of our performance was the basses ‘bums’ in Constant Craving. Now there’s a compliment!