Percy Pig, Pixie cuts & Popping my Pinkie Cherry

Newbie soprano Verity has just taken part in her first concert with The Pink Singers. And what a concert it was! Read about her percy pig, pixie cut, Pinkie cherry popping experience… 

Arguably, the idea of a ‘community choir’ is tautologous: a choir is inescapably a kind of community. Every member must be valued, not despite, but because of, their different voices. A good choir only functions when all the parts are listening and responding to each other. A choir is united towards a common goal: sharing a beautiful sound.

Photo credit: Jess Rowbottom –
http://hotfox.eu/

The Pink Singers is undoubtedly a community in this way, and with every rehearsal and sectional, my pride in being part of it only grew. Joining the Pink Singers this season, I came to better appreciate the extraordinary diversity within our vibrant community. There are so many places to carve out a home on the LGBT+ spectrum: having only really occupied the student halls of queer living before, it has been so liberating to learn from the experiences of other Pinkies. I’ve met those who have sung with the choir for decades and fellow newbies, those who are recently out and those who have known since they were eleven, doctors and cupcake decorators, granddads and mums-to-be. I felt immediately embraced and included.

We are also a community choir in the sense we represent the wider LGBT+ community and this was best demonstrated by our concert on From Queer to Eternity: Songs of Struggle and Celebration featuring Rainbow Voices Mumbai and Out Aloud (Sheffield). After months of rehearsals, things began to kick off when I met the members of Rainbow Voices Mumbai – about whom I had heard so much from Pinkies who had visited India last year – at London Pride to sing in  Trafalgar Square in front of ten thousand happy revellers.

Photo credit: Liang Wee

After sweaty dress rehearsals and choreography clinics, Saturday the 15th July rolled around. I arrived at Cadogan Hall clutching a bag of Veggie Percy Pigs (which are rapidly becoming a Soprano section staple) and filled with determination. The elements of the show we’d only heard about came to life – the gallery, the staging and the poignant projections which would be played behind us (designed by the very talented Soprano Jessica Cheeseman). After a tech run which seemed to whizz by and before I knew it, I was doling out hair clay and styling pixie cuts in the dressing room. Someone pinned a silk pink rose on my left boob and gave me a cherry to bite seductively in a bizarre but wholly consensual initiation ritual. A quick dressing room warm up was had and we were ready to wander onto the stage to the sounds of birdsong as the marvellous Artistic Director Simon Harrison had planned.

Photo credit: Jess Rowbottom –
http://hotfox.eu/

It is difficult to do justice to the concert itself using words alone, but moments stand out. For example, when bass Phil hit the last note of our cover of Radiohead’s Creep; the standing ovation as Rainbow Voices Mumbai walked onstage; the stillness as we sang Dear Mr President, followed by Somewhere from West Side Story; and the ecstatic moment giant colourful balloons fell down on us to close the concert.

As we waved goodbye to the hall of supporters, it was then I really understood what it means to be an LGBT+ community choir. We had held an audience of LGBT+ Londoners, allies, friends and families and whispered gently that we saw them; that we’re proud of them; that we stand with them in their struggle for liberation.

I love listening to post-concert hubbub. Significant others of Pinkies were spotted in the crowd, proud parents were posing for photos. In this big and often impersonal city, I realised that I had at last found a home with my beautiful choir.

Photo credit: Jess Rowbottom –
http://hotfox.eu/

Can’t wait to get your next Pink Singers fix? Not feeling the Pinkie love because we never perform up north? This August, The Pink Singers will be performing as part of the Hand in Hand Festival in Manchester (Celebrating LGBT+ choirs in the UK and Ireland). This concert will also feature Sing Out Bristol and Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus. Tickets are only £7 and going quickly!

This Magic that We Call Pinkies

Soprano Sophie relives the ‘magic’ of her first Pinkie weekend away… 

When you join the Pinkies you immediately know what you’re getting yourself into. This is a group of people who are so instantaneously warm and loving that they automatically become family. There’s a reason we joke about it being a cult, because this is a team that, even after only eight months of membership, I know will forever be a massive part of my life.

There are many in-jokes and terminologies bandied about in the Pinkies: we all know by now how to ‘dolly’ up our voices, and cherry-popping is a well-loved rite of passage for all Pinkie newbies, but there’s one phrase that you overhear a lot when you first join that no-one ever truly explains – Pinkie Magic.

Up until a few days ago, I thought I knew what Pinkie Magic was. Because there truly is something so beautiful in voices joining together to express something through music – and when the Pinkies get it right, boy do they get it right. You only need to look at the reaction to ‘Holding Out For A Hero’ at our January concert. I’m (arguably) a performer professionally, but never have I felt as much warmth and happiness following anything I’d done onstage as I did in that moment. Everything came together and we delivered a message to our audience of community, of strength, of love; and I believe that everyone in that room felt it and will remember it for a very long time. That is Pinkie Magic.
But there’s another side to the magic that I think can only be truly appreciated after an extended period of time with the Pink Singers (namely dancing the night away and then still facing a warm up the following morning…). And that is what I had the incredible honour of experiencing this weekend.

I was the kid who grew up on musical theatre summer camps, and there’s nothing I enjoy more than a packed timetable where I spend my time doing nothing but singing, dancing, eating and sleeping. But no matter how well-scheduled, how good the music or the calibre of the teaching – though as everyone will attest, this was all outstanding this weekend – what truly makes a residential is the people.
This weekend was a trip that I already find impossible to put into words, but at the same time something I want to talk about for weeks, to the point I’ve written this blog post just as an excuse to reminisce even more. I took so many photographs, just to attempt to capture any of the stardust that seemed to be all around us, so that in years to come I could look back and remember – this was good.
Anyone could tell you the incredible things we achieved this weekend during the planned sessions. Learning the ‘All That Jazz’ choreography with the fabulous Emily was a massive highlight. Finally feeling like we were nailing down some of those tricky sections of score! And, even on a hangover, the noises that Andrea got us making during Handel’s ‘Happy’, it felt truly incredible.
But like I say; a residential is made by the people. And these Pinkies are the people who have my back (and have had it through some really hard times over the last few months), and they are the people who created my true highlights of the weekend – every moment we just got to spend time together.
Some of my highlights: running full speed onto a stage to not miss a second of the Steps ‘Tragedy’ choreo; Aoife playing her guitar as people blew massive bubbles and I sat making daisy chains in the sun; trying to decide which shade of lipstick would best enhance Jerome’s 90s aesthetic; the astonishing versatility, beauty, and humour of everyone onstage during the open mic; learning which of the Pinkies actually like teacakes;  discovering that Eléonore can not only sing, rap in French, cook, draw, and be exceptionally tall, but apparently now she plays guitar too?!
And more! Belting out ‘Born This Way’ opposite two pretty-in-Pink Pinkie cheerleaders for a canteen filled with French schoolchildren; being secretly happy that there was so much traffic on the way back into London because, even though I was exhausted and very excited about the prospect of bed, it was one more minute I got to spend with some of the most stunning, golden-hearted, magical people I know. Thank you, thank you Pinkies, for counting me as one of you and for letting me share the best weekend I’ve had in years.
So, it’s now Monday lunchtime. I’ve finally caught up on sleep, I’ve dusted the last of the 90s glitter from my face, and I have just one question I’d like to ask – can we go back now please?
If you would like to experience some ‘Pinkie Magic’, we’ll try and provide some at our next concert this summer! Book tickets now for our ‘From Queer to Eternity’ Show on Saturday 15 July at Cadogan Hall! 

Johnny Kirkman on Joining the Pinkies

In the second of our newbie blog posts, tenor Johnny talks about how music has been with him throughout his life and the newly found importance of Handel and Grace Kelly…
I don’t think I realised quite how important singing and making music was to me before I joined the Pink Singers just two months ago.
Since I was a teenager, choirs, orchestras and musical theatre have been a central feature in my social life, but I left my last choir in 2015 because of work and personal commitments. Apart from the odd tinkering on the piano and tipsy karaoke attempt, music was absent from my world and I thought I didn’t really need it.
It was not until I was standing amongst the tenors a couple of weeks ago – the top Es of ‘Grace Kelly’ screeching out of us – that I realised how much I had missed it. But more than that, I missed being part of a group of people making music.
And this is what is probably most special about the Pink Singers. There is a sense of community, fun, friendship and acceptance woven throughout this music making.
So, a week later, I was in my new section (the tenors), learning Handel. The following week, a newbies party to welcome everyone was laid on. Now, two months in, I have a few songs nailed, a lot of learning still to do and am getting my head around choreography – as well as getting to know some fantastic people and hopefully making some lasting friendships.
That’s not to say that the music isn’t important – the choir make glorious sound that I am relishing helping to be part of – it’s just that this doesn’t feel like an ordinary choir: it feels like a community and that’s special, and why I am enjoying myself so much.
All of a sudden I feel like a Pinkie and I can’t quite believe I’m a convert so quickly. I am looking forward popping my Pinkie cherry – as we call it – in July, as well as the opportunities to sing, socialise, meet new people from all walks of life. I’m also looking forward to connecting with other choirs from around the world,  as I continue on my pink hued journey. 🙂
Tickets for our next concert, ‘From Queer to Eternity’ are now ON SALE! 

Hackney’d harmonies – joining the Pink Singers

Our lovely newbies are settling in to the new season, and getting to grips with memorising music scores and learning choreography! We asked two of them to reflect on their first few weeks: first up is alto Eléonore who tells us about singing out proud and what made her decide to join the Pinkie family. 
Moving to London from Reading in 2015 was without a doubt the best decision of my late twenties, but the experience of a newfound freedom and the access to the ever-trendifying mecca that was Hackney came with an insurmountable caveat – flat-sharing.
Wonderful people though my flatmates turned out to be, the proximity of our bedrooms unfortunately required the indiscriminate use of headphones for anything that might not necessarily be appreciated by everyone through the paper-thin apartment walls at 11pm on a Tuesday night. It also meant – my own rule, equal parts consideration and self-consciousness – no singing OUT LOUD.

Sopranos and altos – old and new – at the newbie party!

The last time I had sung properly in any capacity was in my university choir, but that was a good many years ago; every passing year making it seem like one of those nostalgically-remembered things you used to do in your youth and would probably never do again, like drinking in skateparks or wearing bondage trousers from Camden Market in public.
Enter the year 2017, and in the general atmosphere of political upheaval and social unease left to us by 2016’s Brexit-and-Trump maelstrom, it suddenly seemed more important than ever to get around to all those things on that vague Life Goals Or Something list I made every year. It was time to turn at least one of those bullet-points, the hesitant “join choir y/n?”, into a reality.
I’d heard about the Pink Singers before, had seen them marching at Pride and watched some of their concert footage online, and it seemed to me they’d be a great bunch of people to join. I sent an email enquiring about auditions – just in the nick of time, as it turns out, as I got an email straight back from Zoe telling me auditions were to be that weekend!

Cocktails at one of our favourite post-rehearsal bars in town

My first pre-audition rehearsal was a whirl of new faces and varying vocal ranges around me. We did some singing – and were beautifully serenaded – and my ability to remember names was thoroughly tested as everyone happily introduced themselves. There seemed to be so much friendliness shared around the room that despite the stern reminder I had given myself to keep my expectations low in case I mucked up the audition, I started getting my hopes up.
Luckily, I didn’t muck up the audition – mostly thanks to the encouraging and not-so-scary-after-all faces of Murray and John peering at me over the piano, and the support and kindness of the current Pinkies who assuaged all our newbie nerves with bracing words (and a pint in the pub beforehand…).
Being given the opportunity to sing again after all this time, and in the company of such a welcoming group of people, who all sing out proudly – as the saying goes – from the same song-sheet, has been an enormously invigorating experience these last few months. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the season will bring.
If you would like to see Eléonore and the rest of the choir perform on stage, then come along to Cadogan Hall on Saturday 15 July, as we present, ‘From Queer to Eternity’. Further details coming very soon!

Pink Singers performing at Cadogan Hall in January 2017!

Mumbai Musings: part 2

‘There’s a first time for…. more than one thing.’

Joining the Pinkies on our recent trip to India was a whirlwind experience of ‘firsts’ for newbie Claire – from taking to the mic in front of a large crowd to marching en masse in her first ever Pride. Here she shares these adventures and more… 

At the end of January, a group of over 40 members of the Pink Singers arrived in Mumbai to show support to Rainbow Voices Mumbai, India’s first LGBT choir. For me this was an adventure of a lifetime: I’m in my late 40s (ok, I’m 50 this year) and this trip was the first time I had left the UK in over 18 years. Also, as someone who – due to a whole series of circumstances – was late coming out, Mumbai Pride would be my very first Pride March!

I cannot say what I was expecting, other than possible heat stroke and the need for Imodium! I found myself in a busy city of contrasts: beautiful buildings alongside slum areas; colours and flavours seemed brighter and more intense; people were curious, but friendly (eye contact in a city…). After living so long in London, this was so refreshing. I learned that to cross a road, you had to treat it as a champion’s quest, and that bartering was not only expected, but fun to do. 

Taking part in the Queer Azaadi Mumbai March was one of the best experiences I have ever had. It was a privilege to be able to walk alongside people from the Indian LGBTQ+ community who cannot openly live the lives they wish to, and to show solidarity and support in their fight to overturn Section 377. I am now looking forward to taking part in London Pride, where I hope some of our friends from Rainbow Voices Mumbai will be marching alongside us. 

I am an introvert. I find it hard to show it when I’m happy; smiles I feel on the inside rarely show on my face. I also find crowds difficult, I’m not good at small talk, although I’m a great listener. I have social anxiety and being the centre of attention can be a real problem.

So… when Simon, our Chair, said, ‘Claire, I’d like to ask you something but it’s ok to say no’, and then went on to ask whether I would speak at the concert in between songs, my brain screamed, ‘NO!’, but I heard myself calmly agree. And so, the next evening, I found myself speaking in front of a crowd for the first time. 🙂

Claire making her moving speech during the ‘We Shall Overcome’ concert

Singing with and listening to the members of Rainbow Voices Mumbai was truly uplifting. Being able to spend time singing, listening, talking, eating and drinking together, as well as sharing stories and experiences made me realise that although we live many miles apart, we can still find common ground.  

Being part of a choir gives us a shared understanding. When we sing together, that’s when the magic happens. Not only is singing therapeutic, joining together as a group provides a sense of belonging. This is something I shared during the concert: the knowledge that members of the choir have become friends and more than that, my family and support group. A wise man once said, “We are living in divisive times, where forces seek to drive wedges between us. Long may music and these experiences we share bring us together.” (Tenor, Hsien Chew, Facebook posting, 2017). 

Next up, the Pinkies plan to bring Rainbow Voices to London! We can’t wait to perform with them again and plan for them to join us at our next concert at Cadogan Hall on 15th July. But we need funds to help make this dream a reality! If you can help bring this wonderful choir to London (you can even come to watch them perform!) you can donate through our website www.pinksingers.co.uk/india2017  or contact chair@pinksingers.co.uk for more information.