10 years on, and the Pinkie ‘magic’ rolls on!

TanyaOur lovely alto, Tanya, sums up our summer concert and reflects on her tenth anniversary as a Pink Singer…
(Photo credits: Pete Stean).
This summer I celebrated 10 years as a Pinkie and 50 years on the planet, all in the same week! It was a truly amazing way to celebrate with my Pinkie family, fabulous Icelandic guests and a really appreciative audience.
The Pink Singers have changed immeasurably since my first summer concert with them in 2005. Back in the old days there was a lot of standing in the same position, very little choreography, no artistic vision or presentation and less than 40 singers. However there are still the same core values: great singing, freedom to be yourself and supporting the LGBT community.

Key Changes, Summer concert 2015
Team alto: (left to right) Kirsten, Tanya and Kate.

When I joined I planned to stay for a season or maybe two. 20 seasons on, I’m still here! I’ve found a home and a family with the Pinkies and I can’t ever imagine being outside of that. Every concert I’ve done has been an amazing experience. There is nothing comparable to being immersed in the centre of that incredible sound of an eight-part harmony. The first time it happened it was a spiritual experience and it hasn’t changed at all over the years. Our summer concert, Key Changes, was no different.

Newbie Pinkies, 'popping their concert cherries'.
Newbie Pinkies, ‘popping their concert cherries’.

I loved the theme this summer; it brought together an eclectic repertoire that was both enjoyable to sing and entertaining to listen to. So many songs that were great to sing but as I was born into a political family, singing Between the Wars and The March of the Women really resonated with me, and I must say I had a bit of a lump in my throat as Sally-Anne’s soaring vocals were added to layer by layer as the choir joined in. The introduction speech by our new Alto Jeremy (soon to become leader of all altos!) was a joy to listen to: beautifully constructed, the right tone but with a laugh at the end to lighten the mood. His words reflected my beliefs and I was a very proud to be his Alto Mamma.
Once again, we were lucky to have not one but three fabulous arrangers ‘in-house’: Simon Pearson, Michael Derrick and Chris Chambers, who understand the choir’s dynamics so well they produced some unforgettable pieces for us. What better way to open the concert that to sing Chris’ incredible rendition of Relax? It certainly got the audience’s attention!

Key Changes, Summer concert 2015
‘Relax, don’t do it, when you wanna…’.

Now some of us are great movers, others a little reticent and some (including myself) are somewhat slower at picking up the moves. When we started back in February, Relax was my most challenging piece both vocally and choreographically; I was sure I would never put both bits together. Yet slowly but surely I managed to fit my ‘tschts’ and ‘digga diggas’ together with the appropriate moves and the piece came alive. The reason? The choreography/artistic team, under the direction of the wonderful Oliver Gilbody, who manage to get the balance just right for us to look amazing and yet be accessible to all 70+ members. This is no mean feat, but something they manage time after time. It was a little bittersweet at the end of the concert as Oli has stepped down as artistic director after five fabulous years. The choir has become slicker and more secure in itself under his vision and direction but I’m sure his replacement David Baxter will add his own vava’voom and build on what Oli started.  Thanks Oli, its been a blast!

Key Changes, Summer concert 2015
Lesbian legs?

Our concerts always have a bit of tongue in cheek, so it didn’t surprise me that we had a wee bit of Sweet Transvestite,  brought to life by the inimitable Simon Harrison, whose legs are the envy of many a lesbian… He is a true ‘thesp’ and a fabulous performer, and I was over the moon to have been in that number when the split pieces were announced. The other half of the choir sang Lillibulero, and pretty as it was, let’s just say that high camp is certainly more up my street.
One piece that could have turned out a bit comedic if Master Murray hadn’t emphasised the need to ‘play it straight’ was the Porgy and Bess medley. It was one of my favourite pieces, evocative and sultry and simply beautiful. We were allowed to play it up a little in places, and as a bit of a Diva I must say I did enjoy looking longingly and coquettish at the basses and tenors during ‘Bess, you is my woman now’. The acting from some of the tenors (who shall remain nameless) was worthy of an Oscar.
Which brings me to the show stopping performance from Oskar Marchock of ‘Strange Fruit’, which made every hair on my body stand up the first time I heard him sing it in rehearsal. It makes me so proud that the choir can utilise all the skills of its individuals and encourage and support everyone to do things that many would not undertake outside of our supportive environment.

Iceland choir
Our incredible friends from Iceland.

Summer seasons would not be the same without our special guests, and this season we had the true pleasure of hosting our Icelandic friends ‘Hinsegin Korinn’, a marvelously creative, warm and glorious group of people who participated in every aspect of our brand of cultural exchange with aplomb. Sitting in the gallery with anticipation of their first set I was blown away by their rendition of Aqua’s ‘Barbie Girl’. To me it epitomized the Icelandic take on life – have fun, challenge yourself and don’t take things too seriously. For such a young choir (only four years old) they are so polished and creative – it really was a joy to watch them perform. My favourite song from their set was Bohemian Rhapsody, a song that really changed the world for me when I first saw it on Top of the Pops back in the mists of time. It made me stop dead and transported me to a different world at the time and their version did exactly that last Saturday.
Key Change, summer concert 2015There are so many songs that could have fallen into the season’s theme that I’m sure the music team had a very difficult decision on which ones to pick. I for one am grateful they chose ‘Rise Like a Phoenix’, even though it is barely a year old it has already become an anthem to and for change. Personally I have explored the song to its fullest extent by singing it with 11 other Pinkies in full Conchita mode with beards and all during a Pinkies weekend away at the end of last year. That was really fun, but the arrangement for the whole choir by the lovely Simon P blew me away the first time I heard it. It is a piece I will treasure singing for years to come.
That’s the thing about being a Pinkie, each season we get to interpret the words and feelings of great composers, moving from one mood to another celebrating and reveling in true community singing. This is what keeps bringing our audiences back time and time again – our love of the songs and our desire to share that love with all who need it. Thanks for the last ten years Pinkies and bring on the next show!

Like you’ve never seen us before

7.30pm 16 July 2011 Bloomsbury TheatreThe clock is ticking and last minute preparations are being made to the Pink Singers’ summer concert, Razzle Dazzle – celebrating musical icons of the gay and lesbian community. The choir has been working tirelessly all season learning the repertoire and choreography in order to give you, the audience, the best possible performance on 16 July.
The choir’s artistic director, Oliver, talks about why he hopes this concert is going to be extra special.

Oliver
Oliver, artistic director

“Since I became the artistic director I’ve been itching to put on a real ‘show’ with the Pinkies. Once we’d decided that the musical theme was going to be gay and lesbian icons I knew this was the time to do it. We’re a fabulous LGBT choir and I wanted the concert to highlight individual talents and personalities, but not be restrained by the usual choir concert format. Fans of the Pinkies shouldn’t worry – they will still get to hear the mixture of classical and contemporary music they’re used to, but hopefully they will be surprised and excited by the style of production and the ‘little extras’ we have planned!
The visual aesthetic pulls inspiration in part from the cabaret clubs of Paris and one of my aims is that the audience will be drawn in and they feel part of the show. We’re performing at the Bloomsbury Theatre, which is a new venue for the Pinkies, and is the perfect space to create a more intimate feel. Continue reading “Like you’ve never seen us before”

New MD – Murray Hipkin

Murray
Murray

Being a newbie Pinkie is an exciting experience: you are welcomed into a new community, full of people who want to know more about you. Imagine how much more exciting it is when you join, not as a singer, but as our conductor! Here some of the Pink Singers put Murray Hipkin, who joins us this season as our musical director, under the spotlight:

Photo credit Oskar Marchock

Frances asks, “How did you find out about the Pink Singers?”

I was at my friend Martin’s 40th birthday party at Kettners a couple of months ago when a small group of Pinkies sang — I was playing the piano for Janie Dee — afterwards I found a slightly upset tenor on the pavement outside the club and gathered that there was a MD-shaped hole in the choir….so the next day I wrote to the chair, offering my services, initially as temporary cover while the search began. In fact, I ended up auditioning for the post.

Max asks, “What appealed to you about conducting the Pink Singers?”

Well, I was already working Monday to Saturday, so I thought I’d collect the full set — for a while I have been quite aware that although I have a lot of gay friends, I’ve never really had a chance to get involved in the wider gay community — and although I spend most of my time working with professional musicians and singers at a very high level (at English National Opera) I love bringing my musical experience and teaching skills as an enabler and motivator into my work with amateur and community groups. (By the way, do remember that the word “professional” should never be used as a measure of standards — all it means is that the musicians were paid…)

Andrew asks, “Now that you’ve been with the Pinkies for a couple of months, what do you like about the choir?”

I love the rule that says that the length of time spent at the pub must exceed the length of time spent rehearsing, but I have also enjoyed making friends with the sopranos and altos — it just happened before that I didn’t know very many gay women — if I’m honest, they used to scare me somewhat, especially in large numbers, but now I’m realising that most of them are not at all frightening…

Photo credit Ben Park

Eve asks, “What do you think the difference is between a regular choir and one that identifies as LGBT?”

Er… what they do in bed, and to whom. (It also has to be said that it is a truth universally acknowledged that in most choirs the altos fancy the conductor.)

Gerry asks, “How are the Pink Singers different from other choirs you’ve conducted in the past?”

I have never worked with a choir that does everything from memory. I’ve always been a sightreader rather than a memoriser and if I had a hat on I would remove it and bow in your general direction as I think you are all amazing learning all those notes. The fact that they usually seem to come out in the right order is particularly impressive.

Jerome (bass) asks, “If you had to pick a favourite section, which one would it be?”

Why, Jerome, the basses, without any doubt at all. (That is, until I’m asked the same question by an alto, because as people keep telling me, I need to keep them sweet…)

Nathalina asks, “What did you want to be when you grew up – have you always wanted to conduct?”

No, I recall wanting to be a forensic pathologist (I was for a while fascinated by dead bodies), then a missionary (God knows why). Eventually I settled on being a piano accompanist (recitals and chamber music), but even that didn’t quite work out and I ended up as a sort of maid-of-all-work in an opera house – apart from a couple of things at school, I didn’t start conducting until I was about 40.

Ben asks, “Could you summarize your professional music experience?”

Er ok; I was the first Trainee Répétiteur at ENO, leading to a permanent job on the Music Staff there — I now coach opera singers, play for rehearsals, act as Assistant Conductor and occasionally conduct performances; otherwise I have had stints of piano–teaching and teaching in a Stage School (Kate Winslet was in my class); among my various freelance operatic and concert contracts in the UK and Europe I can include two projects with Björk, 8 months as Musical Director of “The Sound of Music” at the Palladium, and the Musical Director–ship of the North London Chorus. I have also directed student opera productions and translated two operas for performance in English. (Sorry if this seems very long, but I am very old.)

Photo credit Oskar Marchock

Simon asks, “What kinds of music — opera, classical, musical theatre, contemporary, etc. — do you prefer conducting?”

I’m definitely most at home with vocal music — choral or operatic — I think I am probably what is known in the profession as a “singers’ conductor”, but I had a brilliant time conducting “The Sound of Music” and would love to do another West End show (and my bank manager would support me in this).

Penny asks, “What’s your favourite piece in this season’s repertoire?”

Whichever one we are singing at the time. It’s the only way. Sorry if that’s a bit of a clever-clever answer but there is truth in it; perhaps I should admit to my Sondheim habit now. I once spent a fortnight working with him and one day found an anagram of his name that even he (a crossword fanatic) had never worked out. “Send home the nips” sounds a bit racist but we were doing “Pacific Overtures” which is set in Japan so it was kind of funny at the time. I hope he remembers me for more than that… Oh yes, where were we, it’s “Send in the Clowns”.

Sue asks, “What music — genres, specific pieces — would you like to see the Pink Singers performing?”

As wide a variety as possible. But it‘s clearly important that people are singing what they want to sing and that we try and accommodate all tastes. Whether I like it or not mine are secondary and in any case I‘ve always thought of myself a bit of a musical chameleon and I‘m very versatile (Hsien mentioned that someone had asked about that too — presumably not an alto). But it’s early days and I haven‘t really had time to research all the available arrangements yet. Watch this space.

Jules asks, “Where do you see the choir going under your direction in the future?”

I haven’t come here to try and change the personality of the choir — and the more important question is: where does the choir see itself going? I do want to introduce mentoring for the Assistants Conductors and Accompanists as well as regular vocal workshops for the whole choir with visiting teachers, and maybe sightreading or music theory classes (it’s not rocket science) but let’s get 8 January over with first. Ask me again in 6 months.

Photo credit Ben Park

Michael asks, “If you had to take one opera with you to a desert island, which one would it be?”

This is cheating a bit as it’s really four operas, but can I have Wagner’s “Ring” please… hang on Michael, what’s all this about a desert island…?

Chris asks, “What non-music-related activities do you do in your free time?”

What free time would that be?

Sarah asks, “What are you most looking forward to about your first Pink Singers concert, ‘A Burst of Song’?”

Wearing my new dress shirt (courtesy of Dylon — flamingo pink). And seeing the choir start a new era with a stonking great performance.

And the $64,000 question… Chris asks, “What is your favourite colour?”

Don’t be ridiculous. Chris! (although if you ever visit my bathroom you might notice a similarity between the walls and the afore–mentioned dress shirt).

Timeline datestamp: 08 January 2011

Backstage pass: All the right moves

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLKQFL5aeqo
With just six weeks to go until the New Year concert on Saturday, 8 January 2011, you’d be right in assuming the pressure is on to get the singing down pat, but our regular fans will also recognize that we put in loads of work to perfect the choreography as well. This season we’re debuting two pieces with entirely new moves and, in a choir where moving is ninth or tenth nature, the end result really is the hard work of all the Pinkies.
No-one works harder than our choreographers Karin, Oli and Rachel though, but in between rehearsals they stopped for minute and sat down in front of the camera for a heart-to-heart chat. Watch the interview for a behind-the-scenes look at how they got into dancing, where they get their inspiration from, what they get out of working with the choir, and what you can expect to see at ‘A Burst of Song’. And if you look closely, you’ll also catch a glimpse of the Pinkies rehearsing Proud Mary!
Wondering whether their — and our — hard work has paid off? Get your tickets and come see us in the new year!

Pinkie spotlight – Kelly

Kelly
Kelly

My name is Kelly.
My section is Alto.
I joined the Pink Singers in: I joined the Pink Singers last season so that’s October 2008.
Had you performed in choirs before? I have in the past been in choirs when I was at school.
I joined the Pink Singers because I had been looking to join a choir for years but couldn’t find one that was the right fit, then while watching a TV show that will remain nameless, I saw the Brighton Gay Mens choir and I thought “hey I bet there’s a gay choir in London”. I jumped on the Internet and hey presto up came the Pinkies, just like magic! Continue reading “Pinkie spotlight – Kelly”