A special weekend, arranging a special album

JeremyAlto Jezza gives us his personal account of our special recording weekend to produce our ‘By Special Arrangement’ album. We wouldn’t have been able to do it without your help, so to each and every one of our backers, a HUGE THANK YOU!

In January 1967, David Bowie was recording his first album in what was the ‘DECCA” building in north London. That building is now owned by the English National Opera, and in the January of this year, it played host to the Pink Singers recording one of their most ambitious albums to date. Whilst we may not have the fame and reach of the late, great Mr. Bowie, we’re certainly trying to keep up to speed with his ability to promote equality and acceptance. Not forgetting we can easily match his entire career in terms of how much glitter is on stage during any one performance. I like to think he would have approved.
As a Pinkie who only recently lost ‘newbie’ status, I was as excited as I was nervous to jump on board such a large project that involved so many members and friends of the choir, including a few from before my time! I can honestly say this is the first CD recording I’ve been somewhat heavily involved with, but I’m secretly hoping it will not be my last. I doubt I’ll convince the entire choir to do a CD every season…but you never know 😉
By Special Arrangement_CD_3
The recording days were a lot of work and without the wonderful Murray Hipkin at our helm it may well have sounded akin to anything ‘performed’ by the intoxicated rabble that appear outside my house in Bethnal Green at three o’clock in the morning. (Ok, some of the takes resembled this unique ‘Dawn Chorus’ but we’re not using those ones, promise). Everyone sang their hearts out and maintained the work ethic and passion of any professional, which made it all the more sweet for me, as I knew where the project had started, and I couldn’t have been any prouder.
How it began
On a warm summer’s day in August 2015, I arrived at my first ever Management Committee (MC) meeting for the Pink Singers. It was the start of only my second season as a Pinkie, but my section had voted me in as section leader for the altos, and that meant joining in with the committee. Choir business is watched over by the MC, and, for the most part, special projects and occasions are spearheaded by its members.
The choir has produced CDs before (see our shop for how to buy them) and there was talk of a new one as the coming season was so personal to the choir. Called ‘By Special Arrangement’, the repertoire featured songs that had been arranged and written by current or former choir members, and some by external composers who had written tracks especially for the choir. As Pinkies past and present have a lot of talent, we were spoilt for choice. Simon, our Chair (known as ‘Cher’ to…well…most people) asked if anyone wanted to head up a CD recording as Project Manager. It was one of those moments where I suddenly noticed I’d put my hand up and then wondered why I’d done so.
By Special Arrangement_CD_2Anyway, I’m thrilled I did. Simon is well versed in music production, and Murray is a professional with many years’ experience under his belt, so in many ways my job was super simple, just making sure that the right minds were in touch with each other, and through the wonder of Skype, I was able to video call Simon and ask anything from ‘What dates shall we consider for a recording?’ to ‘Should I have a fringe?’. I get distracted easily.
Our main concern was the financial side of things, raising the money was going to be a big task and we knew it. We looked into Crowdfunding and put a campaign together. A simple, friendly video of humble and happy Pinkies appealing for support was made, and edited by the wonderful Jess Cheeseman (also an alto like myself, y’know, just saying…).
It was a greater success than we could have imagined. We had a three week campaign to raise the necessary £5,500, and we raised it in just under a fortnight. We were both amazed and thrilled, and decided to risk a ‘stretch goal’ of another £1,000 in order to have a string quartet playing with us. When all was done we raised a whopping £6,952 thanks to our 145 backers. We adore each and every one of you.
Giving back
The decision to give away 20% of each sale to our chosen charities was an easy one. 10% (£1.20 from each sale) went to Diversity Role Models who are seeking to make schools and colleges more LGBT+ friendly spaces, and they’re doing a marvellous job. Admittedly I’m slightly biased, as I work for them as a freelance facilitator, but it was lovely, and useful, to have a personal connection with them, especially as other Pinkies have worked for them as well. In some ways I can thank my work for them in getting me to join the choir. It amazed me how much good it did me being in the regular company of like-minded queer people (and queer-friendly allies). I realised I had a paucity of this in my life, so joining an organisation like the Pinkies was in some ways an obvious step that I needed to take, and I’m still brimming with gratitude that I got in.
By Special Arrangement_CD_4The other 10% (£1.20 from each sale) went to the amazing Albert Kennedy Trust who work tirelessly to help young LGBT+ people who are homeless or living in a hostile environment, simply for being who they are. Their offices are near where I live, a stone’s throw from Hoxton overground Station (a location which, I think, still makes me vaguely trendy). One night last October, I came out of the station, alone, into the freezing night air. A young homeless man, James, was sitting on the floor sobbing. He had just been slapped by a young man who had run up to him to gain momentum in his revolting assault. Sadly, this is all too common I am told. I spoke with James for a little while, and was able to give him enough money to get a night in a shelter. I’d met him once before and knew what a few nights of safety would do for him so I was happy to help, but couldn’t help but wonder ‘Whatever next?’
Now I don’t know why James found himself homeless, I admit I did wonder, but it’s none of my business. However, as I met him virtually next door to the Albert Kennedy Trust’s office, it was a stark reminder to me, as I walked to my warm and safe home that night, that so many people like me can end up like James…simply for being like me. If our contribution can stop someone from ending up like James, alone and feeling unloved, simply for being like us, then that’s probably the greatest success that we can hope for.
The recording weekend
In conclusion, I’ll go back to the beginning… Well, the beginning of this blog post anyway. The days dawned bright and crisp, and the Pinkie family descended onto an unsuspecting West Hampstead. We brought tea, cake and birthday songs for a few of our number. In all we had a wonderful, almost celebratory, weekend whereby we revelled in each other’s company and enjoyed our shared talents. The best bits about being a Pinkie really.
By Special Arrangement_CD_1On day two I fell victim to the nasty cold I had been fighting and lost my voice almost entirely… I know, terrible timing eh?! On the upside, I had the unique experience of sitting on the outside and hearing, as an entirety, a choir and a sound that I am usually slap bang in the middle of. It was bizarre. I heard all the parts with a different ear, felt different vibrations throughout my body and heard us the way everyone else hears us. To say I had goose bumps would be an understatement. I know I’m biased, and I know we’re not the only decent choir in the world, but for a moment I saw with a new clarity what we really are. Different but the same, unique but connected, ourselves and a whole. Without wanting to sound over the top, I think I sensed the ‘Pinkie magic’ that so many of our generous audiences have claimed to have experienced, and you know what? I think they’re onto something…

By Special Arrangement

In January 2016, we released an album of tailor-made arrangements and raised money for Diversity Role Models and The Albert Kennedy Trust. The Pink Singers’ fourth album, By Special Arrangement, showcases the performing and arranging talent that the choir has developed over its 33-year history.

You can stream the album straight from Spotify below. It is also available to stream on Apple Music, TikTok, Instagram, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, Deezer, Pandora, and 150+ more. Just search for the Pink Singers By Special Arrangement.

CLICK HERE to stream or download now!

You can also purchase the album from iTunes or buy a CD for £7 using the PayPal button below.

We’re thrilled to have been able to make this album a reality, through the help of those who supported our Crowdfunding campaign in December 2015, which supported Diversity Role Models and The Albert Kennedy Trust. Both charities do tremendous work helping young LGBT people in need.

Check out our exclusive ‘behind the scenes’ video to watch the recording process and find out some of the amazing stories behind the music.

Track list

  1. Mr Blue Sky
  2. I, Choir
  3. Earth, Wind & Choir
  4. Masculine Women, Feminine Men
  5. Make You Feel My Love
  6. Relax
  7. Smells Like Teen Spirit
  8. Running Up That Hill
  9. Video Killed The Radio Star
  10. Chandelier
  11. This Woman’s Work
  12. All By Myself
  13. Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now
  14. I Wanna Dance With Somebody
  15. Set Fire to the Rain
  16. Both Sides Now
  17. A Million Voices

Arrangers & composers
Chris Chambers, Richard Thomas, Andy Mitchinson, Michael Derrick, Naomi Berwin, Murray Hipkin, Simon Pearson

Artistic team
David Baxter, Artistic Director
Murray Hipkin, Musical Director
John Flinders, Accompanist
Damien Kennedy, Assistant Producer

Gavin Davies, Violin
Gavin Rhind, Violin
Graeme McKean, Viola
David Robinson, ‘Cello

Production team
Chris Kalcov, Recording, Mixing & Mastering Engineer
Jessica Camilleri, Assistant Engineer
Jeremy Donovan & Simon Pearson, Project leads

Huge thanks to our crowdfunding supporters, listed below!

Mark Winter, Johnathon Finlay, Ian Stephenson, Guy Keith-Miller, Jay Hirst, Paul Lenz, Colinne, Ivan Benjamin Roets, Helen Drew, Jeremy Donovan, Simon Pearson, Louisa Quinn, Oskar Marchock, Michelle , Gareth Williams , Gill, Nicola Swann, Tanya Wright, Ellie, Gary Davidson-Guild, Ian, Jana & Benjy xx, Sam Mason, Sally-Anne Smith, Caroline Allan, Martin Brophy MBE, Kate, Adrian Ryder, Angie Gayle, Jackie, Ragnar Veigar Guðmundsson, David, Emma Donovan, Cass, Frances Bowen, Claire Lawton , Carolynn BigMomma Briggs, Jessica, Naomi Berwin, Ruth T, Hazel Viveash, Julie Ann Pope, Michael Mann, Ian Faulkner, Jim & Carole Oliver, Zoe Johannes, Barry Dowling, cat tucker, IaconCity, Philip Welch, Zoe B, Alexander Clifton-Melhuish, Mina Candy, Timur Charles, Paul Rumbelow, Amy Wilman, Rachel D, Milton Jolin, Alex Rainford, Sonia Rumbelow, Bruce Chambers, Caroline Miller, Marcus Gomez, Mary Dunn, Rachel Sparks, Camilla.i, manarh, Eddie O’Sullivan, Linda Harley Gillespie, Peter Masters, Tracey Button, Oliver Gilbody, Georges & Charlotte, Simon, Ellie, Sigurlaug B. Arngrímsdóttir, Alwyn Tan, Claire-Lou Sankey, Susan Rudy, Ricky and Liz, Dave Cooper, Kate Sandars, Stephen and Julie Drew, Kelly Taylor, PennyFaith, Michael Mckenna, Adrian Scottow, Mark Donovan, Esther MacInnes, Matt Overall, Hilary Perchard, nicky, Jenny Cousins, Susannah Colgate, Yasi Mak, Rafa Vigata Solano, Tom D, Michael Dann, H. Swift, Simon Harrison, Philip Engleheart, Charly Milton, Karin Read & Lucy Barker, Paul Truesdale, Ali Doyle, David Baxter, Penny Langridge, Joshua Whelan, Iain Reeves , Chris, Jess Talmage, Pouneh Mortazavi, Chris Chambers, Liang Wee, Ben Park, Charlie Gadeken, Eric brown, Emelda Nicholroy, Julie and Jed Whelan, Tex G. Beck, Bill Majrowski, Simon Wilkinson, Roger & Kathy  Wilman, Louise Thomas, Richard Greer, Mike Baxter, Rosie, Tim and Tony, The Stefan Magdalinski and Kay Chung Fundation, Jerome De Henau, Hsien Chew, Rod Thomas, Murray Hipkin, MCJ,  Paul A Young, Kirsten Pulley, John Flinders, Robin Summerhill, Sue K, Graham & Anne Pearson, Stormy Bubbles, Lynne Michelle Nicholls, Jan Pimblett, Philip Rescorla, Cass

Timeline datestamp: 04 January 2016

Help us make a new album!

[vimeo width=”700″ height=”393″]https://vimeo.com/147644031[/vimeo]
We’re crowdfunding to raise money to record a new album, and we need your help.
At our upcoming concert By Special Arrangement on Saturday January 9th, we’ll be performing arrangements of well-known songs that have been tailor-made for our choir, by our talented choir members and others.
We want to record these for everyone to enjoy by making an album. And that’s not all – we want to give £1.20 for every CD we sell to each of two fantastic charities we’re proud to support: the Albert Kennedy Trust and Diversity Role Models.
To find out more and pledge, visit our crowdfunder page right now!

New Single for World AIDS Day

Pop artist Bright Light Bright Light records a charity single with the Pink Singers and it is released in November for World Aids Day.

Since 1983, we Pink Singers have been entertaining and educating through music, from backing Bronski Beat on “The Age of Consent” to performing at No. 10 Downing Street to celebrate equal marriage, as well as the Stonewall Equality Show in 1995 at the Royal Albert Hall.

As the UK’s longest-serving LGBT choir, many of our members have been directly affected by HIV/AIDS, so when pop sensation Bright Light Bright Light suggested that we release a charity single together for World AIDS Day we jumped at the chance.

You can listen to a taster on the SoundCloud stream below, and whilst the single is released on November 24th you can pre-order now so please do. At least 20p from each download will go to the Elton John AIDS foundation. Have a listen and let us know what you think in the comments.

Simon and Hsien have written a bit about how the collaboration came about…

Rod Thomas in Avalon Cafe, Glastonbury 2007 (Pic: Simon P)
Rod Thomas in Avalon Cafe, Glastonbury 2007 . (Pic: Simon P)

Simon: I think the first time I saw Bright Light Bright Light live was at Glastonbury festival back in 2007 (then performing as Rod Thomas). I’ve been a big fan since, following his work, seeing his performances in London and following his recent move to New York from afar.

One night at a rehearsal of one of our spin off groups Barberfellas, I played one of his songs to Hsien, who then got in touch to suggest we might work together…

Hsien: I’ve been following Bright Light Bright Light for a while now because I love his brand of electronic music. It always occurred to me that combining his considerable vocal talents with those of the Pink Singers would be a collaboration made in heaven, so you can imagine my excitement when Rod said ‘yes’ to the suggestion. I was even more thrilled when he made an offer to record a charity single together for World AIDS Day to raise funds for the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Performing at the London Lighthouse in 1989
Performing at the London Lighthouse in 1989

Through singing with the Pink Singers I am well aware how devastating a diagnosis HIV/AIDS can be. In the late 80s the choir was based at the London Lighthouse, a hospice for those with AIDS, and has many stories of friends who were lost there. Even now we have members living with HIV who continue to feel stigmatized outside the choir, so it was a natural fit for us to perform on this single.

Rehearsal day!
Rehearsal day!

Simon: putting the track together was easy – I rustled up some simple vocal arrangements together really quickly, we secured some space at a local school, and about 25 of us from the choir came together to record the choral parts. It was great fun, and we all left with the anthem firmly lodged in our brains…

Hsien: hearing our voice parts being laid down one late summer Saturday afternoon was incredible, and listening to them get expertly mixed into the final track you now hear was truly eye-opening. ‘Everything I Ever Wanted’ has a great upbeat sound, but at the same time there lurks a melancholy tinge; it is that fusion of celebration and regret which makes it so irresistible.”

It is has been a privilege collaborating with a talented singer-songwriter like Rod, and a pleasure hearing the final work come together so brilliantly. We hope that ‘Everything I Ever Wanted’ will raise much needed funds for the Elton John AIDS Foundation, and help support their frontline programmes of work helping those living with or affected by HIV/AIDS.

Timeline datestamp: 24 November 2014

P.S. We’re 30

Recorded in November 2012 at St Giles’ Cripplegate, the Pink Singers’ P.S. We’re 30 CD showcases a fabulous array of the choir’s most memorable repertoire over its thirty-year history.

CLICK HERE to stream or download now!

  1. Cantique de Jean Racine (Fauré)
  2. Dies Irae (Mozart)
  3. Lacrimosa (Mozart)
  4. Liebeslieder (Brahms)
  5. With a Lily in Her Hand (Eric Whitacre)
  6. Lisa Lan (Traditional Welsh)
  7. Baba Yetu (Christopher Tin)
  8. Lovesong for a Vampire (Annie Lennox)
  9. Anything Goes (Cole Porter)
  10. Send in the Clowns (Stephen Sondheim)
  11. Joyful, Joyful (after Beethoven)
  12. One Day More (Claude-Michel Schönberg)
  13. Seasons of Love (Jonathan Larson)


Timeline datestamp: 11 November 2012