LGBT History Month 2014: Tonight in Parliament

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.


Timeline datestamp: 27 February 2014

Sochi olympics throw Russian LGBT rights into relief

Last week, one of the Pink Singers small groups, the Barberfellas, were invited to sing at a party/protest to highlight the plight of LGBT Russians – a hot media topic given the Winter Olympics and by the shocking documentary, Hunted.
Little did our Barberfellas know that in attending the event at Ku Bar in Soho, they would be caught on camera during a live Channel 4 debate between Peter Tatchell and former Kremlin adviser Alexander Nekrassov. You can see the full debate, presented by Cathy Newman, here:

The sort of rhetoric put forward by Alexander Nekrassov sounds reminiscent of some views heard commonly in the UK before the 1990s. But of course LGBT equality is a global issue, not a Russian one. Last week, the BBC published an insightful interactive highlighting the countries in the world where it’s still illegal to be gay. It’s a sobering map. Whilst some good progress is being made, some countries such as India and Burundi are actually making retrograde steps and making life even harder for their LGBT citizens.
We still have a long way to go. And so, we continue to sing. The Pink Singers wish to express their love and solidarity with all LGBT people and their supporters in Russia, and we’d like to share one of our anthems, Hand in Hand, the lyrics of which ring especially true for Russia and other oppressed nations.

The Pinkies at the 27th London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival

The Pink Singers on stage at the "P.S. We're 30" concert
The Pink Singers on stage at the “P.S. We’re 30” concert

27th LLGFF
27th LLGFF

The Pink Singers’ 30th anniversary celebrations continue with a special performance for the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. This year the LLGFF is celebrating its 27th birthday, which makes it almost as old as us! On the menu this time are a couple of performances, one for the public in the main foyer near the box office (anyone who has ever been there at festival time knows that this space temporarily becomes the communal living room for London’s LGBT community) and one specially for a screening of the film Thick Relations. We’ve not seen the film yet, but we’re told it features a choir, so what better way to set the stage?
The Foyer performance is free. BFI Southbank, Foyer, Saturday 23 March 2013 at 5:45pm. For more information please visit the BfI website, or add this to your Facebook events.

LGBT History Month 2013: Glad to be gay at the V&A

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!


Timeline datestamp: 23 February 2013

LGBT History Month 2013 at the V&A with the Pinkies

The Pink Singers perform 'Glad To Be Gay'.
The Pink Singers perform ‘Glad To Be Gay’.

LGBT History Month 2013
LGBT History Month 2013

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.