Pinkie Weekend Away Camaraderie

 

Newbie Tina

Tina, our newbie Soprano for this season, tells us how she survived the craziness that is a Pinkies weekend away!


I am a newbie to the Pink Singers having joined them in October 2017. During this time I have begun to get to know a vast number of diverse friendly faces who all share a real commitment and passion for music.
Recently there was a planned weekend away for the choir, based at Newland Park in Chalfont St Giles. As a new member I felt very nervous attending this event but also felt excited at the prospect of being involved in a real fun packed weekend of activities all themed around developing our voices, our breathing techniques and more importantly how to work together as a team to produce the professional sound that the Pink Singers have achieved.
The weekend began with an evening campfire sing song (given that we were near to November the 5th).  All of us huddled around a fire, on a cold dark night, yet the night was lit up with pitch perfect songs that the group spontaneously performed from memory without sheet music. I was really moved by the camaraderie, humour and sense of belonging evoked from this experience.

Campfire’s Burning…

Saturday had a busy schedule, very well organised with important rehearsals and the chance to gain valuable knowledge about controlling our breathing and hitting high notes from Patrick Jeremy, a professional singer.  After a busy day of choir rehearsals, we had a fun-packed evening themed “a night at the movies” with an open-mic night. All Pinkies dressed up for the occasion, we had Smurfs, Cruella Deville, The Joker and Julius Caesar to name but a few. There were some amazing solos, duets and even a performance of the cup song. To finish off the night we had fireworks which seemed to sum up again the sense of belonging to something truly special and memorable.

Some more newbies all dolled up for the party
Tina transformed!

On Sunday there was more rehearsals and choreography which included a fun dance routine themed on Footlose, this gave us a chance to practice choreographed music and burn a few calories whilst getting valuable feedback on how this music could be interpreted through movement. There were options to attend a quiz or some improvisation classes which I really enjoyed.
Choreo practise
By the end of the weekend I felt I had developed more connections to other Pinkies, I felt included, had so much fun and felt a real sense of achievement although somewhat tired….., but what a weekend of fun !!!! This choir has a real sense of its own identity and feels more like belonging to a large family and I feel very privileged to be a part of something so energetic, committed and creative.
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Weekend Away 2017

Fresh off the back of our latest weekend away, which was rehearsal packed, choreography tight and party’tastic, newbie alto Eleonore sums up what it meant to her…

I was a little nervous on Friday morning as I trammelled my luggage with me to work, carrying what I hoped were all the essentials you might need for a Pinkie Weekend Away: sheet music, bottles of wine, tea-time snacks and more costume changes than you’d expect for a two-night retreat.

Despite the excellent, colour-coded schedule and very thorough brief, I really didn’t know what to expect from the upcoming trip. The choir itself may have been celebrating its 34th birthday, but I was still brand new. Being a newbie always feels a little tricky, even in such kind and welcoming company as the Pink Singers – you’re still playing catch-up, trying to insinuate yourself into conversations that are already underway, and hoping the in-jokes don’t fly too far over your head.

Little did I know, over the next two days, the warmth, kindness and inclusivity of everyone in the choir would turn these anxieties into unfounded nonsense.

The flats, when we arrived into Newlands Park, were basic but cosy, surrounded by real greenery and the kind of oxygen you get to breathe once you’ve ventured out of central London. The place had been sprinkled with little welcoming touches; our names on the doors and festive bunting in a communal kitchen that brought back strong memories of evening pre-drinks before a night out in the Student Union.

Dinner during our stay felt like a similarly school-like affair, with canteen-style trays and an assembly line of courses complete with fluorescent-coloured tubs of jelly. Simple, but perfectly tasty stuff (or as Simon announced, in typically British understatement, really not unpleasant!)

Over the next two days I got a real crash-course in choir life, alternating between serious rehearsals, informal singalongs, intense vocal workshops, educational choreography sessions, organised down-time activities (including Jeremy’s yoga and improv theatre class, and Sunny’s outdoor sports-day) and, inevitably, a whole lot of drinking and dancing.

Both Saturday and Sunday morning were, naturally, slightly groggy starts following the previous nights’ festivities, but bleary-eyed though we were, it was frankly inspiring to see – even amidst the light-hearted grumblings from the tired and hungover – how much effort was put in by everybody to show up and sing out. Special thanks should go to John and Murray especially for managing to keep us alert and in tune despite the croaky voices and droopy eyelids (… ours, not theirs.)

During the afternoon sessions over the Saturday and Sunday, we were lucky enough to have two experts giving their time and knowledge to help us. Emily, a choreographer and dance teacher, led us in a Bob Fosse workshop in which we were taught basic moves like the waft-walk, the flamingo, and the boxing kangaroo (note: probably not the real names). After that, we were let loose on the full choreography to Chicago’s ‘All That Jazz’, an opportunity which was met with great enthusiasm, if not always perfect results. I imagine even the least seasoned dancers would agree that this whole session was hugely fun, informative, and really gave us an expert’s insight into how to move our bodies – all lessons learnt to be applied in the next choreo rehearsal, of course…

Sunday’s session was with Andrea, a singing teacher, who worked with us on timing, projection, tone, and expression – all the nitty-gritty details that fine-tune a performance. It was fascinating to hear her take on what needed working on and why, and it gave us a chance, too, to really show what we could do. I think everyone stood a little straighter and sang out a little prouder that afternoon, to prove Andrea’s attention to us worthwhile.

Andrea also led individual workshops that day with Claire and Jeremy, who both stunned us with their beautiful renditions of chosen songs – Claire reduced half our row to tears with her piece, while Jeremy’s Hugh Jackman-esque tenor sailed impressively through the room. It takes a lot to stand up and perform, and even more to be critiqued in front of everyone while doing it, so special thanks has to go to the pair for allowing us to watch and learn through their session.

And speaking of performing – Saturday night’s fun kicked off with an open-mic session in the festively-decorated hall that was to play host to our much-anticipated 90s disco, complete with glow-sticks and multicoloured balloons.

We were treated to an incredible range of performances – from beautiful acoustic three-part harmonies, to a singalong 90s medley, and even a Pinkie-spin on gangster rap, the length and breadth of the Pinkies’ talents were showcased that evening in brilliant fun, good humour and with a whole lot of love.

A special performance of The Backstreet Boys’ I Want it That Way from the newbies (and a fumbled turn accompanying on guitar by yours truly) went down a storm and rounded off the set of performances that evening that were all met with rousing applause. If I had any lingering doubts that there was anything to be unsure or nervous about as a newbie in the choir, this was the moment it was done with.

The rest of the night was given to dancing – the choreography to Steps and S Club 7 was broken out, and we naturally found ourselves harmonising to classic 90s boy bands with increasing enthusiasm (and corresponding tunelessness) as the night went on and the drinks were drunk.

There’s a moment that comes during the evening, when you step back and look at yourself, sweaty and covered in glitter, jumping up and down in five-inch platform heels, yelling out the lyrics to D:Ream’s Things Can Only Get Better and you think – well. Things are pretty damn good now, too.

Home time on Sunday rolled around all too soon, though, and after tea in the sunshine on the lawn, with hefty wedges of delicious cake, contemplative and mellow and satisfyingly tired, it was time to get back on the coach and make our way back to London, a little sleepy, but still scrolling through phone snaps to hold onto the memories just a little longer.

One last memory that I’ll treasure in particular: Saturday night, going down to dinner with a group of spectacularly talented, warm, unique individuals, dressed to the nines in party gear – wigs, skirts, glitter, pom-poms, ties, suits, face-paint – a myriad of self-expression and peculiarities descending upon the cafeteria. Suddenly we find ourselves accosted by a group of schoolchildren on a foreign exchange, small faces upturned, curious, excited, open. Not a moment of judgment seems to cross their minds. A little girl asks where she can find boots that look like that. An excited-looking boy begs for a go on the cheerleader’s pom-poms.

Quietly at first, and then louder, a song starts up – my mama told me when I was young, we’re all born superstars. It’s a real-life Moment with a capital M as the song grows in volume and our voices join up in harmony. The schoolteachers smile and laugh and film us, and encourage the kids to clap and sing along, though they barely need telling, excited as they are.

Community outreach, Phillip called it afterwards, as he readjusted his wig and waved the kids goodbye. I felt incredibly moved. I’d never much felt like I was part of a community, before.

Thanks, Pink Singers, for making me feel like a part of yours.

Timeline datestamp: 11 November 2017

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! 

Pride Run 2012

When I grow up, I want to be fit and healthy and be able to run for miles and miles…

Well, at the start of 2012 I realised that it probably wasn’t going to happen automatically, so I took up running. Only short distances at first, and slowly, but gradually improving, so by April I was running about 5km a couple of times a week.

Then one of the Pink Singers, who’s also a member of London Frontrunners, publicised the Pride Run – a 10km run in Victoria Park in September, in aid of the Albert Kennedy Trust. September seemed a long enough time away to make 10km feasible, so I signed up as part of the 20-strong Team Pink Singers.

Fast forward to the morning of September 15th, and I arrived in Victoria Park with running kit, my race number (721!) and a whole heap of trepidation – how could this have been a good idea?! But the other Pinkies started arriving, and we donned our specially-made bright pink shirts, pinned on our numbers and warmed up, and my nerves settled down and excitement took over. We were a team – strength in numbers!

We made our way down to the start line, which was marked out with sections relating to expected finishing time – the lean and fit club runners jostled for position around the 40 minute mark; my fellow novices and I went back to behind the 1 hour line. Then after a short pause the sound of a starting pistol had everyone surging forward. It took a minute or so for us to cross the start line, where we were waved on by Sir Ian McKellen – LGBT royalty!

Then we were off – I’d been warned about setting off too quickly in all the excitement, so I established a steady (ok, slow) pace. Several non-running Pinkies had come to cheer us on, and their encouragement was brilliant motivation as we jogged round the 3 lap course. Even the other supporters and enthusiastic volunteer marshals were vocally supportive, shouting “come on Pink Singers!” – proving that our distinctive shirts were a worthwhile investment!

The first two laps passed steadily; we enjoyed the percussion band positioned at the bottom of the loop, and the water station near the top (it turns out that drinking from a cup while running is a skill I need to work on), and we started to overtake a few people, whilst being lapped by the super-speedy leaders. By the time we started the final lap, I was feeling good – 7km down and nearly there! My enthusiasm for reaching the finish unintentionally manifested itself into me speeding up, which my running buddy Frances pointed out meant that she ran out of breath for chatting!

We counted down the kilometres, until the finish line was in sight. With the Pinkies who’d already finished cheering me home, I even managed a sprint finish to celebrate my first 10km achievement in 1 hour and 5 minutes!
After cheering on the remaining members of the team and collecting our well-earned post-run snacks, we all made our way (slowly) to a nearby pub for lunch, feeling tired, but happy, and immensely proud of Team Pink Singers.

Now….how long is it ok for me to keep wearing my medal…?

Cat

Timeline datestamp: 15 September 2012

Mikey leaves his mark

Mikey

On Saturday 14 April I attended the Pink Singers 29th anniversary party.
The evening had a Hollywood theme and we were asked to dress accordingly, either for a smart Oscars party, or in fancy dress. As usual, my instinct told me to reach for the costume box! I spent time considering my options for dress but soon had the ambitious idea to go as an Avatar. I spent hours in preparation for the evening. I was wearing painted leggings and body paint, and was apprehensive about going out in so few clothes, but on arrival at the party I was given such a warm and friendly reception by everyone that my nerves dissipated. Many people who hugged and greeted me were left with a blue mark, which as the evening progressed was to be seen everywhere! Continue reading “Mikey leaves his mark”