'Love & Affection' ahead of the concert

The Pink Singers will be taking to the stage once more in less than three weeks time, for our summer concert at Cadogan Hall: From Queer to Eternity. Tenor Liang talks about one of the songs we’ll be performing and what it means to him.
I was first introduced to the music of Joan Armatrading in the late 1980’s by a university friend. Unlike the usual pop music of the time, I was instantly entranced by her unconventional tunes with meaningful lyrics. The opening lines “I’m not in love, but I’m open to persuasion” made Love and Affection an instant favourite.  Her soulful, contralto voice gave the words a depth of meaning which I witnessed at  two of her concerts.

I was delighted to find that my suggestion for a Joan Armatrading song was included in the repertoire for this season and one of our sopranos – Emelda Nicholroy – has put together an arrangement for the Pink Singers which is true to the style and feel of the original song.
As a tenor, I don’t sing the opening lines; but I get to sing “You took me dancing, cross the floor, cheek to cheek”.  After more than 40 years in the business, Joan Armatrading is still going strong, and long may she continue.  I hope she will like our arrangement and rendition of her torch song.
To see us perform this and more, please click here to buy your tickets for our summer show. We look forward to seeing you there!

From piano playing to the Pinkies

Nicki Wakefield‘One Night Only’ was alto Nicki’s first experience of performing with the Pinkies. Here she relives how she ‘popped her cherry’ and why she’ll be back for more!
Performing with the Pink Singers on 4th June was my first concert in over 20 years and what a way to re-ignite my passion for music.
All those years ago I studied piano at the Royal College of Music but I wasn’t one of the stars and unfortunately the experience sapped my confidence and with it my love of music.
For the past couple of years I’d started to think about doing something musical and had thought about joining a choir, but I didn’t want anything too stuffy or serious.  So soon after a friend of mine suggested that joining the Pink Singers would be a laugh, there I was auditioning.
Anyone who knows me knows that I love my cheesy music and never miss an opportunity for karaoke, and so I guess it was inevitable that I’d love the choir experience and performing in my first concert.

One Night Only
Tech rehearsal!

The day of the concert itself was long, but I wouldn’t have changed any of it. We started the rehearsal and sound check at 12.30 and with only about an hour’s break before the concert we were already shattered and I can’t imagine how those of the choir who had built the stage beforehand were feeling. It must have been pure adrenaline that kept us all going.
Just before the concert there was a ‘cherry-popping’ session where all of us newbies were given our pink rose – and we had the chance to get 1 of our 5 a day!
My first hurdle was getting onto the stage, which was alright on the night. Thankfully we had the rehearsal first and this was my opportunity to trip over the speaker without too many people seeing.

When we finished the opening number and I hadn’t messed up the choreography and the audience broke out into hearty applause, I knew it was going to be OK. Despite several things going wrong in the run through somehow it all came together and between us we remembered all the notes and the words. The soloists and compéres did an amazing job, and one of my friends even said that no-one got the dance moves wrong. I’m not sure that’s true, but if the audience didn’t notice we’re not saying anything….
Cherries
This season’s newbies, popping their Pinkie cherries!
I had persuaded my mum and stepfather to come along on the night. My mum is very supportive, but bearing in mind that she is definitely not into choirs and got 9% in her school music exam I was nervous to know what they would make of it. I needn’t have worried though because I’ve never seen them so enthusiastic, and it continued for a good 30 minutes on the phone the following day! They run an active retirement group, so maybe I’ll get them to book a coach load next time!
And it wasn’t only friends and family that were so positive – this testimonial came from someone who signed up via Meet Up and who presumably didn’t know any of us in the choir:
“The most professional, uplifting evening I’ve been to in years. And I’m a pro musician. Fabulous and more. I didn’t want it to end…”
So with the concert over and us all on a high and it was time for the after show party.
Although I’ve only been with the choir for a few months I’ve already been to a couple of the parties and I had an idea of what was to come. Like any classically trained musician the play list contained all my favourite tunes and I was able to continue my singing and silly dancing all night.
The play list had clearly been selected to include every choreographed song that the choir had ever done. At one point I found myself surrounded by about 50 people all swooping down around me as “Ain’t no mountain high enough” belted out of the speakers.
 One Night Only
I escaped early – at about 2am – because I knew I had to be up for the Pinkies brunch the next day. There’s officially no rest for a Pinkie….
So with just one season in the bag I can see why the choir is so important to its members on so many levels. I can also see why I was told “We’re like a cult, once you join you can never leave”!

One Night Only

Cadogan Hall, London

The ‘One Night Only’ concert was alto Nicki’s first experience of performing with the Pinkies. Here she relives how she ‘popped her cherry’ and how being a part of the choir has transformed her life.

Performing with the Pink Singers on 4th June was my first concert in over 20 years and what a way to re-ignite my passion for music. All those years ago I studied piano at the Royal College of Music but I wasn’t one of the stars and unfortunately the experience sapped my confidence and with it my love of music. For the past couple of years I’d started to think about doing something musical and had thought about joining a choir, but I didn’t want anything too stuffy or serious. So soon after a friend of mine suggested that joining the Pink Singers would be a laugh, there I was auditioning.

The day of the concert itself was long, but I wouldn’t have changed any of it. We started the rehearsal and sound check at 12.30 and with only about an hour’s break before the concert we were already shattered and I can’t imagine how those of the choir who had built the stage beforehand were feeling. It must have been pure adrenaline that kept us all going. Just before the concert there was a ‘cherry-popping’ session where all of us newbies were given our pink rose – and we had the chance to get 1 of our 5 a day!

My first hurdle was getting onto the stage, which was alright on the night. Thankfully we had the rehearsal first and this was my opportunity to trip over the speaker without too many people seeing. When we finished the opening number and I hadn’t messed up the choreography and the audience broke out into hearty applause, I knew it was going to be OK. Despite several things going wrong in the run through somehow it all came together and between us we remembered all the notes and the words. The soloists and compéres did an amazing job, and one of my friends even said that no-one got the dance moves wrong. I’m not sure that’s true, but if the audience didn’t notice we’re not saying anything….

I had persuaded my mum and stepfather to come along on the night. My mum is very supportive, but bearing in mind that she is definitely not into choirs and got 9% in her school music exam I was nervous to know what they would make of it. I needn’t have worried though because I’ve never seen them so enthusiastic, and it continued for a good 30 minutes on the phone the following day!

So with the concert over and us all on a high it was time for the after show party. Although I’d only been with the choir for a few months I’d already been to a couple of the parties and I had an idea of what was to come. The play list had clearly been selected to include every choreographed song that the choir had ever done. At one point I found myself surrounded by about 50 people all swooping down around me as “Ain’t no mountain high enough” belted out of the speakers. I escaped early – at about 2am – because I knew I had to be up for the Pinkies brunch the next day. There’s officially no rest for a Pinkie….

😉

So less than three years after joining I’ve made so many amazing friends, I’ve travelled to India and Germany with the choir, arranged a song, led a project to re-organise how the choir runs and set up a band with two fellow Pinkies. Three years ago I couldn’t have imagined how my life would have transformed. Thank you Pinkies you’ve made me very happy. 

Timeline datestamp: 04 June 2016

Q&A with the Pink Singers Artistic Team

Murray HipkinOur Artistic Director David Baxter (pictured David Baxterright) and Musical Director Murray Hipkin (left), squeezed in time for a chat.
Here’s what we found out about our upcoming concert One Night Only, with less than a week to go until curtain up!
How will next weekend’s show be different to previous Pink Singers concerts?
David Baxter: Given the popular theme, we’re pulling out all the stops for this one! The concert will have a different feel in terms of mood I think. We’ve got two fantastic comperes who will run the whole show, slick choreography for more numbers than normal and we’ll be showcasing a number of our choir members through various solos, duets, trios and even a small group! It’s definitely going to be a night to remember.
What has been the most challenging thing about the repertoire this time?
DB: There are a lot of words! I think the most challenging thing so far has been making sure we follow the choral arrangements we have. Sometimes when you see a show at the West End, you get used to the tune but need to remember that we’re now singing 8-part harmonies and can’t all be Elphaba in Defying Gravity….
Murray Hipkin: Choosing it; there was so much material.
Rehearsal photos for One Night OnlyWhat are you most looking forward to?
DB: I’m really excited to see the audience’s reaction to whole event. My vision is for it to be a theatrical spectacular which showcases some show-stopping favourites, as well as some pieces they may not have heard out of context before.
MH: Close friends might imagine that it’s the bottle of Pinot Grigio waiting at the end – but I am looking forward most of all to watching everyone realise that they do know all the words and all the moves and that actually concerts can be lots of fun rather than something to be fearful about.
David, What is it that you find most inspiring about being in the Pinkies and specifically, working on the artistic vision for this concert?
DB: I love watching the whole concert come together when we start to run it; that’s where the real creativity begins for me. Seeing people ‘off copy’ allows them to think more about what they’re singing, what the song means to them and perform it to the very best of their ability.
One Night Only rehearsalsMurray, what do you love most about being a conductor?
MH: Being a conductor is a great job for a passive-aggressive control freak with borderline narcissistic personality disorder.  But it seems to suit me too. 😉  Actually, the conducting is the easy bit; it’s the preparation that is challenging and I do love my work as a teacher and enabler.
Who are your musical heroes from the West End/Broadway/Opera and why?
DB: Hmmm…that’s tricky. There’s a few actually; all women too! But my top choice would have to be the legendary Imelda Staunton. Having recently seen her in Sweeney Todd I was stunned by her energy. Apparently Sondheim saw the Press Night, grabbed her hands and said ‘You gotta play ‘Rose’…’ and she did. Just when I thought she couldn’t get better I then saw Gypsy – and was blown away by her energy throughout, so much so that I saw it twice. My other choices would be Cynthia Erivo and Jenna Russell.  
MH: Currently Glenn Close.  Oh sorry, did I mention Glenn Close again?  I never got bored with her performance in Sunset Boulevard.  And I rehearsed it for five weeks, saw it at least eight times, and played in twenty-three performances! Or maybe Emma Thompson.   
I did once work with Sondheim (my main hero) but it was before cameras were invented.  
Murray and Glenn CloseIf you had to give the choir just one piece of advice on the night of the performance, what would it be?
DB: Relax and Enjoy – it’s time to perform all your hard work you’ve put in!
MH: Eat a banana in the interval.  Or a flapjack.  Preferably dripping with Manuka honey, which (we are reliably informed by Dr Iain in the basses) is a good humectant.
Rehearsal Pics for One Night OnlyIs there anything that you do when you perform, rehearse, compose or conduct that others might find unusual (any quirks, tricks, useful tips)?
DB: Sometimes I end up on a chair getting very excited when I can see how well a piece is going. They probably think I’m all a bit nuts…and they’re probably right!   
MH: If I get tense while performing I visualise the tension as a liquid and little taps in every joint of my body.  I open the taps one by one and let the tension flow to where it’s needed.  If I am playing the piano it’s quite useful to have tension in my fingers, or I wouldn’t be able to press the keys, but I don’t want it in my shoulders or my jaw.  If I’m conducting I like to keep some tension in my legs because without it I would end up in a heap on the floor, but tension in the hands and neck is a bad thing.  (If you see a puddle on the floor where I have been standing, that will be why.)
So do make sure you come and see all this work in action – next Saturday, Cadogan Hall, 7pm – book your tickets here now!
One Night Only rehearsal pics

Songs that shaped our summer set list

CillaIn the lead up to our summer concert, ‘Key Changes’, alto Cilla drops a few hints about what songs you can expect from our set list on Saturday… 
The Pink Singers official theme for our summer concert on 11th July is something we’re calling ‘Key Changes, Songs that Shaped the World’.  Our themes are a way of trying to organize ourselves and give a vision to what we’re doing and every so often we go for high principles lest we forget that singing in a LGBT choir is, broadly speaking, a political act. It’s not an overtly political act any more and it seems most of our choir members spend their lives in tolerant urban milieus, however the Pinkies did start out with a stronger political agenda at a time when we couldn’t imagine how the human rights argument for same sex marriage would gain such traction (see Pink Singers ‘Singing the Changes’ exhibition info). Overt political protest songs seem to be out of fashion as what we are pleased to call ‘politics’ has become more complex and multilayered.  Our upcoming concert reflects this change.

I was thinking of saying the politics that shape the world and the songs that go along with it are more subtle but I can’t.  Or at least I can’t say it’s universally subtle.  We’re singing ‘Happy’ from a cartoon that features minions (though nobody is going to dress up as a minion, which didn’t occur to me until just now (it is very likely a good thing though)).  The ever lovely tenor Simon Harrison is giving a knock out performance that might not be best described by the word ‘subtle’ – but it’s political in the Aristotelian sense (here’s my nod to Greece) which means we’re broadening out from party politics and issues and looking at songs that, when they came out, were challenging for their time and now, in some quarters, are still challenging. In our current atomised world identifying what is truly anti-establishment isn’t easy, it all depends on context. 
 
NirvanaWe’ve come up with a good mix though: we have songs that question assumptions about gender identity, racial barriers and feminism.  There’s a good mix of straightforward protest songs, we have Billy Bragg and the Suffragettes  which I’ve now realized sounds like the name of a new band.  A good name too, if I do say so myself.  And we’re singing a wonderful arrangement by Pinkie bass Chris Chambers of Nirvana’s ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’.  As a native of the States, I tend to respond to people who criticize American culture as being overly optimistic and cheerful by telling them to have a listen to Nirvana’s wildly popular and influential song.  It goes a next step beyond complaining about the government.  It’s saying we’re so powerless and isolated there is no point in even trying to change the world to make it better.  It’s the best angry existential protest song ever. I think we’re either in support of, or maybe we’re totally against someone named Bolero or maybe we’re against doing a Bolero I’m not clear but we feel passionate whatever the cause is.  As Pinkies we’re not all gloom and doom and we balance this with a bit of fun so, ‘clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth’.
 
We’re relying on arrangements from choir members which is wonderful because we seem to keep growing new members (plus our lovely conductor) who arrange for us.  And we have a wide variety of soloists stepping up to take a turn in the spot light.  Who knows what shape the world is getting to be, I think it started out wonky and its probably getting wonkier (I don’t care I like this new word and I’m using it) but one’s thing’s for sure, we’re evolving in to a pretty diverse bunch of creative people.