A feel-good, grassroots community-based entertainment phenomenon that began in a Brisbane pub has turned into a movement that is spreading across the nation.
Pub Choir is a deceptively simple idea that unites hundreds of strangers at the local pub once a month to learn a pop song as a collective voice. It’s a live music concert where the audience are the performers.
Pub Choir’s low-key launch was at West End’s The Bearded Lady last April. Promoted on Facebook to friends and family, about 20 people RSVPed. Seventy people turned up that first night.
It now regularly attracts 500 people and next month Pub Choir celebrate their first birthday with an event at The Triffid which is expected to stretch the venue’s 770 per person capacity.
The first event outside of Brisbane was held recently on the Sunshine Coast. More than 300 people came together in Maroochydore to learn Paul Kelly’s ‘Dumb Things’.
Pub Choir’s director and creator Astrid Jorgensen said it was a test run for the concept to expand beyond south-east Queensland, with dates locked in for Hobart and discussions underway for the event to be held in Melbourne.
“We’ve been getting messages from all around the country, people asking us if we can come to their communities … even messages from Egypt and Dubai,” Ms Jorgensen said.
Pub Choir is not karaoke en masse: Jorgensen selects a song, arranges it into a three-part harmony and teaches it line by line to the makeshift choir. After an hour, everyone breaks for a drink then reassembles to iron out a few kinks. She doesn’t run through the whole song till after the drinks break, so right at the end, after singing each bit repetitively, it all magically comes together.
Ms Jorgensen believed singing was something we all loved to do, but often resisted out of fear of being judged. So, when you add a little alcohol and the comfort of relative anonymity within a crowd of people who are as likely to feel as awkward about singing in public as the person standing next to them – something special happens.
The concept is proving irresistible.
The Pub Choir team — including musicians, photographer, emcee — gives itself just under two hours to teach a random song to hundreds of wannabe singers. For many, it’s their first time singing in public.
Last month the impromptu singers scored a surprise viral hit when their 500-strong performance of the 1994 song Zombie by Irish rock band the Cranberries was shared around the world, including by the band itself.
Recorded on February 8 at the Elephant Hotel in Fortitude Valley, the event was especially poignant and powerful given the sudden death of the band’s singer Dolores O’Riordan the month prior.
Within a month, the Zombie footage had attracted 4.5 million views on Facebook.
Click here to see the video: https://www.facebook.com/PubChoir/videos/558137461215943/
The movement has also spread to Sydney with the Welcome Choir taking up residency at the Marlborough Hotel in Newtown. They describe themselves as a lively, open, friendly, all-genders, all-ages choir group for people of any singing ability.
Their website says they offer a place that is also safe for greater diversity – from people who are living rough on the streets, people of all abilities, our LGBTIQ family, people who are new migrants or asylum seekers – and to people who need to find some human connection and something beautiful to lift them up.
And that’s just about everyone, isn’t it?
So, who is going to step up and start the first Club Choir?
Sources: Sources: ABC, The Australian, The Courier Mail
Images: Jacob Morrison @jcbmrrsn