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Pub Choir: Singing is fun – but is it for everyone?

Cabaret Festival

Surrounded by a large crowd of people chanting, laughing and toasting their schooners in the Famous Spiegeltent, you can find yourself wondering: Just because we can sing, should we?

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The answer is a resounding “yes”.

The travelling musical sensation Pub Choir sees hundreds of participants learning a three-part vocal harmony in a short session before combining it and singing in unison. And within an hour and a half on a Saturday afternoon, a group of unsure novice singers – including me – transformed into a chorus of confident performers.

Pub Choir enables this transformation by offering straightforward musical direction for people who may have never seen sheet music before.

Walking into the Famous Spiegeltent, participants see the first slide of the PowerPoint presentation, illuminated on the front of the stage. The slide is accompanied by a gif of Dr Evil from the Austin Powers movies (Pub Choir gifs are entertaining as well as educational), which tells you to get into your voice part.

“High ladies” (sopranos) to the left, “low ladies” (altos) in the middle, and “men” (anything from a tenor to a bass) to the right.

Looking around the room, it’s clear this is a social gathering – friends band inside booths and voice parts, encouraging one another. It’s also an alcohol-fuelled one – friends band even tighter around bottles of wine, toasting one another.

With charismatic conductor Astrid Jorgensen at the helm and Waveney Yasso on the acoustic guitar, we’re given a blessing before we dive head-first into Pub Choir.

“We hope all the good spirits are with you,” Yasso says, “both ancestral and alcoholic.”

In the next 90 minutes we blitz through learning roughly nine musical phrases from Lior’s lovelorn track “This Old Love”, with help from the handy PowerPoint and Jorgensen.

We sing out of time (Jorgensen tells us to refer to her “rap hands” that punctuate the beat if we get lost) and sometimes out of tune (“I like that you invented a note there,” she says).

Jorgensen demonstrating to the men how to reach the high notes with hands to help. Photo: supplied.

But the final performance, a place where all our ambition comes together, is both satisfying and fantastic.

With Lior on stage singing and strumming the main melody, we sing the harmonious response to his calling croons.

We butcher the first run, through – “you all forgot the chorus!” laughs Jorgensen – but we do much better on the second. That’s because before we embark on that second performance Jorgensen offers us some worthwhile advice: “Open your mouth-hole and sound will come out!”

The secret to Pub Choir’s success is that it’s not determined by skill, but by passion.

Pub Choir was presented in The Famous Spiegeltent across two sold-out sessions on the weekend. See all InDaily’s Cabaret Festival stories and reviews here.

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