Mostly in the shower, but I do. I can follow a melody and harmonise. I can even read the notes. What’s more, I really, really enjoy it. Never, ever in my life would I call myself a singer, though. Nor would I dare perform in public (unless it’s karaoke).
That’s why I’m stoked I discovered Pub Choir.
PART 73 OF “AM I EVER GONNA SEE YOUR FACE AGAIN?” A RANDOM COLLECTION OF UNKNOWINGLY OBVIOUS FACTS ABOUT THE AUSTRALIAN MUSIC SCENE
“Everybody can sing. Like, not well, but literally. Why should being average at something stop you from doing it!?” – that’s Pub Choir’s pitch in a nutshell. They also describe their show as “equal parts music, comedy, and beer, Pub Choir is a euphoric sensation that transforms a crowd of tipsy strangers into a legendary choir.” Not sure about you but it totally speaks to me. Why?
Singing, defined as “an act of producing sounds with the voice”, comes to humans pretty naturally. Actually, it has accompanied us almost since the beginning of our recorded history. The oldest song in the world with lyrics is approximately 3,400 years old. So we’ve had a pretty long time to perfect that craft, even in the non-professional context.
Singing is, without a shadow of a doubt, an emotion-evoking and cathartic activity. I’m sure you also have that special song that has helped you through difficult moments or accompanied your happiest life events.
The social aspect is also important here. There’s nothing better than belting out the words to your fave anthem at a high school reunion, music festival or your own wedding. Even better when you get to do that with your best mates with a [insert your fave party poison here] in your hand.
And the best part about singing is that it’s good for you. I’m not joking – it’s been scientifically proven. Think strengthening your immune system, improving social empathy or producing more endorphins (the hormone of happiness). So why not treat it like any other mental or physical exercise, plus throw in the entertainment bit?
Pub Choir has capitalised on this innate human characteristic in a clever way (as its name already suggests). They’re one of the very first initiatives of this kind in the world and a beloved one Down Under. Just check out their nearly one thousand 5-star reviews on Facebook.
The first time I heard about the project was in 2019 when they were about to make their debut in Melbourne. But Pub Choir has been around for slightly longer.
The original show took place in April 2017 in Brisbane when the audience learned to sing “Slice of Heaven” by a New Zealand artist, Dave Dobbyn (possibly because of the project founder’s background). 10 months later, a nostalgic performance of The Cranberries’ song “Zombie” made waves on the internet, racking up a quarter of a million views on their YouTube channel so far.
Since then, the brand has spread its wings exponentially. Because any- and everybody can be a part of the experience.
Before the pandemic, they put on events in virtually all the corners of Australia and took the show on the road overseas (i.e. to New Zealand, the US and the UK). They’ve visited venues of all shapes and colours (from a local Brissie hang-out, The Bearded Lady, to an outdoor arena in Queensland’s capital, Riverstage). They performed at the Commonwealth Games in 2018 and the Splendour In The Grass festival in 2019.
Crowds have learned to sing Aussie classics (like “Truly Madly Deeply” by Savage Garden or “How Deep Is Your Love” by Bee Gees) and international smash hits (i.e “Teenage Dirtbag” by Wheatus or “Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba). Heaps of famous musical guests have appeared at the sing-alongs, amongst them Meg Mac or Paul Kelly.
The driving force behind the project is Astrid Jorgensen who is also Pub Choir’s director and founder. A vocalist with a music-oriented education behind her belt, she is the one who arranges the songs and teaches audiences the melody/harmony lines. She is accompanied by Waveney Yasso on the guitar. The other “band” members are videographer Paris Owen and John Patterson (who’s “not into tiles” as per his LinkedIn profile).
Astrid’s idea behind Pub Choir was “to help regular people reclaim music in their lives, free of pressure or judgement”. And that mission is definitely fulfilled each and every time. Audiences absolutely love it. Mostly because the events are never the same. You could be at every single one of them, and you’ll always meet different people and learn to sing a new anthem.
They’ve survived the pandemic in a pretty creative way as well. In the absence of live events, Pub Choir temporarily pivoted to Couch Choir. Due to its popularity, however, it has become a separate branch of the project now. It’s basically the same thing, but Astrid teaches the melodies online and interested participants are invited to send in their vocal submissions which are then combined in one virtual performance.
Just over a year ago, a rendition of David Bowie’s “Heroes”, dedicated to all frontline workers globally, attracted over 6000 “singers” from 45 countries. Aside from the level of technical difficulties in putting it all together, it’s mind-blowing how many people around the world are eager to share in the fun.
Another aspect of Pub Choir worth mentioning is their philanthropy, for which Astrid was recognised with an award in Queensland. Since 2017, they’ve organised quite a few events to raise money for noble causes. Their Christmas specials have proven to be quite successful in that context. For instance, in 2019, $134,000 were donated to Women’s Legal Service Queensland.
And speaking of the festive period, the Pub Choir team know very well that nothing says “Christmas sing-along” better than Mariah Carey’s timeless classic. Especially, when the original performer shares your humble rendition, thus helping you amplify your message and raise even more money for charity.
So what’s coming up for this super fun, inclusive and uplifting initiative?
Their next event is a hybrid between Pub Choir and Couch Choir. On Saturday, 5 June 2021, in cooperation with the SBS TV channel, Astrid & Co. are inviting you to “Australia’s Biggest Singalong”. They’ll be teaching you an Aussie classic, “Throw Your Arms Around Me” by Hunters & Collectors whose lead vocalist will be there to help sing as well.
A part of the audience will be participating in the Sydney Town Hall event with some SBS presenters. But you don’t even have to be in Oz to join in. There’s still time to learn the song and submit your footage to be included in the final video. It’s a perfect opportunity to see the whole concept in action if you have access to Aussie TV. And if not, you can always wait for the official event video and look for your singing face in the crowd of other Pub Choir enthusiasts.
To sign off, here’s a little secret of mine. Whenever Pub Choir has been close to my place of residence, I’ve always missed out on tickets – they sell out in record time. But I promise (mostly myself) that next time they’re in town, I’m not going to miss a sing!
Cover image: Pub Choir website
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