Pandemic Survival 6: Pubbing on the Couch

Specifically, this couch:

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The pandemic and its lockdown necessities has certainly set many people on some steep technological learning curves.

Teachers, students and parents alike have had to learn about new apps and software and how to recreate lessons in purely online and electronic settings including, in this household at least, how to conduct an English exam through remote learning.

Those who have never had to work from home have had to see how that can work and to make it work. Admittedly, this now has possible positives in giving employees ammunition to argue for more family-friendly flexible working arrangements. (“See, I can do the work from home, so how about I do that two days a week from now on?”)

Restaurants have turned themselves into gourmet takeaways or suppliers of meals to essential workers.

And in the world of Arts and Entertainment, creatives have courageously embraced the technology available to make it Happen. From filmed stage productions being shared on various platforms to casts of musicals getting together to record songs via isolation to books and plays being read by all manner of celebrities all the way to small community outfits doing whatever they can to share their creativity.

As someone for whom singing forms a key part of my wellbeing, I have survived this pandemic and the inherited income adjustment in a number of ways.

Firstly, let me just say how grateful I am for streaming services and YouTube that provide a plethora of musicals to watch and join in. As a lover of and previous performer in many musicals, this has been an easy and inexpensive way to have a sing when I feel like it. (And yes, even if I wasn’t such a big Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar fangirl, joining Disney+ would have been worth it just for Hamilton.)

Secondly, I was lucky to be offered work in my role as a casual special education teacher despite schools being closed to all but the necessary. Singing is a big part of my teaching so getting to sing every week with some very special students kept me upbeat day after day.

Thirdly, my bar choir of which I wrote not long before the shutdown, scored some funding from a local government to offer Back Bar Choir Iso-style. This was conducted over Zoom every Thursday night for 6 weeks for free. Because of the time delay in the program, we all had to be muted other than the lovely Anna and Kate but even though you couldn’t hear the others, just seeing their happy faces on the screen made you feel like you were singing with a group of people. And, when restrictions eased a bit, I was able to turn my little she-shed into a bar for two. Singing Aussie classics like Horses and You’re The Voice in full throttle with a special friend in person and a collection of yet unknown ones on the screen in front of me whilst enjoying a glass of wine was enough to fill up my week with joy.

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One of those cupboards may or may not contain the ‘bar’. 😉

And then, just recently, fourthly, I joined Pub-turned-Couch Choir because you can never have enough of pub singing. Pub Choir was started in Brisbane by the lovely Astrid Jorgensen and just before the pandemic hit, had become an international sensation with a tour of the USA underway. (My local Back Bar Choir is obviously based on the same model, something of which Astrid is supportive as long as it isn’t called “Pub Choir”.)  Rapidly closing borders caused Astrid, Waveney and the Pub Choir team to cancel the rest of the tour and hightail it home. Not to be squashed (Astrid seems a very upbeat type), Pub Choir launched Couch Choir as shown in this short documentary:

The procedure follows the usual pattern – learn one song in parts and sing it. Only, this time, Astrid teaches the parts via video and participants firstly learn their chosen part and then record themselves singing it. This recording is then sent to Couch Choir and through the monumental magic of video editing (thank you, Paris), all of it is put together to form one sensational performance. You can check them out here. I’d recommend the David Bowie song Heroes. Six thousand people from around the world submitted a video including many of our health workers. It’s quite moving.

But at the very least, check out the one below – the most recent one – because you may spot a familiar blogger. Mind you, with more than 1500 singers from 30 different countries, you’ll be hard pressed to find me (you’ll need a magnifying glass and a quick eye) so if you do manage it, I will send you a packet of Tim Tams.

 

It’s an incredible feeling to be part of this stunning community collaboration in a love of singing. I’ve wanted to participate in Couch Choir since I first found out about it through the documentary but it always takes me a while to convince myself I can do something and the usual three day turnaround just wasn’t enough time. For this song, we had a week to prepare and submit a video so I was able to spend a few days telling myself I could do it, then spend a day learning my part and then another recording and uploading it. What a fabulous reason to spend an afternoon in my shed and sing!

This pandemic has certainly stretched us all in a myriad of ways and I’m so happy people have discovered new means of sharing their skills and art for us all to enjoy.

Have you managed to find ways to pursue your joy?

Beer Pong…Er…Song

There’s been a recent phenomenon in community activity known as the “pub choir”. People gather in a pub at a prearranged time, learn a song, sing it together and share a drink (or two).

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It’s funny that it’s seen as a recent phenomenon. Singing in alcohol-selling establishments dates back centuries. A singalong in the local tavern was a common sight in days gone by.

But then came records and movies and tv and Celebrities. And people began to believe that singing was the domain of only the supremely talented.

Community singing groups have done an admirable job in recent decades to try and disprove that view but if conversations I had the other evening are any indication, they can still tend to be seen by some as only for ‘singers’. If one does not see oneself as a singer, it’s easy to be scared off by an official singing group no matter how welcoming.

The pub choir, on the other hand, seems open to anyone who wants to just have a crack at singing a song. Perhaps it’s the beer hall vibe where raucous and imperfect singing is seen as acceptable. Perhaps it’s the attraction of being able to lubricate any nerves with a glass or two of an adult beverage. Perhaps it’s just that video footage of such events always makes it look like a whole lot of fun.

The other night I attended my first pub choir event. And I’m sold on the concept. It’s a simple set up, with a well known song chosen (and, it appears, one that just cries out for enthusiastic singing), easy-to-learn harmonies divided into high, middle and low and words and simple guidelines projected on a screen. Accompaniment on this night was a keyboard and drums.

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The whole process only lasts a couple of hours with time for breaks factored in (for further lubrication if required). I went alone which was a challenge for me but before long I was singing along with newfound friends having a wonderful time.

And we well and truly built this city on rock and roll.

 

Have you ever attended a pub choir? What was it like?