Involving an iconic Brisbane music venue, lots of cold beers and some (mostly) organised singing, Pub Choir is a cultural phenomenon taking the world by storm. In this article, we follow our teammates Hannah and Polina as they take us on their monthly Pub Choir experience, a ‘not-so-guilty pleasure’.
3 pm, Last Tuesday of the Month
Our Google calendar reminds us to check the song announcement, and after a quick scroll through Facebook, two little squeals of excitement travel across the office. Then commences the last-minute recruitment of co-workers, because “this months song is a BANGER!” ( This happens every single month so who knows why we are still surprised.)
Wednesday afternoon rolls around and we race to the Tivoli to grab some last minute door tickets, which typically sell out in less than two minutes. Luckily, there are a few tickets left. Our arms are stamped and we’re in – now, where’s the beer at?
A bit about Pub Choir
Pub Choir is exactly what it sounds like – a bunch of slightly drunk people crammed into a pub, and enjoying the experience of singing together. Started by Astrid Jorgensen and Meg Bartholomew, who wanted to create a place for their friends to come and sing songs with them. Two years later, it is now a Brisbane institution with thousands of locals fighting for tickets each month.
Pub Choir wouldn’t be possible without the crazy and wonderful team that run it. Astrid is the choir director and walks the crowd through an expertly crafted 3 part harmony in just 90 minutes.
Astrid is a busy person, and her enthusiasm is, well… frightening.. Astrid runs the rehearsals, arranges the tunes, and attempts a lot of jokes. According to Astrid, everybody can sing if you just have to open your sound hole!
Meg is the no-nonsense, powerhouse MC who keeps the show running smoothly, and gets everybody in the mood to sing down the house.
Waveney Yasso is the guitar wizard who accompanies our voices, playing the song over and over and over and over, as we learn our parts. Often including loops and pedals into the final recording, and she has an amazing voice to boot!
These three talented ladies believe music belongs to everybody. A night at Pub Choir is rowdy, wholesome, and so much damn fun. There are no auditions, no solos, no commitments, no sheet music, NO WORRIES. Simply turn up, pack yourself into a pub with hundreds of strangers, learn a song in 3 part harmony in 90 minutes, perform it twice, and then it’s immortalised in video forever.
7 pm Wednesday Night – It’s Showtime!
We are now a few beers in and it’s time for the show. We head towards the stage and stake out a spot somewhere in the middle of the room. As Pub Choir veterans, we know the best spots. Suddenly Meg graces the stage, booze in hand and ready to heckle the crowd into their correct place. The goal of the night is to learn a three-part harmony – to do so successfully we need to get into our 3 different sections – high ladies, low ladies and men (those who identify as male).
Getting everyone in their right section can be a mission, but it is so enjoyable watching Meg heckle stragglers who refuse to move. “How do you choose which section to be in?” I hear you ask? Well for guys it’s simple – stick with your people and you’ll be fine. Ladies, If you enjoy drinking champagne on a Wednesday night and always take Mariah’s solos when singing in the car – the high lady life is for you. Low ladies (like us) carry the tune and then, everyone through life.
Rehearse until you get it right!
The first slides are the most terrifying, making it easy to identify the first-timers by their gasps and puzzled looks as they stare at the multi-coloured slides. Soon enough though, the puzzled looks change to awe as Astrid takes each group through their part of the intro. Surprisingly things go pretty smoothly from here on in, with everyone getting used to following the colour coded slides and hilarious memes that prompt our next actions.
Everything falls into place pretty quickly from there. Once everyone has the melody down, Astrid lets us run through a few slides to test the waters. Any problem lines or notes get another quick run through otherwise we move straight along – we only have 90 minutes after all. When Astrid is convinced we have the song down pat we attempt one full run through of the song before we break for a breather.
8:30 pm Wednesday Night – The Performance
The key to a great final performance is more BEER!
After a quick dash to the bar for more beer, we get back into position for the final performance. Astrid runs through any sections we came unstuck in our harmonies and gives us a final run through. Once we are performance ready(ish) the Sleepy Mountain Films team spread out with their cameras to get footage of the night’s song.
Occasionally we are accompanied by a member of the band, whose song we are singing. Obviously, we all get a little star struck and usually need an extra rehearsal with their added vocals. As a participant, you get all tingly and there is an amazing feeling of community when singing with so many people. But the real gift is watching a lead singer grinning ear to ear as a crowd of over 1000 sings a new composition of their own song, back to them.
Singing for change
So if we haven’t convinced you that Pub Choir is frickin’ awesome by now, then these figures should. Besides giving thousands of people across the country a reason to get out of the house on a weeknight, Pub Choir also raises a lot of money for charity. Donating a portion of all ticket sales to the chosen charity each night, representatives are also welcomed to the stage to talk to the crowd.
Punters are also able to donate extra dollars and goods throughout the night and in the past eighteen months, Pub Choir has raised over $140,000 for charities. So even if you somehow manage to have a bad time at Pub Choir, that’ll make you feel good!
Come find us at Pub Choir! We’ll have a beer in hand and grins on our faces. Whether you’re talented or talentless – all you have to do is, OPEN YOUR SOUND HOLE!
Some of our other favourite performances:
Ball Park Music https://www.facebook.com/PubChoir/videos/808419206211471/
All photos and videos are the property of Pub Choir, Sleepy Mountain Films and Jacob Morrison (Jcbmrrsn Freelance).