With Teicher accompanying on electric guitar and a song list comprising local bands and musicians such as Courtney Barnett, Ball Park Music and Georgia Fields, it’s a far cry from your traditional “churchy” choir.
And while it may be the biggest at 240 members (they rehearse weekly in three separate groups), Melbourne Indie Voices is just one of a growing number of independent choirs that have sprouted up around the city.
Bridget Roberts, president of the non-profit Community Music Victoria, which provides resources and networking for the community music sector, says Melbourne is experiencing a boom in community choirs.
“People are talking about what they see as a resurgence,” she says, though notes that because these groups are independent and “doing their own thing”, the organisation has no data on the trend.
Many of these choirs rehearse in people’s lounge rooms or pubs (Beyond the Bathroom rehearses in a room at Brunswick’s Edinburgh Castle), and tend to attract people in their 20s and 30s, but singers of all ages and backgrounds are welcome.
Maggie and Elsie Rigby, who perform as the band The Maes, launched their choir One More Chorus just over a year ago in response to the growing demand.
There were more young people wanting to join choirs in Melbourne than there were spaces in choirs
Maggie Rigby, choir leader
“We’d heard from a few people that there were more young people wanting to join choirs in Melbourne than there were spaces in choirs,” Maggie says. “A couple of friends ran choirs with really long waiting lists.
“Our parents ran choirs when we were kids so we resisted starting one for a long time because it felt like we were turning into our parents,” she laughs. “But it’s just the most beautiful thing having a big group of people singing harmonies together.”
The appeal for members is two-fold, with singers coming back each week to experience the joy of singing and also to be part of a community.
“The first week that I attended the choir I’d had quite a busy, stressful week – I was not sleeping,” says Jacqui Flynn, who joined Melbourne Indie Voices just over six months ago with no prior musical experience.
“I went to choir on the Wednesday night and slept soundly for the first time in many nights.
“I’ve heard people refer to it as midweek therapy … I’ve heard it be referred to as a bit of a cult. It’s something we love doing each week: the ritual of the vocal warm-ups, shaking off the day in a creative space, it’s a real privilege. It encourages you to explore your own musicality, whether you think you have some or not.”
One More Chorus and Melbourne Indie Voices both preference local and independent music over top 40 hits. “There’s such a great music scene in Australia and Melbourne in particular, and I think the choir is a way to access to that without having to be a professional [musician],” Exiner says.
“We’re strictly non-audition. It’s so easy to get hang-ups about music because there are really strict rules from [experiences at] school.”
Choir members range from professional musicians to complete amateurs but singing in a large group is a great leveller, says Exiner.
“The less experienced singers get carried up by the more advanced of them, which creates a really massive, beautiful sound because of the sheer number of voices in the room.”
Being able to perform with a rock star at a major venue? Well, that’s just a bonus.
Melbourne Indie Voices performs at the Forum Theatre with special guests Jen Cloher and Mark Lang (Skipping Girl Vinegar) on Sunday, 2pm (sold out) and 6pm. One More Chorus performs at the Wesley Anne, Northcote, on December 1, with special guests to be announced.
Hannah Francis is Arts Editor at The Age