Groupwork Centre Blog

Singing the praises of Pub Choir

Andrea Jones finds ‘groupness’ with a songsheet in one hand and a chardonnay in the other  

Over many years I’ve sung in choirs in my local area and I’ve always found community, connection and fun. I recently stepped into another singing space – Pub Choir , a phenomenally successful event that began in Brisbane and has now spread across Australia, Aotearoa and on to Europe and the US.

At these events, the facilitator/director, the talented Astrid Jorgensen, guides the assembled crowd of “average people to sing averagely.” “Yet somehow,” she says, “the result is a musical miracle.”

She teaches a song in three-part harmony live at the show and in 90 minutes she’s created a joyous, harmonious blend of voices of up to 3000 people … many with beer or wine in hand! Each event ends with the choir singing their song all the way through, in full voice and beautiful harmony.

I’ve been reflecting on why Pub Choir is successful through my lens as a facilitator.

The role of the facilitator is to create a space where people can feel ‘groupness’ as we call it at the Groupwork Centre. Groupness is when people in a group feel brave and able to take risks. They feel connected and they feel they are safe. At Pub Choir they need to feel safe enough to face their fear of singing in public.

There are several reasons for its success and why people walk away with a collective effervescence and a feeling of achievement after these events.

They arrive excited  but also nervous about what might happen … Will their voice sound OK? Will people laugh at them? They are taking a risk. We say the path to groupness is paved with risk and, for some, singing in public is quite a big risk!

Their risk taking is rewarded with clear and  thoughtfully planned instructions, a bit of humorous banter and an inclusive environment where everyone is encouraged to have a go. By the end, everyone is singing their hearts out and having fun.

People arrive at a pub or other venue for Pub Choir with a collective sense of purpose and within 90 minutes they have collaborated to create something beautiful together. What a buzz to have achieved this within such a short time! Singing together promotes teamwork, cooperation and camaraderie, which in turn creates a sense of belonging and connection.

As Astrid said in a recent interview in the US, “you walk in as the audience and you walk out as the performer. You’ve done it … you’re a star”. Individual and collective achievement right there.

The group is treated with respect and there is a feeling that no-one will judge your voice as everyone is in it together and having a crack at their harmonising. There is a feeling of common unity and this creates such a connection that people feel open and begin sharing something of themselves. It’s not about being the best; it’s about being part of something bigger than the individual and collectively feeling better. And you do!

We know that singing has positive effects on mental and emotional wellbeing. It reduces stress, boosts mood, and increases self-confidence. The act of singing releases endorphins, hormones that contribute to a sense of happiness. The brilliant facilitation, making this happen in such a short timeframe, is the secret to Pub Choir’s success.

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