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Tuesday night in Gisborne – what to do for pure, unpressured, lift-the-spirits fun? If you’re someone who loves to sing out loud but doesn’t really want anyone to hear you, then Pub Choir at Smash Palace is the place for you.

Here you will find somewhere between 10 and 30 kindred spirits gathered around a leaner in front of the fire, singing their hearts out.

Choir master Darryl Monteith leads with his personal fearless passion for singing, and a songwriter’s adulation for the poetry and musical skill of others. His accomplished and enthusiastic guitar playing includes intros just like you hear when the original song is playing on the radio, so sets the scene for everyone to start perfectly on the first note.

Pub Choir has been happening for over a year now, and with a new song introduced every week, there’s quite a folder of lyric sheets. Suggestions for songs to include are welcomed and always create a debate. The resident cats, Dash and Pash, meander over the leaner adding their voices to the debate and hoping for a cuddle on the side.

You learn the actual lyrics of songs you’ve been enthusiastically singing only the chorus of for years. In fact seeing the lyrics written down can be a revelation in itself. My personal unforgettable favourite is from Split Enz “I see Red” ….”Squeezed me out of your life like molten toothpaste…” poetry!

Some people are actually quite good. So there is a reliable foundation of tunefulness and harmony. You are mostly free to follow your own whim as to which part you sing. However Darryl has been known to divide the choir up into a group with brown eyes and a group with blue when two parts are clearly required.

I asked a few people why they come – what do you enjoy about Pub Choir? The most common response was along the lines of “I really like to sing and I’ve always loved the feeling of singing out loud – but I’m much too shy. This choir makes it OK. There’s no judgement and it‘s completely unpretentious: pure fun and definitely uplifting. There’s no commitment to come every week, so if you don’t turn up, you don’t feel like you are letting anybody down.”

Others spoke of being new to town and enjoying meeting new people, and of finding a new self-confidence in trying an activity which is out of their comfort zone.

Suffice to say everyone is welcome – 7pm Tuesdays at Smash Palace

Story by Carol Ford

Photographs by Sarah Cleave

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