8 September 2023

Singing and sipping to combine in harmony for Shell Cove’s first community choir event

| Kellie O'Brien
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Sing and Sip Shell Cove

Trish Delaney-Brown conducting the audience during WollCon’s 50th anniversary festival event last year, with the Conchords behind her. She will lead a new Sing and Sip Community Choir event at Shell Cove. Photo: Brad Chilby.

In the spirit of the Pub Choir and the Choir of Hard Knocks, budding singers will create harmony at the first Sing and Sip Community Choir in Shell Cove.

Wollongong Conservatorium of Music (WollCon) head of voice Trish Delaney-Brown will lead the informal monthly singalong from 13 September as a way for people, regardless of vocal ability, to use their voice to create a chorus of sound using a classic.

“The popularity of things like Pub Choir and Choir of Hard Knocks, and also the success of the Conchords at WollCon, show that it’s a really powerful tool for connection,” Trish said.

“A lot of people don’t necessarily have the time to invest in it being a regular or weekly thing, so how can we still give people access to that kind of communal singing event in bite-sized pieces?”

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The “how” came in the form of a friend, who is a member of WollCon’s community choir Conchords and in charge of events at The Waterfront Shell Cove.

They collaborated on the idea for Sing and Sip, but were tight-lipped on the song selection.

“I like the idea of choosing songs that are somehow in the collective consciousness,” Trish said.

“So it will be somewhat familiar to people, but the arrangement might not be.

“Often these popular classic songs, you might be used to singing the melody but you’re not necessarily used to thinking harmonically about it, so this is a way of giving people a chance to sing in harmony as well.

“It’s more than a singalong to a tune, you’re going to come away knowing, ‘Well, I was part of creating a chorus of sound’.

“This is one of the awesome things about communal singing: you generally can’t hear yourself too well, and so those inhibitions tend to fall away fairly quickly.”

Trish said singing would start at 7 pm inside The Waterfront Tavern, with the first hour focused on learning the three parts.

“People will nominate whether they want to sing high, mid-voice or low and we go through each part,” she said.

A break at 8 pm will give participants the chance to have a beverage and mingle, before the last half-hour, where the choir will do a few full run-throughs and the final performance.

“I was 15-plus years with an a cappella quartet so I love harmony,” Trish said.

“I can’t help but come with a sense of joy about this thing that we’re going to do.

“I think creating an atmosphere in which people feel really comfortable about opening their mouths and letting some sound out, regardless of what they may think they can offer or not, is what it’s about, and the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

“In fact, if you have too much precision within these kinds of group things, then you miss out on some of the chorus effect of a really thick sound.”

Fun was an important aspect of the event for Trish.

“There’s so much research that shows the benefits of singing and then, on top of that, the benefits of group singing,” she said.

“Just physically, they will feel amazing having been a part of it, and then you’ve got the extra element of the connection with community and meeting people and not even necessarily speaking with people, but just being in a room with people who are focused on creating a sound is magical.

“I get to experience this every week in my line of work, but I went as a participant to a recent event that had 750 attendees.

“As we were running through the last time, I felt so close to tears because I actually just looked around the room and I didn’t know that person on the other side of the room but I was connected to that person – we were creating this thing together.

“There’s so much within our daily lives of disconnection from ourselves and from each other and so, to have these little pockets of being able to come in and you’re not being judged on anything, it’s not something you’re ticking off a to-do list, there’s not an outcome you have to meet, it’s simply being, voicing and letting it all unfold.

“You come away from that invigorated and feeling all the good stuff that happens from a chemical perspective.

“It’s a cheap high with no hangover – unless you take the sip part of it,” she said, laughing.

Having performed at Carnegie Hall, the Sydney Opera House and Blue Note Japan, it was a little scouts’ hall in Pearl Beach, NSW, with only 40 people, that was her highlight.

She admitted she loved those more intimate settings.

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“That magic can happen with any size audience but there is something about that sense of intimacy,” she said.

“I think that’s another reason why I’m so glad we already have quite a number of people who have registered for the event.

“It is that swelling so people can feel anonymous and like they can hide a little bit until they’re comfortable enough to really open up.”

Sing and Sip will be held at The Waterfront Tavern’s Whale Bar on 13 September, 11 October and 8 November and you must register to participate.

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