During a warm-up rendition of “Stand By Me” with the hundred or so people gathered on a wet and windy evening at the Tathra Hotel, musician Robyn Martin laughs at her own mistake.
“I’m a bit vague on that bit – probably shouldn’t have chosen a song I’m vague about,” Martin says ruefully, adding “but that’s what singing in a pub is all about, right? thanks for standing by me!”
Singers from all over the Bega Valley have come together for Tathra’s first ever pub choir, an event organised by Anne Hamilton-Foster and funded by a $999 grant from Bega Valley Shire Council, part of the Tathra and District Fire Recovery and Resistance grants.
The crowd in Tathra clearly agrees that getting together to have a warble is therapeutic and Martin’s choice of song seems fitting – “Titanium” by David Guetta is a song about strength and resilience written by Australian singer Sia Furler, whose vocals also feature.
Hamilton-Foster had the initial idea of a pub choir for Tathra in mid-2018, a few months after the devastating March bushfires which destroyed 65 homes in the town and surrounds.
“I saw a clip online of a pub choir in Brisbane around that time and it was the most exciting thing I’d seen in a long time,” Hamilton-Fosters says.
Pub Choir was created in Brisbane in 2017. The organization’s website says the concept of a pub choir is that “everybody can sing, and we’re on a mission to prove it.”
But for Hamilton-Foster, the key part of a pub choir was all facets of a community coming together – an academic, she had begun looking for a workable definition and meaning for the concept of recovery after an event such as the Tathra bushfire.
She found it in Melbourne Psychologist Rob Gordon’s definition of the word.
“Gordon defines recovery by breaking the word down, re = again, return, repeat and covery = cover, to immerse in a medium, so recovery is to re-immerse in the medium of social life. A pub choir fits the bill nicely,” Hamilton-Foster explains.
Wendy and Jim Cook from Kalaru have traded their usual ukeleles for a beer and vocals for the night.
“We play with the Bega Valley Ukelele Club,” says Jim, “I swapped from a guitar because I’ve got arthritis in my hands and I can still get them around a Uke. This is our first pub choir.”
Sandy Finlay has come from Candelo with a friend to support the fire recovery effort.
“My husband was with the Candelo Rural Fire Service in Tathra so he saw it firsthand,” Finlay says “I wanted to show my support and I also wanted to experience a pub choir.”
Hamilton-Foster has applied for a second, larger grant for $5000 from Bega Valley Shire Council and hopes that the choir can continue through the winter. The choir conductor will rotate, with different local musicians paid from the grant fund leading the choir each week.
The Yuin Folk Club provided Hamilton-Foster with a guarantor so she could apply for grants, which she is grateful for.
“I wanted to see the choir get started closer to Christmas so I’ve really had to cool my heels and wait until the busy season was over,” Hamilton-Foster says at the end of the night. “But I’m so happy with how tonight went.”
Pub Choir is on Thursdays at 6 pm at the Tathra Hotel.