Everyone can sing. Not necessarily well, but everyone has the ability. The phenomenon Pub Choir has taken this idea and combined singing with comedy and beers.

It started in 2017 in Brisbane, with creator, conductor and composer Astrid Jorgensen arranging popular songs into three-part harmonies. Audiences divide themselves into their respective vocal ranges when they first arrive, before Jorgensen teaches the crowd to sing the song in 90 minutes: ‘highest’, ‘lowest’ and ‘mid or scared people’ . The songs are recorded and put on social media.

Jorgensen says it’s all about using the power of the crowd to sing together – in tune and in unison.

“It’s call and response. I’ll sing what I want you to sing, and then I want you to sing back what you think I asked for. It’s a team activity but actually good.”

She says each event is unique. It’s a different crowd and there’s an element of improvisation each time. Jorgensen knows the song and what she wants it to sound like, but she doesn’t know the audience and how they’re feeling that particular evening. A large part of the event is problem-solving on the go. Jorgensen describes it as an example of regular people helping each other do anything. By the end of the show, it’s a performance of a song she describes as “magical.”

One lesson the creator has learnt is not to hold Pub Choir events on Fridays and Saturdays as the attendees get “a bit too rowdy”.

Originally from Hamilton and a former school teacher, Jorgensen never felt comfortable grading people on something she considers subjective. She wanted to retire from the classroom but continue making music in a non-competitive way.

“It always felt a bit bad to me – ranking people on this non-comparable thing. Music is an opinion. Some people have more technical skills but it’s all opinion.” She wanted to make people understand “who cares if your voice comes out weird and wonky.”

Jorgensen landed on choir being an easy way for people to get involved. Everyone comes with their built-in instrument. She wrote a list of what she thought was stopping people going to choir and it was most likely being time poor and feeling as though it’s inaccessible. It was then, Pub Choir was born. There’s no uniform or long-term commitment and it’s about having fun.

“Having the word ‘Pub’ in the title probably helps,” laughs Jorgensen.

In 2020, Pub Choir became Couch Choir during the pandemic. This opened up participation to the world. There were more than 1000 submissions from 18 different countries of people singing in their homes and Jorgensen pulled together the videos to create a music clip of people singing the Carpenters’ Close To You.

The Pub Choir renditions have garnered praise and attention from the artists themselves. Following a recording of Zombies by The Cranberries, the video went viral putting Pub Choir onto the international stage. Other artists including Mariah Carey, Kate Bush and Sir Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees have applauded the arrangements.