Review: This Song is Mine

Claire Coleman directing. Picture: Jordan Shields

This Song is Mine
Menagerie Choir
3.5 stars
The Stables


It's not every night you'd see a conductor in Doc Martens boots and park-ranger shorts presiding over 110 choristers with animal ears fixed to their heads.

That was the scene in the appropriately named but tiny Stables tent in the Perth Cultural Centre as the Menagerie choir presented a selection of personal-choice indie pop songs, singing three-part harmonies to the backing of a three-piece band.

This Song is Mine is the brainchild of Menagerie director Claire Coleman, who started the community choir last year at the Paper Mountain artist studio-gallery in Northbridge after a fruitless search for a choir to join to sing some of her favourite music.

After she put up a few posters - and expecting just a handful of friends to get involved - about 60 people turned up and the choir has now grown to nearly twice that size.

They span a diverse range of abilities, from professional musicians and experienced choristers to amateurs. This variable talent pool was evident at the opening sold-out performance at Fringe World but that should not detract from the exceptional, moving nature of the listening experience.

This Song is Mine interweaves songs chosen by individual choir members, who introduce them with insights into their own lives to explain why the music means so much to them. Subjects range from first love, shared friendships and career hiccups to episodes of dealing with a loved-one's suicidal depression.

Brilliantly simple, this approach breaks down the anonymous uniformity of the choir and reveals its members as unique individuals.

Starting with This Year by the Mountain Goats, the concert moved, story by story, through such songs as They Might Be Giants' Dr Worm (a personal favourite so half a star extra for that), Belle and Sebastian's Wrapped up in Books, Clare Bowditch's Hair That Red and Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up) by Florence and the Machine.

Resplendent in their handcrafted animal ears (there were cats, rabbits, zebra, deer, foxes, bears, even a unicorn), each face appeared beautifully infused with the joy of singing.

In a venue where performers almost outnumbered the audience, the confessional nature of the performance under a tent roof lent a revivalist church meeting atmosphere to this communal mix-tape of memories and special moments.

To conclude, Coleman bade us all to join in with a version of the Beach Boys' God Only Knows.

God knows we need more community endeavours like Menagerie. Ear, ear, ear.

The rest of the season is sold out.