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Pop in harmony

1 February 2018

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Perth’s indie-pop choir, Menagerie, has become a staple at Fringe World since its debut in 2014. With a back catalogue that ranges from Arcade Fire’s ‘Wake Up’ to Silverchair’s ‘Freak’, all transformed into glorious three-part (or more!) harmony, Menagerie has developed something of a cult following.

In this Fringe Session Q&A, conductor (AKA Zookeeper) Sally Banyard takes you behind the scenes of Menagerie, ahead of its fifth Fringe show.

Seesaw: Tell us about Menagerie Choir.
Sally Banyard: The choir was created mid-2013 by Claire Coleman, our original Zookeeper! The idea was to get together and have fun singing the indie-pop songs that everyone (or perhaps most people?!) love! No experience necessary, all humans welcome.

The choir is, first and foremost, a community. We come together each week to have some fun making music together. We are not auditioned (and never will be) but the commitment and enthusiasm from our members leads to some really great music-making, and the fact that the arrangements are written by members of our choir is one of the things that makes us unique and gives us that particular Menagerie sound!

All our members contribute in various ways, but we also have a very hardworking ‘Control Panel’ that takes care of the day-to-day running of the choir, as well as ‘Creative Panel’ – fresh each year, that (historically) mainly helps bring together ideas for our Fringe shows!

Sally Banyard
Zookeeper 3.0, Menagerie conductor Sally Banyard.

S: How did you come to be conductor/Zookeeper 3.0 of Menagerie Choir?
SB: I had heard about Menagerie through various acquaintances, and joined in 2015, after watching some close friends do their first season and feeling way too much like I was missing out on something really fun!

My training has been in music, specifically composition and music education, so I was keen to help out the choir in other ways and jumped at the opportunities, given to me by our Zookeeper 2.0, Kate Page, to do things like write arrangements, lead sectionals and occasionally direct! This prepared me to take on the role of director – an offer I couldn’t possibly pass up – and become a fully-fledged Zookeeper. I’m definitely still learning though!

S: Menagerie’s career highlight so far?
SB: We had a pretty exciting 2017 – after our traditional Fringe World show, we performed at the Perth Concert Hall in September as part of the WA Primary Schools Massed Choir Festival, then headed down south to take part in Dunsborough Songfest, and finally, supported Darren Hanlon for his Perth show!

S: What do you love most about Menagerie?
SB: Um, well it seems obvious, but singing Indie-pop songs in choral harmony is pretty glorious! We love performing around Perth (and now WA!) but this is really just a great bonus! For me personally, there is little more exhilarating than waving my arms in front of this lovely group of humans at our gigs, and having sonified joy emerge!

S: What has been your funniest Menagerie moment so far?
SB: Once our stage was powered by kids on bicycles! Also all singing the same incorrect lyrics at the same time – way to do the wrong thing the right way, Menagerie!

S: Tell us about your 2018 Fringe show, “Menagerie Choir Presents: Keeping Secrets”!
SB: Keeping secrets is a universal but at the same time uniquely personal experience.  Sharing secrets is often scary but usually liberating, and we hope that by shedding some light on some of those secrets that we tend to keep hidden, we can bring audiences together a bit and hopefully even make others feel less alone.

We have a great selection of secrets – some are lighthearted but we also won’t be shying away from more personal or serious matters. Hopefully the chosen songs will offer a fresh take on all these themes, and perhaps colour these seemingly unique but often shared experiences!

S: What is Menagerie’s favourite playground equipment?
SB: Anything animal-themed! Perhaps the monkey-bars – we could often be mistaken for oversized monkeys, after all!

Menagerie Choir Presents: Keeping Secrets plays Teatro @ The Pleasure Garden, February 17-18 & 24-24.

Pictured top: Menagerie performing at Fringe World in 2016, under Zookeeper 2.0/conductor Kate Page.

Disclaimer: Seesaw editor Nina Levy has been a proud member of Menagerie since 2013.

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