Reviews/Fringe World Festival/Music

Menagerie choir puts heart into the groove

21 January 2022

A community choir without the cringe, Menagerie’s motley crew are laying it down for disco lovers and protesters alike. Rosalind Appleby tunes in to one of Fringe’s most popular choirs.

1! 2! 3! 4! Riot on the Dance Floor!, Menagerie ·
The Rechabite Hall, 20 January 2022 ·

There are always a happy number of community choirs at Fringe World. This year I decided to check out Fringe regulars the choir that goes by Menagerie, whose show 1! 2! 3! 4! Riot on the Dance Floor! at The Rechabite Hall promised the kind of choral singing I could dance to.

The indie-pop songsters have curated a dance-themed program laced with rebellion, with disco charts sitting alongside songs of protest – quite apt for a night where the WA Government announces its secession plan (aka Premier Mark McGowan revealing he will not open borders on 5 February after all). No doubt there will be protests as the week unfolds (and perhaps dancing too) but none as harmonious as Menagerie choir’s Northbridge riot, led by the affable conductor Sally Banyard. 

A close-up view of one woman who is part of the choir. She is wearing a pale purple t-shirt and singing with her eyes closed
Menagerie bring uninhibited fun. Photo: Amanda Humphreys

My first impression of the Menagerie choir is its all-inclusive welcome, evident in the diversity of the 80-plus singers who cram onto a raked stage, and in the all-ages, family-friendly audience who fill every corner of the venue. 

My second impression is of a saucy and infectious energy as the choir open with the 2008 Ting Tings’ hit That’s Not My Name. For a non-auditioned ensemble, the pitch and rhythmic security is impressive. My ears begin to relax as I realise that this is a community choir with all the uninhibited fun of amateurs but without the cringe factor!

Their second song, Janelle Monae’s Tightrope, is arranged by choir member Alexander Hill and has impressive rhythmic drive and depth to the sound. The subtle amplification softens the edges and helps blend the different vocal sections. 

The songs of protest include the Broods’ Free, sung with gospel conviction, and The Style Council’s Walls Come Tumbling Down, complete with placards and fist waving. A three-piece band provide a steady and unobtrusive groove, but it is the choir driving this gig.

Deceptacon by Le Tigre and arranged by Elizabeth Tan is a standout, with a strong riff laid down by the bass singers and conversational interjections between the different choir sections layered over the top. The various vocal arrangements are made by members of the choir and it shows; the writing plays to the choir’s strengths and the relatively low number of tenor/bass voices is barely noticeable.

A dance medley gets the dance floor grooving, complete with disco lights and glow in the dark props. The falsetto singers in I Don’t Feel Like Dancing are killing it and we all find ourselves joining in on the moments of choreography.

The night is a sell out and it is easy to see why. Be quick to get tickets, because even if you aren’t related to someone on the stage you will feel part of the family at Menagerie. 

And how lucky we are to still be able to sing and dance the night away in WA.

1! 2! 3! 4! Riot on the Dance Floor! continues at The Rechabite Hall until 23 January.

Pictured top: The Menagerie choir celebrate music and diversity. Photo: Amanda Humphreys

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Author —
Rosalind Appleby

Rosalind Appleby is an arts journalist, author and speaker. She is co-editor of Seesaw Magazine, author of Women of Note, and has written for The West Australian, The Guardian, The Australian, Limelight magazine and Opera magazine. She loves the percussion instruments which can be found in the uber cool parks.

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