The Spooky Men’s Chorale,
The Hawth, Crawley,
Wednesday, July 17
Dressed in black with a variety of quirky hats on display these unassuming Aussies make one unusual choir.
Nevertheless, The Spooky Men, who are heavily influenced by traditional Georgian music, offer an impressive show in which they apply their strange harmonizing style to a variety of complex singing arrangements.
Their diverse selection of tunes ranges from sombre foreign folk songs to odd comedy numbers.
There’s a song about the underappreciated human foot, a hymn dedicated to male mediocrity and even a tune about a man in the seventeenth row who doesn’t look like he’s enjoying himself.
However, the most memorable comedy moment of the evening is Don’t Stand Between A Man And His Tool, a strangely catchy song about the humorous affection a true man feels for his DIY implements.
The line “You never know when you might need one”, which is performed with a mundane screwdriver motion, gets a laugh for being so spot-on. More laughter follows as The Spooky Men reveal a giant spanner, which they respectfully raise up with awe on their faces.
Their Bee Gees number gets a great response too as the band members don the appropriate headgear to perform a Sufi tribute to a prophet called Ba’hari Ghibb. It’s fiery, exotic and hilariously kooky.
Despite the choir’s sense of humour, spooky is probably the right word to describe the tone of the show, mainly thanks to the haunting vocal style. Even an upbeat anthem about going surfing, complete with amusing miming, has a peculiar, hard-to-define atmosphere.
It works, though, and that’s the important thing, with conductor Stephen Taberner lightening the unfamiliar mood with wry observations between songs.
The only criticism that could really be levelled at The Spooky Men is that a few of their slower numbers sound a bit similar, especially for people encountering them for the first time.
However, their surprisingly strong stage presence more than makes up for this.
It’s not just the humour and unusual vocal style that makes The Spooky Men’s Chorale special, either. There’s genuine passion behind the music. This is particularly strong in the heartfelt song near the end, And I Love Her, which manages to be sincere and moving even after all the irreverence and silliness.
Lucy Wise, a fellow Australian, also provides a strong support act with her gentle and affecting folk songs.
To find out more about The Spooky Men’s Chorale log on to www.spookymen.com.
By Lawrence Smith