Queensland Conservatorium graduate Astrid Jorgensen is teaching the world to sing with her wildly successful project, Pub Choir – touring the United States and also appearing at Splendour in the Grass this weekend.
Sharing the love of song
After several years leading choirs around Brisbane, Astrid hit on an ingenious way to share her love of singing and hosted an informal sing-along at a pub in West End. Her ethos was simple: ‘no audition, no solos, no commitments, no sheet music, no worries’.
“I did a single Facebook post and about 70 people turned up and sang their hearts out,” she said.
“It really exceeded our expectations, and the atmosphere was electric — it was like the public were just waiting for permission to sing.”
A runaway success
Pub Choir now has a regular home at popular Brisbane music venue, The Triffid.
Each month, more than 1,000 strangers pack into the pub, and Astrid spends 90 minutes teaching them a song in three-part harmony. Many of the performances have gone viral on YouTube, including a rousing rendition of The Cranberries hit, Zombie, that has been viewed 4.6 million times.
“The collaboration aspect is always the most exciting part of Pub Choir,” she said.
“I believe it’s something very fundamental to being human – the desire to connect with others, to create experiences together, it makes total sense to me.
“Choir is my favourite team sport.”
She recently took Pub Choir global – doing a series of sold-out gigs in the United States. Pub Choir is also on the bill at Splendour in the Grass this weekend, alongside the biggest musical acts on the planet.
“We would have never aimed for Splendour, it’s the peak of Australian live music experience. We’re a choir!” she said.
Recent showcases in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco were a hit, with sell-out crowds belting out hits by Cyndi Lauper, Backstreet Boys and The Killers.
“An Aussie expat in New York got in contact with an opportunity to showcase Pub Choir in Manhattan. It felt like such a good opportunity we couldn’t say no, and if you’re going to fly all the way to America, you might as well see a few other cities too,” she said.
“It was the same show in a new setting – all the same kind of Aussie charm, lots of lame jokes and carefree singing goodness.
“Hopefully the US trip will be the first of many, but we’re also stoked with our amazing fans in Australia. 1,500 Brisbane locals turn up every month for a yell-sing, and that is already enough to make us feel very chuffed.
“We just want to keep singing with new friends, and making people feel happy.”
With a little help from her friends
Pub Choir will also collaborate with award-winning singer-songwriter Ben Lee on a series of concerts in Australia later this year, after guest appearances by members of Powderfinger, The Go-Betweens, The Grates and Lior.
“We’ve been in touch with Ben Lee ever since we started Pub Choir back in 2017,” she said.
“We used his song ‘Catch My Disease’ in one of our earliest shows, and Ben saw the video online and loved it!
“We’ve chatted over the years and have come to realise that we have the same goals – to connect people through music.”
A life-changing journey
Pub Choir has changed Astrid’s life. Two years ago, she was working as a high school music teacher. Now she regularly performs alongside her musical heroes and works in radio, performing on-air segments and producing for ABC Radio Brisbane.
“I used to be a high school teacher, now I get to travel the world and sing for a living,” she said.
“I’m either working from home, writing arrangements for shows, or travelling around meeting new and interesting people.
“It’s a very varied life and I feel very privileged to be able to do this kind of work.”
Astrid was recently named Queensland Community Foundation Emerging Philanthropist of the Year for her charity fundraising efforts.
“As well as being great fun, Pub Choir is also a great platform to connect our audiences to charitable causes,” she said.
“We’ve raised over $150,000 for various charities since we started in 2017.”
‘The Con was an amazing place to study’
The talented singer and choral specialist graduated from the Queensland Conservatorium with a Master of Music Studies (Vocal Performance) in 2011, after winning the Griffith Award for Academic Excellence.
“The Con was an amazing place to study,” she said.
“I loved being with other people who were equally passionate about music, and I had some fantastic teachers.
“It also gave me a chance to get some contemporary performance experience — I don’t think I could lead Pub Choir if I didn’t have that training.”
Graduates making their mark on the world stage
Acting Director of the Queensland Conservatorium, Professor Gemma Carey, said Astrid was one of many graduates making their mark on the international stage.
“We’re delighted to see one of our alumni sharing the joy of singing with such a wide and appreciative audience,” she said.
“Astrid is one of many talented musicians and teachers making their mark in the industry after receiving a world-class music education at the Queensland Conservatorium.”
Thenext Pub Choir event takes place at the Splendour in the Grass festival this weekend.