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THE SPOOKY MEN’S CHORALE
The Spooky Men’s Chorale is a vast, rumbling, steam powered and black clad vocal behemoth, seemingly accidentally capable of rendering audiences moist eyed with mute appreciation or haplessly gurgling with merriment. Based on the twin pillars of grand foolishness and the quest for the perfect subwoofer-rattling boofchord, the Spooky Men seek to commentate on the absurdity and grandeur of the modern male armed only with their voices, a sly collection of hats and facial hair, and a twinkle in the eye.
Formed in the Blue Mountains of NSW in 2001 by Christchurch-born ‘spookmeister’ Stephen Taberner, the Spooky Men soon attracted attention with a judicious combination of Georgian table songs, pindrop beautiful ballads, highly inappropriate covers, and immaculate man anthems like ‘Don’t stand between a man and his tool’, all of which amounted to a manifesto for the new breed of man: happily suspended between thug and wimp.
The Spooky Men attracted wider attention at the National Folk Festival in Canberra 2004, which led to the first of eight tours to the UK in 2006. Standout appearances amongst their 750+ gigs since have included (in Australia) WOMADelaide, The Great Escape Festival, Woodford, Cobargo, Port Fairy, Blue Mountains and Bellingen festivals. ABC TV appearances include The Mix, Spicks and Specks, and Studio 10. Theatrical venues have included Melbourne Recital Centre, City Recital Hall (Sydney), The Seymour Centre (Sydney) and Adelaide Town Hall.
In the UK/Europe they have appeared at major festivals including Rudolstadt (Germany), Tonder (Denmark), Malmo (Sweden), Cambridge, Broadstairs, Wickham, Camp Bestival, Towersey, Shrewsbury, and Edinburgh Fringe. Theatrical venues have included Union Chapel (London), St David’s Hall (Cardiff), The Philharmonic (Liverpool), Colston Hall (Bristol), the Sheldonian (Oxford) and Sage Gateshead.
The Spooky Men have recorded seven CDs:
Tooled Up (2004), Stop Scratching It (2007), Deep (2009), Big (2011), The Spooky Man in History (2013), Warm (2015) and Welcome to the Second Half (2019).
In live performance, the Spooky Men draw on a combination of musical and theatrical values that are elusive and multifarious. Notable themes and antecedents include Georgian male polyphony, a running joke on man as a vast, oblivious useless object, whispers of clown, bouffon and Monty Python, and forays into massively pleasurable grunting tribalism. The audience are invited to first joyously endure a wall of mansound, then laugh stupidly, then venture into areas of great tenderness. It is ideally not so much comedic as hilarious, not so much shimmeringly perfect as pleasingly and deeply human.
RECENT SELECTED SPOOKY PERFORMANCES
Melbourne Recital Hall, The Seymour Centre, Newcastle City Hall, The Independent Theatre, National Folk Festival
Rhythmtree Festival (Isle of Wight), Café Theatre Schalotte (Berlin), Kings Place (London), St George’s Hall (Liverpool), Rudolstadt Festival (Germany)
Princess Theatre (Brisbane), Woodford Folk Festival, The Concourse (Sydney), Mullumbimby Civic Hall, Camelot Lounge (Sydney)
NEW ZEALAND TOUR
WOMAD NZ, St Matthew-In-The-City (Aukland), The Globe Theatre, The Citadel (Wellington) Motueka Memorial Hall, Cathedral College (Christchurch)
Sydney Festival, 10 day Musica Viva Northern NSW tour, National Folk Festival, Cobargo Folk Festival, Blue Mountains Festival
WOMADelaide, Hobert Festival of Voices, Randwick Town Hall, National Portrait Gallery (Canberra), Blue Mountains Theatre (Springwood), Kyneton Town Hall, Church of All Nations (Melbourne), Camelot Lounge (Sydney), Whitlam Institue, Parramatta
National Folk Festival, Cygnet Folk Festival, Blue Mountains Festival, Randwick Town Hall, Camelot Lounge (Sydney)
38 gigs to an audience totalling 23,000, including:
Shrewsbury Festival, Camp Bestival, Broadstairs Folk Week, Liverpool Philharmonic, Sheldonian Theatre (Oxford), Colston Hall (Bristol), St David’s Hall (Cardiff), Towersey Festival, Sidmouth Festival, Wickham Festival
Bmac (Brisbane), Blue Mountains Folk Festival, Hobart Festival of Voice, Camelot Lounge (Sydney), The Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre (Penrith) Fitter’s Workshop (Canberra)
15 performances, including Malmo Festival (Sweden) and theatres across Denmark.
Woodford Folk Festival, National Folk Festival, Blue Mountains Festival, Camelot Lounge (Sydney), Thornbury Theatre (Melbourne), Wollongong Town Hall
43 gigs to an audience totalling 31,000, including:
Tonder Festival (Denmark), Liverpool Philharmonic, Union Chapel (London), Colston Hall (Bristol), St David’s Hall (Cardiff), Towersey Festival, Sidmouth Festival, Village Pump Festival, Wickham Festival
“When this singularly gifted choir circles and ascends with eyes closed, in a manly way, it is longing and mellow and rumbles inside the heart.”
– reviewsbyjudith.com, 2020
“It takes a rare skill to be very silly, thoughtful, and sing in perfect harmony, but the Spooky Men’s Chorale manage to achieve just that.”
– Robin Denselow, Guardian live review, 2015
“A skilful mix of faultless vocal expertise and maverick abandon … Compelling, ‘bespook’ serious fun, and totally irresistible to boot …”
– Froots magazine reviews The Spooky Man in History, 2013
“High camp, epic folly – probably the best programming choice of the entire summer festival circuit”
– The Irish Times, 2007
“Highly theatrical, they veer from weird to touching and back again. Grown-up entertainment in the best, most infantile way. Don’t miss an opportunity to see them”
– Daily Telegraph, 2013
“It IS spooky. You’re listening to what sounds like archangels singing ethereal harmonies. But it’s a bunch of boofy men from The Blue Mountains, with a wise guy out front wearing a furry deerstalker hat”
– Brisbane Courier Mail, 2008
“Do see them live – it all makes perfect sense then …or does it?! Certainly once seen they are never forgotten! Beautiful singing; very sharp and witty lyrics.”
– Mark Radcliffe, BBC Radio 2, 2013
“A tsunami of Georgian male voice polyphony”
– The Scotsman, 2011
“Stand back and admire the beautifully sung anarchy “
– Glasgow Herald 2013
“Their tuning, timing and dynamics are impeccable”
– The Independent 2013
“These fabulous men in black wowed Sidmouth festival goers- every number received rapturous applause”
– Sidmouth Herald, 2011
“Sheer musical excellence – like the ghosts of choristers long gone”
– John Shand, Sydney Morning Herald 2009
“The Spooky men produce an inspiring sound, and the material is very funny- probably the first time I’ve seen a sound engineer shaking with laughter during a live set- and for all the right reasons”
– Mike Crofts, Sound on Sound article on mixing for the Spooky Men, 2016