The Spooky Men’s Chorale

The Spooky Men’s Chorale
Independent Theatre, North Sydney, Feb 17, 2024. Avoca Beach Theatre, Feb 18, 2024

The Spooky Men pretend to be “spooky” but they’re not! They’re funny, weird, somewhat dark … but thought-provoking, original and very talented. Led by Spookmeister Stephen Taberner, they have been an Australian musical phenomenon for twenty-three years. After catching their collective breaths after sell-out national and international tours in 2023, they are back on the stage in their home state with their incredible harmonies, “spooky-fied” takes on well-known songs – and their own astonishing insights into interesting trivia and the state of the world.

Taberner’s dry wit and circumlocutive introspections set the scene for a program that is unlike that of any other a cappella group. Like Taberner himself, each spooky is an individual, playing his own whacky part in an absurdist style recital that belies the control and complexity behind it.

Dead pan while Taberner introduces a new song, or reacting quizzically to a bizarre idea he elucidates, they are constantly in the moment, ready as he turns to lead them in the next song – whether it’s a tender love song or one of their trademark funny salutes to something more mundane! It’s all part of the “routine” that makes the Spookies different! Makes you eager to know what’s coming next!

It might be a Spooky special like “We are not a Men’s group” or an ironic take on “Team Building”, the proliferation of handy men for hire … ‘We’ll give it a go!” Or it might also be a seriously beautiful ‘Spooky-fied’ version of “Jolene”.

Only the Spooky Men could consider a satiric tribute to an unseen body part – “The Eyebrow”! – or write a crazy song about being members of too many clubs. Or make a “call out” to audience behaviour as they do in “The Man in the 17th Row”.

Spooky humour is always interspersed with something much gentler and serious, like their almost eerie rendition of Tom Waits’ “Picture in a Frame” and a haunting Georgian folk song.

Taberner and his men are not afraid to make a political comment – and in this program they reference their reaction to the lost referendum in a rousing rendition of Yothu Yindi’s “Treaty” with the audience joining lustily in the refrain.

In similar vein, the turbulence in Europe is evoked in a beautiful interpretation of a Ukrainian patriotic folksong.

The Spooky Men always leave the audience surprised – and wanting more. And what could be more surprising than a brilliant ‘Spooky-fication’ of Bohemian Rhapsody, and a glaringly bright but not quite so well-fitting tribute to Freddy Mercury’s white singlets!

The Spooky Men’s Chorale is everything you’d hope an Aussie male a cappella group would be! Irreverent, audacious, satirical, funny – and at the same time whimsical, tender, sincere and harmonious.

If perchance they are appearing somewhere near you, don’t miss them. They are really something special.

Carol Wimmer

Images: Samantha Lazzaro

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