Shopping around

Andrew Mathieson
SINGING in Geelong has never been the same since a retired bank manager first heard the harmonious sounds of an old-fashioned barbershop chorus.
John Hare’s now happy a decade later to accept full responsibility for founding Geelong’s own barbershop group.
He discovered the style during a live performance in Nunawading that left an indelible impression on him.
“I can always tell whether I’ve enjoyed anything because my hands sting from clapping so hard,” John says.
“My wife asked ‘How are your hands?’ and I said ‘They’re bloody awful – they’re aching’.”
John was so impressed he had a word to the chorus afterwards. He auditioned later on before a brief stint with Melbourne Aires.
Eventually the travel to East Doncaster each week got the better of him, so he put a call out for interested Geelong singers.
John’s efforts hit the mark but not in a way he expected.
“The funny thing about the first meeting was that the first five blokes who came in said ‘My name’s Jimmy’,” he grins.
“Then after a bit this other bloke came in and I said ‘I guess your name’s Jimmy, too?’ and he said ‘No, mine’s Jim’.
“I thought ‘I’ve got a queer crowd here’.”
The group overlooked the obvious name of The Jimmys to settle on Geelong Bay City Conchords.
Five of the first line-up are still bopping away.
Long-time performers Bob Gibb – yet another former bank manager – and Murray Anderson join Welshman Jim Duffield and Scot Jim Carter in the Conchords.
“The audience will always lift you up, every time,” Welsh Jim tells.
“And the pay is pretty good,” Murray chuckles.
Jim the Scot wants to keep singing until he “falls out of the tree”.
Their collective rhythm is likened to a well-oiled machine and its timing to a Swiss watch.
The band won best small chorus category at a 2001 National Barbershop Singers Convention. The chorus has since expanded to more than 15 singers but is on the lookout for more.
“When you form a group like this it’s based on the mix of voices,” Jim the Scot explains.
“You can’t have too many tenor voices but you can’t have enough bass voices.
“It goes from bass to baritone to lead and then tenor – it’s like a pyramid if you like.”
The Conchords have had memorable appearances at Carols by Candlelight, Pako Festa, Costa Hall and at a list of eisteddfods.
Other shows are less than memorable, Murray admits, such as Portarlington Festival by the Sea.
“Everytime we breathed in we ended up with a mouthful of flies,” he laughs.
“We were singing in a marquee and I think the flies enjoyed the warm atmosphere more than us.
“We kept trying to suck in air to make our sound but we finally gave up.”
The popular Ballarat Eisteddfod was another gig to forget.
“When we walked out, it was pitch black,” Jim the Scot remembers.
“But when the lights went up there were only four people in the auditorium.”