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Sing, Sing, Sing

When I heard about a fun new weekly music gig, where pub choir meets karaoke, I didn’t need a second invitation! The next Sunday afternoon, I took myself along to that magical fantasy land, with its endless tendrils of fairy lights, charming street food stalls and rustic beer barrel furniture that flirtatiously dares passers-by not to stop and admire it – Maleny Lane.

by Judy Fredriksen

As I sat down, feeling my spirits lift among the dozens of carefree voices singing and bopping along to that old Blues Brothers favourite – Minnie the Moocher – the grinning faces and shining eyes said it all.

“This is in my diary every week now,” said a woman next to me. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

“We love it,” another voice chimed in, “we think it’s great!”

Behind me, a tiny tot is taking her first dance steps in time to the music, though she’s a little bit wobbly and still needs some help from Dad.

Welcome to SING everybody – a good old fashioned singalong where the vibe is laid back and anyone, regardless of vocal talent, can literally sing and dance their blues away.

SING is the creation of well-known musos – Tim Hall and Jem Dunlop. Both have extensive music cred with Tim once playing guitar and singing lead vocals for the 1990s, multi-award winning indie rock band, The Whitlams. He obviously inherited some of his mother’s talent as well – she was an opera singer.

Tim’s musical career started out unexpectedly while he was still at university in Sydney. A gifted windsurfer and windsurf instructor, with ambitions of becoming a sail board designer, Tim also had a band which, much to his surprise, won a uni band competition. Before he knew it, the band had a manager and a booker and the sail board designing idea had, well, um, sailed away.

The somewhat modest Jem Dunlop, who Tim assures me is one of Australia’s finest accompanists of traditional folk music, grew up surrounded by folk music and going to bush dances. Later, he studied music and education to become a secondary school music teacher.

Jem was a regular on Melbourne’s music scene for many years, playing at Irish pubs like Dan O’Connell’s and Molly Bloo

ms. After moving to Maleny in around 2006, he was a regular crowd pleaser at Maleny’s own Irish pub – Finbars.

Both Tim and Jem have toured Australia extensively with various bands, though after a few years, the novelty of constantly being on the road, and playing to drunks in pubs, wore off for both of them.

Weary of the pub rock lifestyle, Tim’s life took on a different direction as he applied his talents to music therapy as a way of “helping people to feel positive in this tumultuous world”.

“I worked with a group called the Arts Health Institute. They employed about 80 musos and actors and clowns – all sorts of people across the board to do musical and humour therapy. They did quite a lot of training, and ongoing training around delivering their programs. We were in there, not as entertainers, but as therapists,” he explains.

“There was a lot of research done into people that have dementia being able to become cognitive after listening to music. It ignites all these parts of the brain that basically shut down. Music lights up more of the brain than anything else (because of) all the connections it makes.”

Singing also releases the feel-good compounds of dopamines and serotonin in the brain when you sing, says Tim, putting singers onto a natural high.

Tim marvelled when he saw firsthand how music could coax a dementia patient’s memory and speech back to life.

“In music therapy, staff would say, ‘don’t bother with them, they haven’t spoken in years’. They would suddenly be able to put their clothes on, get out of the room and not be so anxious. You sing a song from their time/era, then suddenly they start singing. Then they start talking.”

What a rewarding experience!

This got Tim thinking: “We should be doing this music therapy with people before they have dementia. Why is there not more communal singing? Why is there not more singing in general?”

And so the idea of SING was spawned.

“I saw a spot in the market, something between pub choir and karaoke that is accessible for people. It draws on something that we have kind of lost touch with as a result of having all this technology – even television and radio.”

Having long admired Jem’s guitar skills, Tim knew Jem was the right person to buddy with to bring the gig together.

Personally, I think both have made the right choice.

The eclectic mix of their skills creates a wonderful synergy that endears them to the crowd. Tim loves to ham it up, feeding off the energy of the crowd, while the perpetual grin on Jem’s face suggests there is a mischievous conspiracy going on between the two.

So if you want to end your weekend on a high, pop on down to Maleny Lane, 38 Maple Street, Maleny at 3pm on a Sunday afternoon. Song books are provided and there’s something for everyone, regardless of age and music tastes. The session runs until 5pm and is weather dependent (see Maleny Lane Facebook page for updates). Entry is $5.



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