Nick Barker-Pendree is on a mission to add a bit of spice and a dash of Razzle Dazzle to the world of traditional female choirs with his newly formed group The Decibelles. Aussie Theatre's Clare Pickering caught up with this multi-talented performer to chat about his latest adventure.
Nick Barker-Pendree has many strings to his bow – opera singer, actor, voice over artist and model. He has performed all over the world in theatre, comedy, opera, musicals, film, television and catwalk modelling.
Along with his talents as a performer, Barker-Pendree was the co-founder, manager and singer of LOW REZ Melbourne Male Choir from 2008-2010. He is also the co-founder and current cast-member of the Whistling Vicar Theatre Company.
Now, Barker-Pendree is adding another string to his bow as founder, manager, artistic director and conductor of an all female pop choir called The Decibelles.
So how did this multi-talented and versatile performer end up in charge of an all female pop choir?
Barker-Pendree explains that it was a combination of two things. First was the success of LOW REZ and the spirit amongst the choir members. Equally important was his personal need for a new challenge.
After completing a five day Masterclass in conducting and repertoire at ACCET (Australian Choral Conductors Education and Training), as well as a Church Conductor’s course, Barker-Pendree began his quest to create the sister choir to LOW REZ. While LOW REZ is a gay male choir, Barker-Pendree wanted the new choir to follow his mission statement of 'celebrating womanhood by uniting women from diverse backgrounds, race and sexuality to raise the spirit and inspire the soul through music and song.'
Coming up with a name for the choir was an important step in launching the new group. Having realised his original name of OctavePussy might not be so well received, Barker-Pendree enlisted the help of Facebook friends by putting surveys on line. After a process of elimination, he finally settled on The Decibelles.
Sourcing members for his new choir was mostly achieved on line and through word of mouth.
“There isn’t an audition process as such. It is not a requirement that you read music but you must not be tone deaf! This means that you can hold a tune and sing back a note that you hear. Upon joining, choir members are given a voice assessment to determine whether they are alto, mezzo or soprano. It is also not a requirement to have prior choir or singing experience. Enthusiasm is more important and a commitment to learning music and having fun”, explains Barker-Pendree.
Choosing songs for the choir to perform was the next task. Barker-Pendree asked the members to suggest three songs that they wanted to sing.
“I liked the idea of being open to the opportunity of singing songs that might not necessarily seem right to begin with; that are not normally considered appropriate for a choir.”
When I asked why he decided to form a choir, as opposed to a smaller group or band, Barker-Pendree explained that it is the special sense of community and spirit created by a choir; it demands that singers work together to create a single impact on their audience. Barker-Pendree believes, along with the likes of Delta Goodrum, that singing is about connecting music to the soul. “This is the essence of a choir”, he says. “Community choirs do it. Professional choirs tend to lose that uniqueness; that joyful experience to create music in a group environment.”
Having witnessed his conducting style first hand, it is evident to me that Barker-Pendree is a master in performance, theatre and music and it's these talents that shine through when he steps into his role as conductor. He brings his own comedic theatrics to life with flare, humour and wit and leads this extraordinary group of women on a journey the audience won't forget.
On a more serious note, The Decibelles are donating a portion of their ticket sales to the Ovarian Cancer Foundation. Barker-Pendree confesses that he had little knowledge of this disease and it was only after one of the Decibelle members asked that donations be contributed to this foundation, that he learned about the devastating affects ovarian cancer has on the lives of so many women and their families.
With the gifted Joe Melling on piano and multi-talented Minna Ikonen as assistant director, choreographer and arranger, Barker-Pendree has brought together an incredibly talented group of women to perform a diverse range of songs from Pink to Amy Winehouse to Adele. And as a tribute to the group that inspired Barker-Pendree to form The Decibelles, LOW REZ will be performing with them at their first ever concert.
Barker-Pendree has big dreams beyond The Decibelles' first performance in June. He hopes profits from these shows will enable him “to be able to pay for arrangers to come in and do the arrangements for the next half of the year. That is an expensive exercise so if there are any businesses out there that want to donate, they can!”
Don't miss The Decibelles as they launch you into the stratosphere with a show that is out of this world!
June 22nd, 3pm – preview concert at The St Kilda Parish Mission Uniting Church in St Kilda East.
June 23rd, 3pm – main concert at The Deakin Edge, Federation Square.
This concert will also be hosted by Melissa Hetherington.
For more information and tickets go to www.thedecibelles.org