Choirs are not cool, right? Wrong. Glasgow 50-strong vocal ensemble The Parsonage have played at festivals including Indian Summer and Connect, contributed to Echo and the Bunnymen’s forthcoming new album and recorded an EP for release on Optimo’s Oscarr imprint. Most impressively, they’ve sung backing vocals live onstage at Hampden for Rod Stewart. Yes, Rod Stewart.
But then, The Parsonage aren’t your average bunch of Songs of Praise-style warblers. Formed by choir-mistress Janis F Murray following a drunken conversation, and named after the baddest angel of them all, Gram Parsons, the group take their inspiration from the raw storytelling simplicity of the folk, country and blues traditions, and update them for 21st century ears.
Their diverse repertoire at present includes Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, Jefferson Airplane’s ‘White Rabbit’ and Robert Burns’ ‘The Slaves Lament’, as well as traditional numbers ‘900 Miles’ and ‘There Stands the Glass’. Given bespoke choral workovers, they’re each transformed into haunting, threadbare laments, breezy, swaying swoons and all else in between.
Part of The Parsonage’s line up reads like a cross section of Glasgow’s hipster crème de la crème, with artists, writers and musicians – including members of the bands Foxface, Mother and the Addicts and Bricolage – all involved. It’s a far from exclusive club, however: carers, scientists, hairdressers and even lowly old music journalists are all in the mixer too. As the choir put it themselves, they’re a ‘non-religious, mixed sex, varied of age, determinedly independent and self-defining organic group’. Now that’s cool. (Malcolm Jack)
Stereo, Glasgow, Sat 1 Dec