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Ladies who lunch

Australian vocal ensemble Coco’s Lunch one of four world class acts in Festival Vancouver at Whistler series

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By Shelley Arnusch

Who: Coco’s Lunch

What: Festival Vancouver at Whistler performance series

Where: MY Millennium Place

When: Friday, Aug. 5, 8 p.m.

Jacq Gawler’s voice is like a lullaby. Never before has the Australian accent sounded as comforting and gentle as peach cobbler, the ubiquitous Aussie “yeahs” like sighs.

What would five of these voices sound like, blended together in perfect harmony?

Those that come by Millennium Place on Friday evening will find out when Gawler and the other four members of Coco’s Lunch — an Australian all-female vocal/percussion ensemble — take the stage.

The compulsion to associate Gawler’s voice with a baked dessert seems less farfetched when she reveals that food has always been an important component of the 10-year-old Melbourne-based group’s creative life.

It’s the root of the name, in fact.

According to Gawler, the group formed out of a regular gathering of jazz-trained musicians at a certain Café Coco in Melbourne.

“The gals would hang out, eat and sing together,” Gawler explains. “In their diaries it would say something like: Coco’s — lunch.”

Gawler wasn’t around for those early Coco’s lunches. Group founders Lisa Young and Sue Johnson are the only two of the five current singers who have been in the ensemble from the start.

But the current lineup hasn’t changed for the past eight years and Gawler says it looks to stay that way.

“We really think we’ve found the members that we want to be singing with for a long time,” she adds.

Compatibility is a key element of Coco’s Lunch. The group use their voices as instruments, layering harmonies and making use of sound in its purest forms, which is intertwined with poetic lyrics. Often the compositions, which draw from musical styles across the board, from classical to classic gospel to traditional aboriginal, are sung in made-up language.

“Most of us have a background in an instrument or a couple of instruments,” Gawler says, “so I think the original idea of Sue and Lisa when they founded the group is to work with voices, but from that instrumental improvised angle. They wanted to form an ensemble that had an instrumental feel to it but used voice in a really creative way.”

Even for trained musicians vocal compatibility isn’t something that can be summoned at will. Gawler says over the past eight years, the current group has developed a connection that has become the essence of Coco’s Lunch.

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