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June 20, 2008

Howlers bring down the House

Australian Broadcasting Corporation(ABC):

Believe it or not, even the hard hitting political reporters at the Parliament House Press Gallery need a break. The House Howlers are a group of journalists, newsroom staff and party staffers who find the best way to let off steam after work is to gather together and sing biting political satire a cappella.

Karen Middleton, SBS Chief political Correspondent says all of their professional competition is set aside in favour of performing some cleverly written tunes, parodying some of Australia's political heavyweights, "We find it a bit of a creative outlet. Sometimes I think you can push the envelope a little bit further in song than you can perhaps in a serious broadcast or a newspaper."

Prominent characters such as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, former prime minister John Howard, Shadow Treasurer Malcolm Turnbull, Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson and Greens Leader Bob Brown can't escape the Howlers' lampooning.

"Mostly we sing songs about people but occasionally we do them about issues, when we feel strongly about them," Karen says. This is especially evident in their song War Time, a tongue-in-cheek ditty about the war in Iraq, performed to the tune of Rawhide.

The House Howlers sounds like an exclusive and prestigious group, but long-time member Steve Lewis, National Affairs Correspondent for News Limited, says that the audition process is relatively informal. "People hear about the Howlers, we are world famous of course, and they come up to us and beg to join and we normally say 'That's ok, you've got to bring a good bottle of wine or a six pack of beer'," jokes Lewis, "We are Journalists after all!"

"We say, 'Can you sing?' and they say, 'No,' and we say, 'No worries, come along Tuesday night'," adds Karen.

Taking the mickey out of authority is held as an intrinsic part of Australian culture but the Howlers do attempt to exercise some balance. "We do try and be fair," says Karen, "if we have a go at someone on one side then we'll generally look for someone on the other side to have a go at... and we don't spare the minor parties either!"

The House Howlers were warmly received by packed crowds at both of their National Folk Festival performances. At their debut on Saturday, Steve Lewis assured the audience they tried to be impartial but he did note that the stage did seem to been leaning a little to the left...

Posted by acapnews at June 20, 2008 12:00 AM


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