IT'S A BRIGHT EVENING, and a dozen spirited anarchists, activists, and artists at Sunnyside park belt out the old Woodie Guthrie song, "Union Maifd." A few more arrive to sing the next tune in their zine-like songbook. It's in German and English and a woman instructs the newcomers to "sing the German part in an old lady church falsetto."

Maybe you've seen The Amalgated Everlasting Union Chorus Local 824--singing under the Morrison bridge in support of political prisoners in the United States; at grand jury hearings of local activists; at a benefit for the Portland Free Mumia campaign; at the Powell's unionizing rally; astride their bicycles in Critical Mass; in drag at the Maul's Last Stand, before the dyke-owned bar was gentrified out of NE. Their eclectic repertoire includes union and radical protest songs from the United States and elsewhere, Lorretta Lynn tunes and feminist ballads from sources like Guthrie and Lynn, Utah Phillips and Wanda Jackson.

The youngest member, Mina Lavender, 10, explains the chorus is "more fun to sing with than to listen to." But the chorus isn't only fun to listen to; they sound good, putting on impressive shows and proving the point that "Everybody can sing, everybody should sing, there shouldn't be any hang-ups about perfection."

The chorus was conceived in 1997 as a presentation for the History Show, an all-ages extravaganza that was one punk's effort to fight the gentrification of Portland's NE side. The idea was simple: teach radical labor history through songs.

Since then, the group has fluctuated between several and several dozen members. The group's current incarnation came together to sing at last year's WTO protests. "We put up fliers and spread the word and got about 40 people who wanted to sing in Seattle," says original member Moe Bowstern. "This group is a distillation of that."

There are no auditions--anyone can join the chorus, whose motto is "subversion through friendliness."

"The chorus is an entity unto itself," Moe says. "It can be anything you want it to be."

For more information, contact: The Amalgamated Everlasting Union Chorus Local 824, P.O. Box 6834, Portland, OR 97228; chorus@foment.net n