All posts by CMVic

Community Music Victoria is a not for profit, membership based organisation working to support, promote and facilitate community music-making across Victorian communities. We run singing and music leadership skills programs as well as offering mentoring and support to anybody looking to start a group. We conduct workshops and residential weekends where people can get together to sing and make music in a safe and non-judgemental environment. Sounds good doesn’t it? You can read as much or as little as you like about the organisation, by hopping on our website

the calming influence of a single song

 the calming influence of a single songLast week the CMVic blog received a comment from Castlemaine singing leader and champion of community music making, Jane Thompson. What Jane wrote was just too good to leave tagged on the end of another post, so we’ve turned it into a blog entry in its own right that we can share far and wide with you all. We hope you find it inspiring, too.

“I have been meaning to contact you to let you know about some singing that happened spontaneously recently … I may as well write something right now!! Here goes… I attended the Bendigo Magistrates Court recently to support a group of people who were arrested and charged with trespass, for peacefully protesting about asylum seeker children in detention. After repeatedly requesting a meeting or conversation with their local Senator to talk about this issue, and their calls, letters and emails never being answered, they decided to sit peacefully in her office until she agreed to talk with them. The court was packed, every seat was filled and quite a few of us were standing at the back and we were waiting for about three quarters of an hour for the magistrate to arrive and get started. It was quite noisy with everyone talking; those who had been charged were sitting quietly at the front, and standing in front of them was a group of about nine police officers, all uniformed and armed; they made quite an imposing presence; the people facing charges looked tense and stressed.

I suddenly thought it might be a good thing to start singing, and Polly Christie’s beautiful song ‘What is peace to you’ sprang to mind – so I started to sing quietly.

People nearby turned to look, and gradually a few joined in, then the court went completely silent apart from the singing. We sang softly for about five or ten minutes; I didn’t want to disturb the court proceedings in any way through singing, so stopped before the magistrate came in to start the session.

After we stopped the atmosphere in the court was quite different – it stayed quiet, and seemed much more peaceful. There was quite a lot of media coverage of the event, and apparently every report mentioned the singing – that ‘people were singing about calling for compassion’.

After considering the case, and hearing a statement from the group, the magistrate decided that all charges should be dropped. There was much relief all round. However, the group has still not been granted an opportunity to speak to the local Senator about the issue of children of asylum seekers, being held in detention. (The words for Polly’s song are ‘What is peace to you; we are calling compassion for all; ’cause everybody got a right to a safe home’ It’s in Short Stuff, that essential companion for singing leaders!). ”

What a great testimony to the positive power of song. Get in touch with Community Music Victoria if you have a story to celebrate, an insight, discovery or experience to share with other people passionate about strengthening society through music and we’ll make sure it gets seen. After all, that’s what this blog is about!

The joy of song swaps: singing leader Barb McFarlane sings out

Vokallista Community ChoirThe Dandenong hills are alive with the sound of music but there’s no sign of the Von Trapps in any of the tea shops, anyone running is probably just late for Puffing Billy not making a dash for the Swiss border, and for lonely goatherds there are open mic nights and online forums. How times have changed… Much of the music ringing around these green hills is community music, championed and facilitated by, among others, Barb McFarlane, a long time community music activist and valued supporter of Community Music Victoria.

Barb recently dropped us a line in response to a blog post about Song Swaps: “Song Swaps are my favouritest CMVic short activity! I love that you never know what will be presented and I always come away with some new gems, some new ideas and the warm glow of connecting with others who love gathering people to sing.”

Ooh, now who doesn’t love a bit of positive feedback? It spreads happiness and comfort like butter on hot toast. So, getting a little greedy, we pursued Barb shamelessly with questions about her style and approach to singing leadership that she was good enough to answer with further reflection on why she loves Song Swaps so much, as well as offering some insight into her own musical journey, which began at a young age.

“I remember sitting at the piano, striking notes one at a time and putting my ear close to the keys and waiting ’til I couldn’t hear the note ringing before playing the next one. Also making melodies with no end. When I was a bit older, I’d pretend I was Julie Andrews and sing songs from the Sound of Music. I was sure I sounded just like her! Many school holidays visiting with cousins where we’d all sing songs we’d learned at Guides, Sunday school or School remind me of SongSwaps!”

So what was it that made Barb decide to become a Singing Leader? I realised that I didn’t get much pleasure out of performing and was embarrassed by praise. I felt there was something I was missing, a realisation about the thoughts and feelings that audience members had, that seemed to make them think they couldn’t do what I was doing. It bothered me that over the years, people said things that seemed to put performers above themselves. It was like finding gold when I realised that I could help empower people to sing without judgment and with no audience but the circle of other singers.

Barb leads two weekly Sing for Fun groups that are inclusive of people of all abilities, a Strum and Sing Ukulele group and a Community Choir called VoKallista, which she started in 2009 and runs with assistance from Libby Price. Vokallista is an open, performing choir who sing a variety of material that Barb describes as dealing with themes such as social justice “and the fascinating challenges of being human.” She leads sings at many community events and festivals such as The Hills and finds that people really love to celebrate!

VoKallista has been going for a while now; how do you keep it evolving and what do you think is the secret of its success? VoKallista evolved from a caroling group I was leading. We’d all troup around nursing homes and the like in the busy lead-up to Christmas, instead of being swallowed up by the craziness. I think the kind of people we are has led the style and subjects of music and then we’ve attracted more people who like our songs and are similarly community minded, like to live more simply, are very caring of the environment and keen on social justice, peace and equality among human beings. So maybe the ‘secret’ has been that ‘like attracts like’! Having an Assistant Director in Libby Price has been invaluable. I’ve had someone to talk through difficult stuff with, as well as lots of the practical things running a choir calls for.

I credit the circle formation that I’ve learned to work in, with much of the success of the model of Sing for Fun, otherwise known as Vocal Nosh. (I don’t do food!) Without words each participant is saying “you are welcome, you are one of us, you have value as a person, we are all equal, we are on the same team, however you are today is fine, I can see you, I can hear you and let’s create something beautiful together.” CMVic have given this amazing gift to the community by teaching this model to all Singing Leaders who have come to them and taken this back into their communities. Working in a circle is, for me, the most important element to the success of any singing group but so many of the basic singing leadership skills have become my second language as I see how easy they make the learning of a song for people.

CMVic has been Mothership to me and I have developed further skills and confidence to lead a group in song. I receive such wonderful support and encouragement from CMVic to continue to skill share and song share with other leaders and this keeps my practice very fresh and keeps me inspired and energised! CMVic members are like my musical family.

The songs I’ve collected from Song Swaps that I treasure most and use most are the little shorties, such as ‘After the Journey’ by Laura Brearley:

After the journey

“After the journey

there’s always the rest,

time to be quiet and blessed”

What is it about short songs that makes them so effective to teach a group? The thing about these songs is that they are easily passed on….to other Leaders to use and then to groups of people who may be singing for the first time in their adult life or who have not had many opportunities to sing. The song messages are often very nurturing, reassuring and inspiring and, because they are usually repeated many times and because some are rounds, we tend to go away with the songs stuck in our heads. This can sometimes override other less helpful stuff that may be going on in our heads! I love ear worms!

Do you think more people are turning to community music making in greater numbers as a way of reaching out and connecting with one another? Oh Yes!! I love to see the friendships and connections that are made through a regular sing for fun. I love to hear people’s stories and know that they have found a place to be where whatever they sound like is fine, where there is lots of non-verbal communication through laughter and grimaces, little teams clinging together to stay on their part, eye rolling as my ‘secretary’ is once again sacked for a funny typo. I choose songs that will encourage a positive thought or two, funny songs and songs that are beautiful with just two parts so that people may feel that they are the creators.

I reckon that all times have their difficulties but the time we live in now calls for strengthened, tightly woven communities who will be able to pull together when needed.

What do you like to do when you’re not singing and music making? I read a lot. I love a good chat and a walk in the forest. I also get involved in Community events.

Finally, if you were let loose in one of the many tasty cake shops nestled in those hills, which tasty treat would be in the most danger? Lemon Meringue pie!

Barb’s community choir have struck lucky in having her as their leader, something they’re probably highly aware of as they continue to try and determine the human condition and sing to bring awareness, change and enrichment to the lives of themselves and of others. Huge thanks to Barb for playing ball and giving her time and energy to this post. The song ‘After the journey’ is published here, courtesy of Laura Brearley and is taken from the CMVic publication ‘Short Stuff’.

For information about Vokallista, click here or visit their Facebook page

Interview with Barb McFarlane by Deb Carveth, Online Editor for CMVic

Tuning In: an alternative approach to music leadership

150306uklaimersLeading a music group can bring challenges as well as rewards, but how do you anticipate those pitfalls, read the signs and assess the harmony when you can’t see?

Phil Chalker is a musician and music leader from Gippsland who co-runs ukulele and song writing workshops, encourages people to find their voice and organises Big Sing sessions too. When he was five years old, Phil was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, an inherited degenerative eye disease that causes vision impairment and, in severe cases like Phil’s, blindness.

Phil feels his personal experience and frustration of a mainstream education system which was ill equipped to deal with his needs has made him more mindful of the importance of being inclusive and remaining aware of group dynamics. It has influenced his preferred style of teaching and underpinned his desire to ensure that everyone feels at ease, within a group context, too.

Mentoring by fellow Gippsland musician, teacher and CMVic stalwart, Jane Coker, has assisted Phil in developing the skills necessary to facilitate and lead a group. Jane succeeded where various schools had previously failed, in successfully recognizing what Phil needs to learn and develop in a way that suits him. “Jane understands and inspires me…she makes me feel relaxed. She’ll say, ‘don’t tell me you can’t do it because I know you can do it.’ ”

A couple of years ago, Jane and Phil established The Uklaimers, a ukulele group for beginners and players of all abilities in Morwell. Co-running the group with Jane allowed Phil to observe her teaching methods whilst developing his own style in a supportive environment as he took the first steps in his goal towards autonomous leadership of a community music group.

In addition to the usual challenges faced by group facilitators, Phil has to consider how to tackle his inability to respond to visual prompts, relying instead on his aural ability to detect issues such as fingers in the wrong place or the wrong chord being strummed. 

Tuning up the instruments for beginner students is also tricky, but Phil gets around this problem by using a talking tuner.

Establishing good communication is vital to everybody in getting the most out of a workshop session and Phil gets a huge amount from feeling that he is enabling people to try new things and share the experience of learning with him.

“I use oral cues such as ‘I do understand/ I don’t understand’. I make people turn the paper over and not look at it so that they learn the blind way. You can’t rely on reading the dots cos you can’t see them”.  

In addition to his music making, Phil is a tireless campaigner seeking to challenge the status quo about rights and access to the kind of things able-bodied people take for granted in life. Phil recently tried to organize a Big Sing for visually impaired and blind people, but had to cancel due to a disappointing lack of interest.

“Blind people are isolated. I’m trying to run workshops and uke workshops that include them but am not getting any responses.”

But instead of feeling defeated, Phil is more interested in finding out the reasons behind this. And he would like the seeing music making community to be mindful of the fact that blind people – including himself – are reluctant to attend events for fear of being a burden. ”You need to understand a blind person’s needs and the barriers faced by the blind community like transport to and from an event, for example.”

Phil is a regular on the Traralgon busking circuit, frequently playing his ukulele around the town. As a child he would listen to Elvis and his bedroom walls were covered in posters of the King but it wasn’t until his late teens that he was interested in playing. Picking up a 12 string guitar whilst on work experience in a music store, Phil found he enjoyed singing along with the instrument and finding his own harmonies.

With his personal musical seam well and truly tapped, Phil took his guitar to a Club Wild session run by Phil Heuzenroeder. He announced that he was “a muso just starting out” and found himself playing on stage that same night. This not only made him “so happy”, it encouraged him to believe in his ability.

One thing Phil used to worry about was doubting that people’s positive response to his playing was genuine appreciation of what they were hearing and not because they felt sorry for him: “Having a disability makes you question whether people are clapping through kindness or clapping cos you’re good… are they clapping for me or clapping for Roddy?” (Phil’s dog).

Phil’s story is a testimony to the importance and value of mentorship, skill sharing and support. Jane Coker and Phil Heuzenroeder were key people in his journey who met him head on and encouraged him to pursue his passion to teach and make music. In turn, Phil is himself a keen advocate of the work done by CanDo Musos, who support musicians with challenges, all over the world. He also runs Gippsland Disability Social Group.

So, if you or anyone you know is feeling dejected about overcoming a challenge, point them in the direction of Phil’s website. The strength of his spirit and determination to make the world sit up and take notice of him as a visually impaired music teacher, working to enable other people, is abundantly clear. And there’s information about how to take part in the Big Sing sessions he is planning to run over the course of the coming year, too.

Deb Carveth with Philip Chalker. February 2015

Photos courtesy of Philip Chalker and LV Express (Tom Morris)




New Year, new resources for Singing Leaders!

Singing with logo

Here we are, almost half way through February and the summer holidays feel well and truly behind us. Thong-fit feet have been rounded up and shoved grudgingly back into shoes, but the back of the car remains defiantly full of sand and the days are still golden and long.

February feels like the month when things start to happen and take shape, the new year shakes out its tail feathers and finally finds its groove. School’s back, there’s a cool edge to the mornings and it’s not only smooth-fronted notebooks with pristine spines and pens WITH LIDS that are the order of the day. It’s all about seizing the sense of awakening and potential that accompanies new beginnings and fresh starts.

And perhaps for singing leaders looking to embrace the optimism that swept in on the coat tails of 2015, now’s the perfect time to sing out and celebrate life with some different songs. So! How would you like to source some great new material to sing with your group?

Well look no further, because we have found some for you, and it’s right here!

CânSing is a Welsh based organisation working in the UK to raise the profile and standard of singing across Wales. Whilst they work mainly with schools to deliver their program, they have heaps of resources available to share and download from their website, which they encourage use of ‘by anyone in any location’ in the true spirit of community music making. High five, CânSing.

You’ll have to choose whether to navigate the site in Welsh or English and once you’ve done that, you’ll find Call and Response Songs, Echo Songs, Rounds, 2 and 3 part harmony songs, and a stack of others to choose from, too. They also grade the material in terms of accessibility giving you the choice of Easy, Intermediate or Challenging. Not only that, but you can very easily pick a theme from the list, which is given at the side of the home page. So, if you’ve promised your mob a sea shanty, but the mere thought of singing ‘the drunken sailor’ has you heading for the poop deck, the CânSing site can help.

Listen to a song, and you’ll then have the option of downloading a pdf of the score and the lyrics, as well as mp3 rehearsal and parts tracks, and there is also support for teaching the song from interactive HTMLs. We think that’s pretty special and far too amazing a resource not to share with you all.

Sign up and keep reading the CMVic blog for further new links to other useful repertoire resources for leaders of community music, as we find them. Hop onto the CMVic website for a comprehensive list of the ones we’ve compiled to date, and do let us know if you know of one that we’ve missed.

In the meantime, here’s a link to a song for you all called ‘The Song of the Elements’ which is a teaching song about the elements of music written by Aled Lloyd Davies and Robat Arwyn, courtesy of CânSing. It was introduced to us here at CMVic following our Treetops music camp, held in May, last year. (NB it’s from the ‘challenging’ section of the website.)

Big thanks to Maurie for starting all of this off, and here’s to another community music filled year. Let us know how you go!

Deb Carveth

Online Editor, Community Music Victoria. February 2015

End of year wrap

2014 A year of music making to rememberDepending how you look at life, Community Music Victoria is winding down/gearing up for the holidays. The serviettes and paper plates have been counted out, the glasses are on ice and the end of year party happens this weekend. And what a year it has been!

Now if you’re waiting for us to share some great turkey cooking tips or table setting layout ideas, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Neither can we advise you on how to gift-wrap like a pro. This time of year has a tendency to get a little crazy, as we all know.

It’s easy to over indulge and what starts out as fun can impact negatively on our mental and physical health and well-being, so we instead we’re focusing on ways to avoid seasonal burn out using, you guessed it, a spot of community music making.

Instead of knocking yourself out shopping and cooking, how about pausing to draw breath?

Try a spot of mindfulness and reflect on all the positives that have presented over the past year. Invite a group of relatives, friends or neighbours over to sing some songs and make some music together. Add food into the equation and both your body and soul will be nurtured. December 21st is the summer solstice when the sun reaches its highest point in its journey across the Australian sky and is the perfect time to sing and play late into the lightest night.

Heatbeats match when we sing togetherThe effects of music making will have a calming effect as you release endorphins and feel genuinely connected with those around you as your heartbeats align through the act of singing together. And that’s not all! Your immunity will be boosted too. A study at the University of Frankfurt in 2004 found that the concentration of a protein called Immunoglobin A was found to significantly increase in singers during a 60 minute rehearsal of Mozart’s Requiem. This stuff is an antibody that works to fight off the multiplication of microbes in the body.

Levels of hydrocortisone, an anti stress hormone, was also found to have increased in the singers during the course of the same study. Sounds like the perfect come down to a day spent schlepping around the shops in search of a pink-python printed collar for the cat’s stocking. And it won’t leave you with a headache.

Are you convinced yet? Well here’s another thought: It’s pretty tricky to eat whilst making music, so while we recommend blending the two activities, the more you sing and play the less chance you’ll have to scoff those party pies and nobody really wants sausage roll crumbs and dropped cake adorning their instrument. However please note, we can’t be held accountable for what you drink to keep your reed moist or your whistle wetted; you’re on your own there kiddoes. Let us know how you go…

Before we release you back into the wilds of December, if you’re reading this, then you’re one of the many people who have signed up to our new blog and we thank each and every one of you for joining us on this journey and for the comments and feedback over the past few months.

It feels great to engage with you all. Dina Theodoropoulos was key in getting this blog up and running and at the end of the year she moves on from her current post as Communications Coordinator for Community Music Victoria. We owe her masses for the fantastic work she has done in presenting our outward face to the world so darned well.

Finally, don’t forget, we welcome material about your experiences as community music makers and activists and would love to hear about your own musical traditions for marking this time of year. Wishing you all peace and joy for the holidays and good things for 2015.

Deb Carveth
Online Editor for Community Music Victoria

How a Singing Comet captured the imaginations of the masses:

The comet is singing

Article written by Deb Carveth

So community singing has reached space with news a week ago about the song emitting from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Comet 67P has been chased through space for the past ten years by the Rosetta spacecraft in a bid by scientists to better understand the origin of the world and maybe even ‘the origin of life itself’1 and scientists charting the voyage have now reported that this amalgamation of frozen leftovers from the formation of the planets and the sun, is singing.

Social media has been caught up in the romantic notion of this comet calling out to Rosetta across the stars, the moons and all of the cosmos, as it hurtles towards the sun. Articles and speculation about the strange sounds have been trending and a recording of Rosetta’s song on soundcloud has been played more than 1.8 million times at the time of writing.

But what is going on? Has Comet 67P had enough of being brushed off as a ‘dirty snowball’* and decided to share with the world what comets do to entertain themselves as they traverse the universe?

Selecting what to sing along to is a vital component of any road trip, after all. Is it the kooky song of an ancient but optimistic gas ball looking to hook up and discuss space matter(s)? Nope, as with the creation of all sound, what it boils down to, is science, baby. Science and maths.

Albert Einstein once said that “Everything is determined by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust – we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.”2

The sounds coming from 67P are thought to be oscillations in the magnetic field surrounding the comet and were picked up by Rosetta’s onboard instruments once the spacecraft drew within 100km of 67P. Scientists believe that the sounds are being created by the comet’s activity, ‘perhaps as it releases neutral particles into space where they become electrically charged, or ionized.’3 But possibly the most magical fact to emerge from these reports is that “the exact physical mechanism behind the oscillations remains a mystery.’4 And it is beautiful! (Its frequencies have been increased 10,000 times to make it audible to our merely human ears.)

All sound created and emitted in the course of our music making is formed through vibration, oscillation and sound waves and is all a part of the music of the cosmos because “matter is a wave structure of Space and all matter vibrates and has a resonant frequency.” The pitch of the note is dictated by the frequency of the vibration. Got that?!

For most of us though, intrigue in the singing comet most likely stems from a desire to indulge the romantic side of our souls and abandon scientific theory in contemplating the notion of singing in space. We look to the skies and the stars to feel release and to escape, for a moment, the constraints of being earthbound.

How nice it would be and what a comfort to think that somewhere out there, somewhere cold and foreign and impossibly distant, there is something as reassuring and familiar as song.

*just for the record, if there isn’t already a cocktail out there called ‘a dirty snowball, there darned well should be!

artists impression of the singing comet. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/Navcam

1″The Rosetta mission has a potential for making spectacular discoveries about the origin of the world and, perhaps, about the origin of life itself,” French astrophysicist Professor Jean-Pierre Bibring. Quote from Albert Einstein “On Mathematics and Music: The Wave Structure of Matter in Space.”

3: November 11. 2014

4: November 11 2014

Rhythm and Hum – The instinct to create and respond to rhythm is universal.

The instinct to create and respond to rhythm is univeral

The instinct to create and respond to rhythm is universal. A heavy bass sound vibrates our vessels and moves our being, quite literally; we are 60% water, after all. In his book, ‘Bug Music’, David Rothenberg writes: “all of human social interaction can be seen as a swirling journey through overlapping senses of rhythm.”1 Somebody in my house will tap or drum on anything that comes to hand and at times it’s like living with an infestation of termites, but more about that later.

 Rhythm and drum patterns have been woven into the fabric of life since the dawn of time. For some cultures, drumming holds great historical and symbolic importance that transcends music making for music’s sake. It was used as a highly effective form of communication, conveying messages for miles across open terrain, way, way WAY before anyone had heard of radio or twitter being used to broadcast news.

In the 1830s, European colonialists visiting countries in Africa wrote of their amazement at discovering that their arrival and movement between tribes and communities was rarely unexpected with the news having been broadcast ahead of them using drum telegraphy, at speeds of up to 100 miles an hour. (160km/h) 2

During the same period in Europe, the most speedy form of communication was the Chappe Telegraph which transmitted signals via a system of flags based on semaphore and compared with the efficiency of the African drumming patterns, dragged its heels in delivering messages at a measly 47km an hour.3

When Africans were captured and forcibly removed to the British and French Caribbean, West African talking drums 4 were banned by the slave traders and plantation owners who were confused and undermined by their inability to decipher and decode the complexity of the rhythms used by the Ghanaians and Nigerians to communicate with each other. There was fear that the drums could be used to incite rebellion among those held in captivity and cause an uprising.

 Of course, humans aren’t the only ones to use rhythm and beats to inform, warn and convey messages between each other. The insect world is rife with rhythm, and David Rothenberg argues that “as humans, we got our ideas of all things rhythmic and percussive, from the world of insect sounds that surround us: “the rhythms of insects bind us to the landscape, the warm waft of early autumn, a smile at the season’s march… and the most important thing about them is that they may be the very source of our interest in rhythm, the beat, the regular thrum.”5

Returning to Africa, there is a species of fungus-growing termite (Macrotermes natalensis) that live in the Savannah where they build huge turreted mounds from the red sand to conceal vast complex networks of far reaching underground tunnels. These lead to the chambers where they cultivate their food source and must be protected.5

Like most insect communities, there is a hierarchical structure in place and soldier termites are stationed to stand guard over these sandy empires. If a hungry aardvark or other threat to the mound is perceived, the soldier termites bang their heads into the ground at a rapid rate of eleven times a second causing a vibration capable of travelling a whopping 40 centimetres. Continuation of the signal is conveyed in a rippling Mexican wave effect as other soldier termites pick up the vibe and adopt the rhythmic head banging.

In this way, the vibration conveying the message of danger spreads at a rapid 1.3 metres a second along the tunnels, worker termites return to their stations back inside the mound and through this inimitable use of rhythm, their little metropolis continues to function and its population exists, unscathed.

While the use of rhythm by termites is arguably not community music making in the strictest sense, it stands as an effective method of communication, is vital in maintaining a sense of cohesion and is integral to the survival of the colony, so in essence, it isn’t far off the mark. And the vibrations created carry on, rippling into the ether and imperceptibly influencing the movements and biorhythms of us all.

If you would like to find out more about drumming and percussion classes near you, check the CMVic website

Written by Deb Carveth,CMVic Online Editor


1: ‘Bug Music’ How Insects gave us Rhythm and Noise by David Rothenberg. Published by Picador, 2013. P 109

2: The Times Literary Supplement: The life of information, from drums to Wikipedia, by Ernest Davis

3: ibid

4: The ‘talking drum’, heralds from West Africa, specifically Nigeria and Ghana. Shaped like a wooden hour-glass with a head at each end connected by strings running down the length of the body end and a tapered centre, the talking drum is played with a curved stick to mimic the tone, inflection and cadence of human speech. It was used originally to communicate messages between villages.

5: ‘Bug Music’ ibid. p2

5: New Scientist: Headbanging termite drummers sound the alarm by Linda Geddes, 07 August 2013


Pollyphonics 6 min documentary – The start of a great musical journey

Give people an opportunity to feel good - Polly Christie, Pollyphonics Choir Leader

Polly has shared this video on our CMVic facebook page and we thought it was a fantastic example of how powerful music can be in connecting with others.  Runs for 6 minutes and offers a great insight into the many benefits of community music from both a leader’s and participant’s perspectives.

Here’s a little of what’s covered.

  • Deciding to become a leader
  • Where to start a group
  • Objectives
  • Fee structure
  • Going from being the conductor, facilitator, coordinator to introducing section leaders
  • Challenges

Here’s what the choir participants had to say

I got my mojo back

When I come here I know that I’ll feel so much better

It’s the start of a great musical journey

This link will take you to the video:  Pollyphonics Choir documentary Sep 2014

Documentary created by Rebecca Fitzgibbon for her music course at Northern Melbourne, Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Australia.

The Pollyphonics Choir is located in Woodend, Victoria Australia

Article by CMVic Team

Singers are sexy! singing together makes you happier, healthier and sexier! But where are all the men?

Singing is Sexy, Where are all the men?

**Photo by Spring Studio.

The health benefits of singing are well-documented and widely accepted – singing together makes you happier, healthier and sexier! But where are all the men?

Women all over Melbourne have discovered these secrets and join choirs in droves, now it’s time for the blokes!

Singing means deep breathing, increased blood flow and more oxygen is circulated throughout your body. Endorphins, the brain’s “feel good” chemicals are released and your mood is elevated – the stresses of the day slip away.

Your brain may also function better as singing may help form new neural connections making you feel more confident and alert as you blow away your work-day cobwebs.

As you sing and move and get into the groove, you get the same positive physical effects as exercise but without expensive gym memberships and designer trainers.

But, best of all, as you sing, oxytocin, the “bonding” hormone is increased making you ready to meet new people, form friendships and possibly more! Surely, if you are happier, calmer, friendlier, healthier and more confident that will lead to more success in the bedroom department?

So, can you croon a tune like Michael Bublé?  Can you belt it like Bon Jovi?  If not, don’t despair,  you don’t need to be a superstar. If you can hold a note,  join a choir. Choirs are good for your soul and better for your love life. Even if you’re lacking in musical prowess many choirs don’t require auditions or expect you to read music.

Article written by Elizabeth Donaldson
Elizabeth Donaldson has been with Melbourne Singers of Gospel (MSG) for over four years and just loves the elation she gets from singing, the friendships she has made and is very proud to be committed to a choir that produces such amazing results.

Melbourne Singers of Gospel (MSG) located in Melbourne, Australia.
They are a secular soul, blues and gospel choir and there is always space for more men! They also host  “Music in Me”, MSG’s annual gala performance with funky house band, The Soul Train, at South Melbourne Town Hall on Nov 15 Check them out at:

Get singing, get happy.

Want more evidence of the benefits of singing together? Check out previous post ‘All in a Heart Beat’ 

Music as a ‘reminiscence tool’


My grandfather would have been 90 on Saturday had he not passed away from complications caused by dementia, at the age of 89. We lost him gradually as his mind depleted like the slow undoing of a complex jigsaw.
Some days, he’d be bright as a button and we’d have renewed hope for some sort of hiatus. Other days, he recognised nobody, was unable to feed himself, had forgotten how to chew. One of the things he responded to continually throughout his illness, were songs from his youth and early adulthood, which seemed to act as prompts or keys to temporarily unlock parts of his memory.

 The use of music as a ‘reminiscence tool’ is widely recognised by professionals working to support people with Alzheimer’s, and research has been conducted to gain a better understanding and insight into the extent to which it can help.

In 2013 at the Society of Neuroscience Conference held in Chicago, Associate Professor Dr Jane Flinn from George Mason University, USA, presented findings from a study that concluded ‘people with dementia who took part in regular singing sessions showed improvements in their brain function.’1

Flinn’s study involved 45 people aged between 70-99 living with moderate to severe dementia. They were divided up into groups of singers and groups of listeners, attending three fifty minute singing sessions each week at their care home, over a period of four months. They were given a range of familiar material from shows, including Somewhere over the rainbow, The Sound of Music and When you wish upon a star.

What set this study apart wasn’t the evidence that listening to music improves well-being and imposes a state of calm, it was the marked difference between outcome for the participants who listened and those who actually sang throughout the course of the study. At the outset, patients were tested to determine their levels of cognitive ability and life satisfaction, and ratings were not dissimilar across the group. By the end of the study an obvious shift had occurred and in re-tests, the singers’ scores were significantly higher, suggesting that through regular singing, brain performance among dementia sufferers is enhanced.

Dr Flinn’s colleague, Linda Maguire who co-lead the study, summarized the findings as …”showing that participation in an active singing program for an extended period of time can improve cognition in patients with moderate to severe dementia..”2 Following the study, Dr Flinn suggested “that care homes that did not hold group singing sessions should consider them because they were cheap, entertaining and beneficial for patients with Alzheimer’s”3

With more of us living longer there is increasing susceptibility to the cruel, debilitating dissolution of ones self and ones memory. In Australia a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s every six minutes and it is estimated that a further 1.2 million people are involved in the care of somebody suffering from dementia.4 . Had we known to encourage my grandfather to participate in regular singing sessions from the onset of his disease, he may have been able to increase his defences and shore up his sea walls to keep the eroding waves of dementia at bay a little longer.

1:As cited in Dementia News for Alzhiemer’s Australia by Ian McDonald Dec 02 2013
2:The Independent Newspaper, Monday 11 November 2013
3:Ian Sample, Science Correspondent for The Guardian 13.11.13
4:Source: Alzheimer’s Australia

For information, advice and support about Alzheimer’s contact Alzheimer’s Australia.

To find a singing group near you, contact Community Music Victoria

Written by Deb Carveth
CMVic Online Editor