A study led by researchers from Griffith University has found that symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can be improved with regular singing.
Over 70 patients participated in the study run through Queensland Conservatorium of Music, which incorporated singing, warm ups, vocal cord and breathing exercises, to learn more about ‘how song could help battle the disease’, improving mobility and the overall quality of life.
It didn’t matter how well participants in the study could carry a tune, they simply had to commit to singing one hour each week for six months.
All of the patients involved in the trial reported an increase in self confidence and well being from taking part. Tremors associated with the disease were also reduced in some singers.
The outcomes and findings reaffirm, once again, the broad range of benefits to the individual in belonging to a community singing group or choir.
It repeats on you only in positive ways and doesn’t get stuck in your teeth
It’s more effective than mistletoe in bringing people together
Music doesn’t kill your fingers all the way home from the shops in a bag about to break
It’s perfect shared with friends and there’s always enough to go around
It’s eco-friendly! Singing and music making requires neither wrapping nor cellotape
Music won’t sit around gathering dust and is brilliant to re-gift
Your jeans may fit even better after a month of singing and musical indulgence
Instead of breaking after five minutes, it gets better and lasts a lifetime
No ransacking of the house is necessary for batteries or dice
Making music and singing is good for the heart, soul, health and well-being of yourself, your pals, your Aunty Sheila, and your community too
3 ways to give the gift of music and song with Community Music Victoria (we’ve got this covered):
Sign up your family, friends and neighbours to the CMVic monthly giving circle for a gift that gives all year
Renew your annual membership to Community Music Victoria for twelve months of music making benefits, including membership discounts on all events, camps and workshop bookings, and a range of wonderful resources
Make a one-off donation to Community Music Victoria. All donations over $2 are tax deductible so you’ll get another little gift in June.
Music is better made together:
Any donation you make can help ensure that more singing and instrumental music leaders get the skills they need to establish more groups, and that special projects like Voices of Peace, StreetSounds, Singing from Country, and That Girl can bring more music to more people who need it in their lives.
Sarah Mandie is a Melbourne based singer songwriter and the mother of two young girls. These two highly personal and defining elements of her life are brought into sharp focus though her new project, That Girl, and it is from her unequivocal belief in the potential of each and her passion for both, that this project has come about at all.
That Girl is a song and a music video dance project that invites participation from girls and women of all ages from Wodonga, Yarra Ranges and Boroondara. The song and the project arising from it was conceived by Sarah as a creative way to empower women and girls in communities everywhere. It’s strong, it’s beautiful and it carries a positive message about the need for society to respect ‘that girl’: That girl who is our daughter, our mother, our wife.
Sarah wrote the song three years ago following a series of distressing news reports and around the time of the brutal killing of two young girls in India. The alleged perpetrators of the crime bribed police and were released without charge. It was a story that horrified people around the world and resonated particularly deeply with Sarah who has a connection with Rajasthan through her Indian husband and her daughters, too.
“When this happened to these girls in India it made me think about my girls, their futures and their safety which then extends out to all girls, from all countries. I was so angry and upset, I wanted to do something that would make a difference in the world.
Because I love the medium of music and song, I thought it would be really good to write a song that talked about those issues, a song that contributes to the prevention of violence.”
Channelling these negative feelings of anger and helplessness into a positive act of creativity was tough but worthwhile. It took Sarah a long time to get the song right, for the lyrics to say what she wanted them to without the song being something people wouldn’t want to listen to. Sarah wanted to write a strong song, and knew that finding the right ‘catch’ was crucial for the message to be carried.
“I think the challenge in writing a song about a difficult issue is that you want to acknowledge the issue but at the same time have a positive frame around it so that people will want to sing it and listen to it and be inspired by it… a song to promote change needs to be attractive for people to listen to and want to sing.”
During the early stages, Sarah was struck by frustration as she realised what a craft it is to write this type of song:
“Sometimes we write a song that comes from within and we trust the processes of creativity but with this song it went through a few changes because I really wanted the end product to be something positive and something people would respond well to.”
Jamie Saxe stepped in to help Sarah nail the end: “Jamie took the song and created real magic with it through his arrangement and production of the instrumentation.”
Saxe’s enthusiasm to be involved reiterated to Sarah the power of her song and its potential to deliver broadly within the context of a wide scale project: What had inspired her was now beginning to inspire the other people coming into contact with the song and feeling similarly moved by the importance of the cause. The shape of the project became clear on completion of the song: Involve girls from the community in learning the song and making of a video to accompany it, then take the completed package out to the world as an empowering catalyst for awareness and change.
“I want That Girl to change the future for my daughters and for all daughters, it’s a hugely personal thing.”
Sarah’s personal and familial connections with India inspired her to translate the chorus into Hindi, bringing the feminine energy of the divinity Shakti into the song: “That girl is the one that gives life, she has the power, that girl is Shakti. Whilst India has high levels of gender based violence, as Sarah is quick to point out, the need for greater levels of respect and the creation of safe environments for girls and women is necessary everywhere.
The first phase of That Girl begins on December 2nd, with an information session inviting women and girls of all ages from within the Indian and Bhutanese communities in Wodonga to join a dance workshop to be held in February next year to embody the Hindi element of the song. The dance routine they will learn in that workshop has already been choreographed and recorded and now needs bringing to life:
“I want all genders to feature in the final video, however the workshops are an opportunity for women and girls to come together to find strength and focus through working together. Once the song goes out there, boys and men will be involved with the project too as part of the awareness.”
For the time being, Sarah is reluctant to share That Girl song beyond the context of the project but given the significance and the urgency of the issue it addresses and the brilliant catchiness of the composition it’s unlikely to stay under wraps very long. And as That Girl emerges and gains exposure and momentum, the world will be a better place for having heard it and the power of the message it conveys.
“… the fish in the river, the clouds in the sky,
the wattles and gum trees that grow up so high
the kookaburra singing so gaily and free
good morning to you and good morning to me…”
from the Good Morning song* by Woody Clark
Woody Clark dreams of a world where families find time to make music as they go about their lives together. Over the past fifteen years or more, Woody has been working to build a catalogue of songs and resources available to parents and carers to turn this vision into reality and help integrate the rich experience of intergenerational singing and playing into the familial tapestry of homes and lives across Australia.
For Woody, the value is in ‘creating music rather than consuming it’ and, where possible, within a familiar setting involving children, parents or carers, grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins…
“Make music relevant and engaging and something that’s just part of the fabric of the household rather than something external to that, find the means to utilise it in your life in a way that will bring expression and joy, or whatever that might be.”
Woody’s own three kids have collaborated with him on musical projects, co-written songs for his album, and in recent years toured as part of the family band ‘Woody’s World’. This includes his parents, folk singer-songwriters Kate Townsend and Dave Clark. Woody’s World played at many regional festivals and events in 2016, including Adelaide Festival Centre, Melbourne Cabaret Festival and Ukulele Festivals, Pt Fairy Folk Festival and Mt Beauty Music Festival.
Woody remembers feeling surprised by the excitement of former classmates in recalling the novelty of a school teacher who would sing and play guitar to them during art classes. For Woody who grew up in a household where music-making was a normal and assumed part of daily life, this occurrence was familiar and common to him. He realised as an adult, the experience at school had evaporated from his memory as something unremarkable tends to.
Years later as a father and classroom teacher himself, Woody is using his experience and knowledge as a songwriter and musician to uphold the tradition set by his own background, advocating for the benefits and joys of the style of unplugged family music-making he’s enjoyed in his own life.
Woody’s tips for anyone who’s keen to encourage kids to make music are:
Model the behaviour and expose your kids to live music-making.
Have a guitar or ukulele sitting on the couch and build music into your day, for example sing a morning song*, or sing a song before you eat your food, or a bedtime song.
Make it fun! A lot of music education is serious and focuses on the classical side, so if you can show kids that learning and making music can be really fun and engaging too, you’re half way there.
“I’m not putting pressure on my kids to be musicians but if when they leave home, they can play instruments, have some appreciation of the language of music, it’s accessible for them and they can express themselves, then I’ll feel I’ve done my job in that regard.”
As a way to facilitate integrated music-making in the home, Woody runs 8 week ukulele classes teaching kids aged from 5-12 years and their grandparents, parents or guardians, to play the instrument together. In doing so, Woody’s observed the positive benefits and effects that intergenerational learning brings:
“The parents who model the behaviour, doing weekly practise with their kids really upskill in the ukulele, they come back the next week and they’re both excited; they can play that new chord or they can do the new strumming technique. By the end of the 8 weeks instead of the uke being a foreign object that they are wondering how to hold and tune, they are learning to speak that language.”
Next year Woody will take this course online, making it available as a learning resource for kids, parents and carers, everywhere. “It’ll be a kind of crash course in how to learn the basics and there’ll also be an opportunity to play along with Woody’s World during our live shows.” The course will provide footage recorded by Woody for all L-plate ukers to strum along to for practise in their own time. Woody describes it as ‘an integrated project, and a preparatory engagement experience.’
Woody has been working towards this point for a long time having coordinated a number of musical projects, including reKINDle, a response to the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009 and he’s dedicated to continuing this momentum around family music making and taking it onwards: “I’ve been developing my ideas around family music participation for well over a decade. I am passionate about music and how it can connect families and communities and through my upbringing and my teaching and my work with my own kids, it feels like all these strands are coming together.”
Article by Deb Carveth, online editor for Community Music Victoria, and Woody Clark.
* Woody’s Good morning song is available online! Download the lyrics and mp3 here for freeeee! You can also download the chords and to complete the experience, there’s a colour-in poster to download, print off and complete as you learn the song.
Woody’s debut album is available from his website which includes wonderful family collaborations. Check it out here here. You can keep up to date with his activities on his Facebook Page
Listen and learn ‘Catch the leaves’ a song written by Woody’s daughter when she was 7 years old.
“This particular campaign focussed on Adani has really mobilised people across political parties, across age groups and demographics. They’re worried about their children and they’re worried about their grandchildren and what they’re going to inherit…Singing about it gives anyone feeling powerless and outraged a way to feel better and join with other people who feel the same.”
If you were in Melbourne’s Fed Square last Saturday evening, chances are you’ll have heard the recently re-formed Melbourne Climate Choir in action on stage as part of their quest to raise awareness of the ongoing ‘Stop Adani’ campaign.
The Climate Choir first came together two years ago, formed by community musician and activist Jeannie Marsh, in collaboration with the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) to bring a singing component to the People’s Climate March. Jeannie was aware of the need for accessible, catchy songs and simple call and response material for the choir to sing on the steps of the State library and along the Climate March route, as an alternative to the throat-wrecking cry of ‘what do we want, when do we want it.’
In her quest, Jeannie unearthed not only the extensive array of tune-age available on the Carbon Canaries website but also dug up Do it Now, a re-working of Bella Ciao, an Italian Partisan song popular in the Union movement and arranged by an ‘excellent’ group of choral activists based in Belgium, called Sing for the Climate.
“Their version of the song comes with all the resources you could possibly need to use at a rally or action: sheet music, instrumental parts, lyrics sheets, different keys, etc and it’s one of the most powerful and catchy pieces of “protest art” I have ever seen”, says Jeannie. “We have sung this song repeatedly at many events around Melbourne, and people always love it.” Do it Now is an urgent plea to world leaders to commit to ‘reducing carbon emissions, year on year, and highlights the need for strong leadership on climate change to put a stop on the devastation it brings to the world.’
Jeannie has found the song’s structure works really well in a protest setting because it’s bouncy, it’s fun, people know the tune and it’s easy to pick up and sing along to:
We need to wake up We need to wise up We need to open our eyes and do it now, now, now! We need to build a better future And we need to start right now…
“It’s incredibly powerful to be there standing on the steps of the state library with a choir of forty people, an accordion and a trombone and people say that they find it very positive because, you know, Climate Change is a depressing topic…”
Th increased presence of Stop Adani campaigns in the press over the past year or so and the depressing prospect of Australia leading us all into a fossil-fuelled future re-ignited in Jeannie a desire to bring members of the Melbourne Climate Choir back together with a renewed sense of purpose, tuning in once more to the work of the ACF and the group of community singing activists reformed earlier this year:
“I saw all these actions around the place and in politicians’ offices and just thought ‘isn’t that great’ and that maybe it was time to get singing again.”
Jeannie put the word out to all the people who’d identified themselves previously through the work with the ACF in 2015 and before long had a flock of songbirds congregating to sing ‘Do it Now’ outside the office of Josh Frydenberg, Federal MP for Kooyong and Minister for Resources and Energy. Jeannie recalls the event as being ‘really joyful.’
“There was an accordion, the media turned up, people gave speeches, there were plenty of placards and people with banners all processing across the middle of busy Camberwell Junction (where Frydenberg’s office is based). Passers-by were blowing their horns and waving in solidarity. So, I then decided to take up an offer from the ACF to use a room and go through some other songs.”
Jeannie continues, “this particular campaign focussed on Adani has really mobilised people across political parties, across age groups and demographics. They’re worried about their children and they’re worried about their grandchildren and what they’re going to inherit…Singing about it gives anyone feeling powerless and outraged a way to feel better and join with other people who feel the same.”
The Climate Choir has collated a sheet of songs using material from the Carbon Canaries, including Why dig up coal..to the tune of YMCA complete with all the actions, and Love and Marriage as you’ve never heard it before, the words of which go something like ‘Reefs and fossil fuels, reefs and fossil fuels, go together like babies and power tools…Jeannie feels that ultimately it’s about keeping things fun but being heard about a subject which incites passion in people who would otherwise feel disempowered:
“Community Choirs are such a huge thing in Melbourne. You can really make noise and it’s beautiful and it’s uplifting and it’s ultimately empowering.”
Written by Deb Carveth, online editor for Community Music Victoria with Jeannie Marsh
*Feature photograph and all photographs in this article were taken by Julian Meehan for the Melbourne Branch of ‘Stop Adani’ at the screening of Guarding the Galilee in Federation Square, Melbourne, Saturday September 16th, 2017
If the ongoing issues surrounding climate change and the proposed Adani Coal mine leave you wanting to blow your top we’ve unearthed a way to help channel that frustration and anger into inspiration and joy. Let us begin. Pop a coin into your cerebral jukebox and select the tune to the chorus of the Abba song Fernando substituting the words penned by Bjorn, Agnetha and co with the following:
There’s more carbon in the air each night We’ve got to fight Adani Causing climate change for you and me It’s planet’ry Adani And we know that we must never lose The stage is set We’ll occupy your office suite Until you’re beat Adani…
Great isn’t it? Spirits depressed and deflated by overwhelming environmental concerns are momentarily lifted and buoyed with the added bonus that the familiar tune makes it an easy song to pick up and join in with in no time: empower yourself and others by engaging in a spot of choral activism and sing out against climate change. And there’s plenty more material where that came from, including for traditional folkies ‘Stop Adani Stop the mine’ to the tune of Oh my darling Clementine, guaranteed to stick firmly in ears everywhere:
Stop Adani, Stop Adani, Stop Adaaaani, Stop the mine Shouldn’t aughta poison water It’s an order – Stop the Mine
Clever and simple, these songs are addictive and accessible and are the work of two radically minded musician/activists from Queensland and NSW, Jenny Fitzgibbon and Paul Spencer, who have together created Carbon Canaries, an online song resource ‘enabling people everywhere to sing out for climate action with songs that ‘poke fun at fossils & fuelish humans, celebrate renewables of all genders and make choirs spring up at an action or staffroom near you.’
To date, Carbon Canaries have parodied and posted the tunes of 35 well-known songs re-writing the lyrics to reflect, as Paul writes, ‘the human experience of the social change movement and of living in a world that’s so beautiful, so alarming and so inspiring all at the same time.’
Jenny is motivated by the desire to offer protesters and climate campaigners a source of ‘joy and energy’ and to enable people everywhere.
The Carbon Canaries’ website provides all the tools group facilitators could wish for to get singing for positive change. Song sheets and tunes are available to download as well as backing tracks and videos of Carbon Canaries’ songs and climate inspired parodies of songs by other activists, such as the superb Specials-inspired ‘A Message to you Turnbull‘ by Melbourne’s Glorious Rabble led by Stephen Taberner and accompanied by the Horns of Justice, (below). In the spirit of solidarity, Carbon Canaries resources don’t cost the earth, in fact they are all available absolutely free, although visitors to the site are invited to support their great work by donation.
One hundred years ago, Australians voted not once but twice against conscription, on October 28th 1916 and again on 20 December 1917 in referendums called by the Prime minister, Billy Hughes. The referendums bitterly divided the nation, with pro-conscription and anti-conscription campaigners spreading their messages in speeches, songs, huge public meetings, articles, and rallies.
An ardent advocate for peace at this time was a young woman named Adela Pankhurst. Adela was banished to Australia by her mother, the famous suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, who as a supporter of Britain’s role in WW1 was vehemently and unforgivingly opposed to the views of her daughter.
Dispatched on a one-way ticket down under, Adela continued her work as an activist and leader in the anti-conscription movement. As 1917 drew to a close, she was arrested following a women’s anti-war march in Melbourne and sent to Pentridge Prison in Coburg. On the evening of January 7, 1918, a group of Adela’s supporters met together outside of the women’s prison to serenade her over the walls.
According to newspaper reports from the time, the group ‘from 40 to 60 persons, understood to be Socialists, and a majority of them women’ sang together in a bid to raise Adela’s spirits and to pledge their solidarity and support. Singing Solidarity for Ever, The Red Flag and We’ll keep Australia Free, “salvos of cheers repeated again and again and the whole gathering at a given signal joined in a coo-ee…” By the time the police arrived, the mob had grown to around 300.
To commemorate the centenary of this event, singers and community musicians will again take their voices and music to the street in January as part of Serenading Adela, a street opera written to tell the story of the widespread campaign for peace so under-represented in commemorations of the period, with specific focus on the moving story of the singing mob who serenaded Adela that night.
On January 7, 2018, a one off performance of Serenading Adela will begin with a musical march through Coburg, culminating in a mass sing and performance outside Pentridge Prison: a musical echo and re-enactment of a moment in time as well as a testament to the life, courage and inspiring legacy of Adela, anti-war activism and the anti-conscription movement in Australia.
Community choirs, individual singers and instrumentalists everywhere are invited to join the mass choir or street band and be a part of Serenading Adela. Participation is free, anyone is welcome and no prior singing experience is needed. (See end of article for registration info.)
The project is an outcome of the work of the Brunswick Coburg Anti-Conscription Centenary, formed in the Northern suburbs a couple of years ago to record, remember and commemorate the successful anti-conscription campaigns of WW1.
“We’re writing this to tell the story of Adela, in solidarity with Adela but also to encourage people in these times to use singing as a form of protest…choral activism, just as they did 100 years ago.”
With funding from Creative Victoria a small team have been organising and planning January’s event, including Community Music Activist Jeannie Marsh who is the artistic director, Brunswick based Nancy Atkin, Emily Hayes, Dave Evans, and singer/actor Lisa-Marie Parker (playing Adela).
In writing for Adela, Jeannie has read articles written by women who were vehement in their opposition to conscription and the Great War, and has also spent a swathe of time acquainting herself further with the character of Adela Pankhurst, scouring antique books and researching to give a depth to the musical portrayal of her character:
“She was a fearless ball of energy and apparently a riveting public speaker who drew people to her. There are records of 30,000 people turning up to peace rallies held on the banks of the Yarra… Adela was brought up in this radical family but then expelled by Emmeline from the suffragette family for being too radical. On moving to Melbourne, Adela was taken under the wing of Vida Goldstein and embraced by her pacifist tribe. This street opera is dedicated to singing the story of Adela’s life, and the story of these activists, and keeping it alive.”
Last year as a prelude to the street opera, Community Choir leader and composer, Stephen Taberner, wrote a hauntingly beautiful choral song called ‘Ghosts don’t Lie’. The song was inspired by two workshops held in 2016 for local people in Brunswick and Coburg to share memories of the way wars and conscription have impacted and reverberated through the lives and course of their families and its lasting effects.
Ghosts Don’t lie is comprised of four verses each telling a different story. The song was premiered at the Boite Singers Festival in January 2017 where it was hailed as beautiful and moving work, and will now form a component of Serenading Adela.
Rehearsals for the main choir will start at 3pm on Sunday 3rd September led by Jeannie Marsh, and Brunswick Rogues choir leader Emily Hayes or, for anyone pressed for time there’s the option of waiting until December and joining as a member of the ‘Unruly Mob’. The Victorian Trade Union Choir are already committed to the project, as well as the fifty people who formed the Serenading Adela Choir to sing Ghosts Don’t Lie.
In Serenading Adela the past will be palpable and spines will tingle as words and recollections of one hundred years previous are sung into the ether of Brunswick and Coburg by community music activists in celebration of the legacy of Adela Pankhurst and her comrades, and with ongoing hope for peace in the world.
Written by Deb Carveth, online editor for Community Music Victoria with Jeannie Marsh.
TAKE PART in Serenading Adela by making a (free) booking here
For information about rehearsals for Serenading Adela, click here
Click here for Ghosts don’t lie: resources to help learn the song written by Stephen Taberner.
The ‘mighty’ Murtoa Stick Shed stands majestically against the open skies of the Wimmera, built in 1941 as a solution for grain storage during the World War II wheat glut, when exports were restricted. The shed was originally one of three, built using logs of rainforest mountain ash and of those three is the only one still standing, saved by the people in the local town of Murtoa who recognised the cultural significance and uniqueness of the building.
“When you get inside the shed you get an extraordinary feeling about it that’s hard to explain, says Judith Welsh, chair of the committee of management for the Murtoa Stick Shed, “It is five Olympic swimming pools long, over three storeys high and contains 560 poles or ‘sticks’ and is known as the Cathedral of the Wimmera because of its cathedral like quality.”
In 2016, after many years of lobbying with support from Heritage Victoria, the Stick Shed was finally handed back to the community and Judith is optimistic this will put Murtoa firmly on the map in more ways than one:
“We’re in the middle of the Wimmera and what we would call the Silo Trail. The Stick Shed is significant not only as a tourist attraction for Murtoa but for all of the nearby small towns too; if you come to one, you come to all.”
In October this year, Murtoa will host its annual festival, ‘The Big Weekend’ and for the first time the committee of management and the town will have operation of the Stick Shed.
To reflect the ambience and the glory of the building, Judith and the management committee are now working to build an event which will bring voices into the shed for the first time to sing, celebrate and enjoy the building and to give back to the community the experience of a concert, open to everyone and hopefully involving local choirs from Horsham, Stawell and surrounding areas.
“We want an event that anyone can join in on but that gives local choirs the singers from the Wimmera an opportunity to perform as part of a massed choir, as well.”
What Judith needs now is to find enough voices to supplement the number of local singers and help fill this great space, built to hold 100,000 tonnes of wheat.
To do this, a proposed workshop component is planned to encourage participation from singers of all abilities to come and be part of the event. Judith and the committee areseeking expressions of interest from any local singing facilitators happy to volunteer their time to run a workshop session and help bring life to their vision of a massed sing in the Stick Shed.
An invitation is also extended to any other choirs and singing groups willing to make the journey to Murtoa on Saturday October 7th, to sing alongside the local community groups and join in this unique and exceptional experience.
As a singer with the Melbourne Women’s Choir as well as numerous other choirs, Judith knows first-hand that singing is a fabulous thing to do:
“It’s uplifting for the person singing and it’s uplifting for the person hearing it and we want to be able to do something for the people in these communities and to tell the story of the shed. “
Written by Deb Carveth for Community Music Victoria with Judith Welsh from the Murtoa Stick Shed Committee of Management
**If you are a singing leader who can help Judith with the workshop, or who would like to involve your own singing group or choir in the event as part of ‘The Big Weekend’, please contact the Murtoa Stick Shed Committee of Management via email at email@example.com or call 03 5385 2422
Foundation House is an organisation set up to help refugees and migrants who are survivors of torture in other countries, assisting them with settlement services and connecting them with other organisations such as AMES on arrival in Australia. It is also the starting point in this story of a group of Chaldean Christian women who have hopes of becoming the Assyrian Women’s Choir.
The Assyrian Women’s group is a group of Chaldean women who have fled persecution and torture in Iraq and Syria. Persecuted for being Christian and for speaking a different language, these women have been migrating to safety in Australia to begin a new life for more than twenty years, and they keep coming.
Whenever new refugees or migrants arrive, the women mobilise themselves into a welcome committee, travelling out to the airport. They help the new arrivals to find their feet in this foreign country where for many of them, language is a barrier. Every Friday, the women meet to sing and cook food together, sharing stories of their lives, old and new, as well as offering skills and support to each other. They are from places in Iraq we’ve all heard about in the news, and they know the pain of conflict, displacement, persecution and loss.
A strong love for singing their traditional Arabic and Chaldean folk songs exists between the women, and this is how Sarah Mandie, Diversity Coordinator with Community Music Victoria came to be involved in their journey.
Sarah approached Foundation House to offer skills and support to the staff and community to in her capacity as a singing leader and facilitator. Carolyn Wilson, one of the senior counsellors there, immediately thought of the Chaldean Christian Women’s group and arranged for Sarah and CMVic’s Coordinator, Oli Hinton, to meet with them. Translator and Foundation house worker, Dr Salam Dankha, made communication possible. At the first meeting, Oli and Sarah were welcomed with traditional food and songs, and a bond was formed. In 2017 a further two sessions were planned for Sarah to work with the group ahead of their participation at the International Women’s Day celebrations, at Dianella Health in Craigieburn.
During the first session, the women chose to sing two songs: one, an Iraqi song about the beauty of Iraqi women, and the second a folk song about courtship and the relevance of bringing gifts for the girl. Their enthusiasm was evident and they conveyed their hopes of galvanising the group into something with a more formal structure which would enable them to preserve and share the music as messengers of their culture and as advocates for peace in the wider community.
Sarah has been enabling the women to find a focus and they have plans to write a song together, an anthem unique to the group, written around universal morals and themes such as peace, as part of their journey of healing, participation and empowerment.
The next phase is to obtain the funding necessary for Sarah to continue her work with the Assyrian women because, as she says, “I’ve already developed a relationship with them, and it’s a good one.” Supporting the group in selecting a repertoire and helping them to develop the structure they need to become a sustainable choir constitutes part of a proposed new CMVic led project called ‘Voices of Peace‘.
“It’s about giving the leaders already in place within the Assyrian community some skills and structure to use, it’s also about support in identifying potential new leaders and it’s about assistance with sustainability.” as well as offering suggestions and feedback around how the songs are sung: “It’s one thing for the women to sit and sing music of their culture together but in order to get out and share the material, some guidance is necessary.”
While the group is comprised solely of Assyrian women, these women are open to everyone, no matter where they are from. They don’t have any barriers around ethnicity, religion, etc. Instead, there is open-ness, recognition and acceptance of difference:
“They just understand…I told them I have an Indian husband, and that I’m Jewish and it created this openness, I mean, we’re all just different aren’t we, and we want to get along.”
This is the focus and purpose of the group: to sing their music, celebrate and preserve their unique culture and through sharing this love of it with others, to create greater harmony and understanding in society, improving mental and physical health and well-being along the way on the road to recovery.
As part of the International Women’s Day event, there was a fashion parade and it was a chance for everyone to get dressed up and a celebration for all women, from all cultures. “The Assyrian women came out wearing jewelled gowns, and having a wonderful time with the Indian women; celebrating being women.”
As the Assyrian Women’s Choir, these women will find new opportunities and ways to meet people, make connections and friendships, to share and celebrate where they are from and and to participate and contribute to the richness of the diverse, inclusive and safe society they have found themselves part of.
Listen to an early session with the Assyrian Women’s group, here.
Written by Deb Carveth with Sarah Mandie for Community Music Victoria
‘The great thing about events that get people together is the fact that they get people together!’ says Betty McLaughlin, Gippsland based community music activist and founder of the Gippsland Singers Weekend at Wilson’s Prom. It was reading about the success of the 2016 gathering in October last year which inspired this conversation with Betty as encouragement to anyone out there looking to consolidate a sustainable, regional network of community music makers and wondering how to go about it.
So step this way into the CMVic time machine and buckle up because we’re going back to 2008, when community singing leader Betty McLaughlin was the regional catalyst for Gippsland region as part of Community Music Victoria’s Victoria Sings program.
One of the final things Betty did during this particularly active phase of her involvement with the program was to arrange a Singing Leaders gathering for all Gippsland based leaders at Wilsons Prom. Working together with Jane Coker and Fay White, Betty planned a gathering with a deep inbuilt purpose at its heart: to seed something ongoing between local community singing leaders and participants.
The event was open to anyone interested in making singing happen in their community.
Incorporated into the program was a Sunday session especially designed to create a more formally recognised network of singing leaders in Gippsland. And so what began as a roomful of individuals brought together by their shared values and vision ended as the newly galvanised Gippsland Singers Network, established to encourage and promote Community Singing in the Gippsland Region through mutual support, skill and repertoire sharing. Betty believes hundreds of singers and leaders are now active under the umbrella of the GSN, which she describes laughingly as a ‘loose affiliation’.
Twelve months after that first weekend, the group reconvened, again dedicating an entire weekend to singing and networking together at the Prom with support from Community Music Victoria, and this pattern has continued successfully over the past eight years, galvanising into a regular annual event in the music making calendar.
The Wilson’s Prom weekend has remained a primary focus of the Gippsland Singers Network, with a fresh committee formed each year to organise the event. Occasional one day workshops are held within Gippsland, as well as a couple of Big Sings to raise the funds required to keep the GSN alive and to allow the event at the prom to be supported by money other than that raised through attendance.
Looking back, Betty considers the following factors contributed to the ease with which the Gippsland Singers Network took off:
Support: It wasn’t only Community Music Victoria who offered support to the GSN in its fledgling form. The Gippsland Acoustic Music Club has been a massive support to the GSN too. Barb Brabets who at that time was president of the GAMC was part of the formation of the GSN back during that first weekend on the prom and brought her experience of involvement with a community organisation formed back in 1982 to encourage acoustic music making in the Gippsland Region.
Find your tribe: It was having a catalyst role with CMVic that encouraged Betty to go and find out who and where people were singing. As she says, having this title and association ‘gave me the credibility to go and knock on doors and introduce myself to people like Jenny Candy who leads groups in the Eastern area of Gippsland’. Betty’s reputation spread further through attending the GAMC’s annual a cappella festival in August where Lyndal Chambers introduced her to everyone as the CMVic Catalyst for that region, putting a face to the name and placing Betty firmly on the community music map as somebody to contact. Anyone contacting the CMVic office wanting to start a singing group in the Gippsland region would also get a call from Betty who reflects fondly “It was a wonderful role, it was a to-die-for role.”
Hold an event “It keeps it alive and people have such a good time there together.” The great thing about events that get people together is the fact that one, they get people together! And two, it gives you a focus.
In the case of the GSN, a new committee forms each year during the last session of the weekend. This is a fantastic way to ensure that the ball keeps rolling and prevents over commitment and burn out from occurring.
Have structure: In keeping the last session of the weekend free to organise the following year’s team, the GSN ensures continuity, a handover and everyone’s clear about what needs to be done, by when and by whom.
A personal by-product of Betty’s involvement with the GSN was the inspiration to return to full-time music study which she did in 2012 having never previously considered herself ‘a musician’. Betty headed back to uni to study composition, a step that required her to reduce her organisational involvement with the GSN. Her great ground work and the collaborative model adopted by the network from the outset ensured its sustainability.
In Betty’s words, “the great thing about having to leave, was that it allowed the GSN to be taken on further and for more leadership to show up in that network.”
Article by Deb Carveth with Betty McLaughlin
Further reading/ references.
Sing Yarra Ranges: ‘Sing Yarra Ranges aims to be a network for singers and singing leaders based in the Dandenong Ranges and Yarra Valley (Australia). The network is part of the “Up Hill, Down Dale” project which was funded by a grant from the Shire of Yarra Ranges. Sing Yarra Ranges is currently inviting people who “live, work and play” in the shire to join them in establishing the network. They would like to hear from all singers and singing leaders to find out what YOU think the region needs in order to make singing a valued part of cultural life in our community.’
CMVic North East: A FB space for people from North East Victoria and surrounds to share information and collaborate regarding community music making events and activities.
Gippsland Acoustic Music Club: The Gippsland Acoustic Music Club Inc aims to encourage acoustic music in the Gippsland region. We support the development of local musicians’ skills as well as providing concert opportunities.