“At a time when many people are feeling isolated and disconnected, it is an important reminder that we are going through this experience together. There are many ways we can be here for each other and connect, even across distance.” – Laura Brearley
Something wonderful and ridiculous took place a few weeks ago during the depths of the first COVID lockdown. Community music leaders from Inverloch, Lyndal Chambers and Brian ‘Strat’ Strating, brought people together from far and wide and led a Virtual Street Band Parade. It was colourful, joyful and totally absurd.
Normally, at the end of May, Community Music Victoria (CMVic) hosts a Music Camp at Grantville. People of all ages and levels of musical ability come together for a weekend of music-sharing, workshops and performances. The Music Camp always culminates in a Street Band Parade in which people dress up, play music and parade their way around the camping ground.
The times we live in are far from normal, and so this year, the CMVic Music Camp was conducted on-line. Up for the challenge, Lyndal and Strat led the Street Band Parade in front of a computer screen in their lounge room. The experience broke through the two-dimensions of Zoom with its small boxes of seemingly disembodied faces. It was a testament to their years of experience leading Street Bands down real roads, that they were able to pull it off. It also revealed the sense of fun in the community and their willingness to experiment playfully in the virtual world. Most of all, it demonstrated the power of music to bring people together.
Lyndal and Strat have long understood this. Generosity and warmth have been underpinning principles of their community music practice throughout their lives.
‘Music is the universal language’ says Strat. ‘Music touches us in the heart and so then we connect. It’s about the access and welcome, the inclusivity of making music together.’ Lyndal also believes that music is a unifying force. ‘Music ties people together’, she says. ‘Music brings a sense of joy and life and connection.’
Even against the backdrop of the suffering and sorrow of the pandemic, an experience like this reminds us of our resilience and our capacity for joy. At a time when many people are feeling isolated and disconnected, it is an important reminder that we are going through this experience together. There are many ways we can be here for each other and connect, even across distance.
In the words of the nineteenth century English novelist, George Eliot ‘What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?’
Terry Melvin’s short film ‘The Extraordinary Virtual Street Band Parade’ can be seen below and on the following links:
As the tentative optimism emerging for some community music groups in term 3 was crushed by COVID once more, devising a resource to support leaders to facilitate online music making or to squeeze the most out of their current online practice became a priority. Saddened by the clipped wings of songbirds and the frustration of instrumentalists playing alone into the ether almost everywhere, CMVic began working on the development of resources to support an online take off as a way for groups to keep connected.
The result is a fantastic, seven page, website resource called Leading Community Music Online, researched and written by CMVic’s newly appointed tech advisor, Craig Barrie. Together with his partner, Nicki Johnson, Craig has been singing and strumming and keeping the spirits and morale of community music-makers raised up through lockdown since the very start of this corona-induced hullaballoo. Offering multiple online opportunities for people to participate and engage through his work with Nicki as part of All the Way Home, With One Voice Greater Dandenong, and as an independent music teacher, has required Craig to experiment extensively and continually refine what he’s found works best and what is better avoided from both a delivery and engagement perspective, using this format.
Craig has now written up his findings together with some of his top tips into a highly informative, engaging and accessible resource designed to support and enable community music makers’ to enjoy positive tech outcomes and less glitches. It includes advice and help-guides about how to get the best results with limited time and a limited budget.
This is all now loaded and shared on the Community Music Victoria website and we very much hope that the following index of info will help you and your groups to turn iso into calypso and remain tuned in with each other until normal service can be resumed, however far off that is, whether you’re locked down in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire or restricted in regional Victoria. The options discussed have been tried and tested by music leaders in the CMVic family since physical distancing measures took effect in March 2020 – we thank them for so generously sharing their knowledge and experience in the peer-sharing spirit of Community Music Victoria.
*Members of CMVic can also book a one-to-one tech help appointment with Craig Simply email: firstname.lastname@example.org with your issue specifying when you are available for a call or Zoom chat. Please include a description of relevant hardware (e.g. laptop/tablet/phone, Mac-IoS/PC-Android).
**Keep an eye out for upcoming CMVic Zoom sessions on specific tech related topics. These are advertised in CMVic’s Shout newsletter as well as the CMVic Singing Leaders’ Lounge and Music Group Leaders’ Lounge on Facebook, and include ongoing discussions of what our clever, creative folk are doing to make the best lemonade out of the lemons that 2020 has supplied in abundance!
Written by Deb Carveth with Craig Barrie for Community Music Victoria
“As singing leaders, we have a responsibility to make a decision that’s going to be best for the safety of the whole group. All our groups desperately want to get back together but unfortunately, it’s not safe yet and that’s a really clear directive from the medical health professionals that it’s not on the cards right now. Rather than grieving that, I think I’d done that earlier, I’ve kind of moved on. I mean the priority is keeping community together and staying connected; we can work on our harmonies when this is over!”
-Jane York, Just Holler
I remember the evening, clearly. It was a Friday back in March and just days earlier, Daniel Andrews had announced a state of emergency. It had been a fraught week as shops and offices began to close and the shelves began to empty. Lockdown was imminent and panic was tinging everything. But one person had it together and, as the rest of the world worried about loo roll and how long they could live on half a bag of pasta, Jane York donned a spangly jacket, picked up her beer and started to sing around the piano in her lounge room. Jane’s personal motto is ‘if in doubt, sing’. And she was, and she did. Online, using Facebook Live and she’s been doing it daily ever since.
“So many things were unknown and out of our control both personally and as a leader of groups, but one thing I could do was sing.” Jane laughs as she thinks back to that first Friday night singalong.
“It was completely disorganised, it was literally just me pressing live on my phone with an iPad to look up chords and getting drunk. It went for 2.5 hours and by the end of it I was so emotional. It was so interactive, I’d thought it would be me doing a one-way thing and it wasn’t that at all, it was all these people that I love and sing with regularly, and also people I hadn’t seen in ages from all over the country which was something I hadn’t thought about – accessibility by geography and how online we can extend our community – and people were literally tuning in from South East Asia and from Germany. So, at the time when I was thinking ‘we’re going to be isolated’, it was the opposite and it was really emotional that first one.”
Jane finds having structure a really important thing and got to thinking about all the other people at home who were no longer working, who were all in a state of flux and in need of anchoring and she came up with the idea of doing a daily lunchtime sing at 1pm, no matter what else was going on. “It was about a little bit of calm in the middle of the day.”
Jane got started and people were tuning in everyday to say ‘hi’.
“My mum tunes in everyday from Queensland which is very lovely cos we don’t actually get to sing together very much, and we get to sing five days a week now!”
The songs Jane chooses are well-known, easy to sing classics, from Lauper-esque hairbrush anthems of the 80s to Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac and Johnny Cash. If there’s anything anyone desperately wants on the bill, they are free to make recommendations in the chat.
Early on in lockdown, The Guardian mentioned Jane and Just Holler in an article by Anna Sublet about online singing, “that was kind of freaky, of all the things to be in The Guardian about, me in my robes singing into my phone! Our choir had sung the year before at Hamer Hall to no press and then there I was in the Guardian for not showering and going online”.
That week, Just Holler got 300 new likes on its Facebook page as part of what Jane calls ‘this isolation moment.’ This ‘moment’ has meant that our singing communities have become broader and when Jane saw the Guardian write-up she realised this element of connection could actually be the silver lining of sharing our music online.
“I realised that I could go and attend other people’s workshops and I could attend things not in Melbourne but also that I could invite people from anywhere to Term 2 of our choir. Just Holler online now has people from New South Wales, regional Victoria joining in, which is great. Being in the business of building community and connection, we take a lot of time discussing how to we get more people to come to choir and all of a sudden we’ve gone to them and boom.”
This has shifted Jane’s thinking about the future of community music and she is considering maintaining an online element to rehearsals once lockdown lifts, to ensure that the people who have joined from afar and become a part of the Just Holler community, can remain so.
Singing daily at 1pm means that Jane has to fit the rest of her life around that time. That’s easy to do when she’s at home but last week she was driving and had to pull over at the side of the road to deliver the goods. “It’s been a great exercise in not being precious about having things perfect at a performance level, some days I have literally never played the song through before! I always feel weird doing something by myself, it’s just not my style so it’s been really good for me in that way because it is up to me to sing the whole song through but it’s not centring myself in that experience, it’s still a facilitation thing because I want people to sing along from home.”
Regulars know that Jane likes to shake up the backdrop. She’s sung to the world from the bathtub, behind the clothesline, out on the deck, inside the garage, and out the front of her house with her neighbour. Her son and her partner pop up and accompany her. There have been pyjamas and slippers and keeping it real is part of the charm. On Tuesday she sang from Violet Town with a backdrop of beautiful gum trees and unexpected accompaniment from a garbage truck as it rumbled slowly past.
The chat is where the connection with the outside world takes place as people greet Jane and each other and comment on how well the houseplants are looking or whether Jane got a haircut. “It’s cute, it’s lovely, it allows people to be active participants.”
A couple of months ago, Jane decided she wanted Friday lunchtimes off to sing with Sue Johnson’s online choir and had the genius idea of inviting guests to take over the Friday slot.
All good things must come to an end and, as lockdown lifts and the world shakes its feathers and returns tentatively to the old routines of 9-5, Jane’s thinking about wrapping up the 1’o’clock singalongs possibly in a couple of weeks at the end of this term. But this isn’t set in stone,
“I don’t want it to become a chore I want it to stay a thing I’m still engaged with.” So set your alarm for 12:55, hop onto Facebook and sing along with Jane while you still can.
Feature photo supplied by Jane York featuring, l-r: Jane and her neighbour Shannon; Jane, Lewis and Solly on family band day; Jane alone in her bedroom.
Singing and music have added value and richness to every aspect of Peter Gatto’s life from listening to the radio on 3AR with his parents and playing with Wonthaggi Brass Band as a child, through to courting his wife Glenys as a young man in the 1960s.
From their very first date, singing remained an integral part of this couple’s love story, featuring consistently in the tapestry of their life together until Glenys’ death from ovarian cancer in 2012. At that point, as a quiet companion to his heavy loss, music acquired a new relevance for Peter, and played a significant part in dealing with the grief that persisted and still persists. Music offered him an opportunity for solace and therapy, it became the bond between his present and his past and a window to the memories of Glenys which light up Peter’s face as he speaks of her. Community singing became a reason for Peter to get out and connect with people, an opportunity to talk and reminisce about the happy times he’s been blessed with. He agrees with Nietzsche, that without music, life would be a mistake.
Peter is a born story-teller with a string of entertainingly moving warm memories to share about the importance and place of music in his life.
“Music and Community Music Victoria have been significant in dealing with my grief and loss. Glenys was a very capable and competent person, she had wonderful attributes. I mean she wasn’t perfect, Peter smiles, she had a fiery little temper!” Peter’s ambition now, is to write down his life story to pass on to his children and grandchildren as a tribute to Glenys. “I can’t write about my life story without mentioning music and Community Music Victoria which has played a significant part so far.
For the past nine months Peter has sung each week with Flinders Lane Community Voices. “I can’t wait to get there; it’s a source of enjoyment, I’m meeting new people, there’s encouragement and camaraderie and you feel secure in this group. My only criticism is that it’s only once a week and then for just an hour.”
Peter encountered the work of Community Music Victoria whilst doing ‘a bit of surfing’ and looking for ways to extend his music therapy. Having taught recorder to kids at school during his many years in education, Peter decided to return to the instrument and extend his playing ability after Glenys died. “I’ve taught myself how to play some of the masters… Puccini, Verdi, Mozart, on the recorder.” Making music by himself was one thing, but Peter felt the need to be part of a group.
“It’s been a lovely journey really. The other thing with music now I’m able – and it’s taken this long – is to use music to bring back the beautiful memories, and I have some superb memories of Glenys. It’s comforting, and it’s grieving because it’s gone. Although does music go? What happens to music?” Peter laughs. ”It can’t be destroyed. Music is a vehicle for facing, accepting and dealing with great loss. I think I’m done with my crying, the tears I cry now are of happiness for the wonderful life we shared.”
It wasn’t long ago that Peter couldn’t speak about it. One of his first memories of Glenys is taking her out in Melbourne. “I must have been 19, she would have been 17. All of a sudden, walking past the Arts Centre I heard this beautiful voice singing I’ll take you home, Kathleen, and it was Glenys and I can still remember it, and it was lovely. Music became an integral part of my courting with her. Glenys would ask me to sing to her. I wasn’t listening to much radio then, I’d be playing football or busy teaching and so the songs I would sing to her were school songs.”
Glenys said and believed that she couldn’t sing, however two people in her life told her that she had a lovely voice. One was Peter, and the other was Dr Clare O’Callahan from Melbourne University who ran a musical therapy program for people in palliative care.
“Clare came out to Kew where Glenys was in the hospice and started playing one of our songs, I don’t know how that happened, but Clare started playing and then Glenys joined in – I can’t remember what the song was – and then Clare stopped playing and said, ‘Glenys, you have a beautiful voice!’ and I was forever grateful that happened, because I know Glenys was very pleased. She was one of the many people out there who was told by somebody else that she shouldn’t sing. That belief is so stifling. I have vowed and declared to never do anything to dissuade anyone from singing and I would never ever deny anyone the chance to sing!”
One of Peter’s earliest introductions to music was sitting around the radio as a twelve-year old, listening to the world-famous Italian tenors with his mum and dad, something he later discovered Glenys had been doing at the same time.
“I lived in Wonthaggi, she lived in the hills on a dairy farm in the hills about 12, 13ks away, so we’re listening to the same song and loving the same song at the exact same time which then came to mind about 40 years after the event driving through the Outback in Queensland. Glenys said ‘I know that song, I used to listen to that song with my parents on a Sunday afternoon’, I said, ‘so did I!’. The song was Mattinata and I used some of the lyrics when I delivered Glenys’s eulogy. ‘Ove non sei la luce manca; Ove tu sei nasce l’amor.’: ‘Where you are not, the light is missing; where you are, love is born.’ And Glenys exuded love. She was a wonderful teacher with a great reputation and she didn’t discriminate with the way she gave out the love: if a kid needed affection and attention, she’d give it out. Of course, she was able to dish out the discipline too!”
“We were very, very close, we did a lot of things together. One of the things Glenys asked me do was help her put on a production of Oliver at North Melbourne Primary School. Now she had no musical knowledge, she believed she couldn’t sing so when she asked me to help I said of course I would. So I taught all of the difficult songs and left what I considered to be the easiest song til last. But of course when things go wrong they go wrong, and at the particular time when I was ready to teach that song I was committed elsewhere and couldn’t go, I said to Glenys, ‘you’ll just have to do it’. Well, she was very unsure about doing this, having never taught anyone to sing before.”
Some days later Peter recalls dropping into Errol St Primary School and hearing ‘some beautiful singing’ of Oom Pah-Pah coming from Glenys’s room. “I thought, who’s doing this? I sneaked around to take a look through the window and there was the greatest sight that anyone could see because the kids were all up on their feet singing in full voice with huge smiles on their faces and I turned around to Glenys’s table and there she was in full flight and I mean full flight! She was up on the table, she was singing in full voice, the kids were singing with her, it was the most beautiful singing I’d ever heard so I went in there and I said to Glenys, ‘now who could top that? No one!” The kids never, ever sang that song as well as then and to see that gave me great joy.”
Throughout the course of his own career, Peter taught at schools all over the state, including at a one-teacher school in Strzelecki. “When I got there, there were 30 children in seven grades and one teacher. Discipline was a major problem. What I used to bring a little bit of order, was singing.” Peter would sing with the children every hour on the hour for around three or four minutes at a time. “They were beautiful singers and it had that wonderful calming effect of music. They loved it and I loved it.”
“During mid-winter in the Strzelecki Ranges it gets really miserable sometimes and it also gets absolutely beautiful. You can go from not being able to see metres in front of you and then the weather clears up and you get the clearest blue skies and the sun streaming down and it’s magnificent. On one of those days in mid-winter the kids had been inside all day and then at about 2 o’clock in the afternoon, the weather broke so I said to them ‘go outside and play.’ It was at the time when you had district inspectors overseeing everything. Sending the kids outside to play outside of regulated playtime hours was a risky thing for me to do. Anyway, the kids were out there playing in this beautiful sunshine and I look up the drive and there are two cars coming up to the school… and everyone recognised the inspectors car. Well I thought my career was in tatters, but the inspector, Mr Bull, stopped me and then he said, ‘look, I’ve got both my family and my wife’s family with me, do you mind if you bring them in as I’d like them to hear your kids sing.’ I bought them in and explained to the children that there had been a request for them to sing from Mr Bull. And the kids sang in full voice and it was a glorious, triumphant moment, and thank god for the kids of Strzelecki – that’s the power of music.”
Peter’s final story about the influence and importance of music in his life, is of a song his mother used to sing.
“My mother was illiterate. She’d never been out of her Southern Italian village, had never listened to radio or anything like that; never been to a concert, nothing. She then travelled from this little village right across the world carrying a beautiful tune with her. I’m sitting in the pea patch with her in South Gippsland as a ten or eleven year old and I hear her singing with the other Southern Italian pea pickers and I love it. I loved hearing her sing in the pea patch with all the other ladies. Then later, as a teacher I introduced one of my favourite composers to the kids, who was Tchaikovsky. And I played some of Tchaikovsky’s music and it was the same tune that my mother had sung in the pea patch. She carried it within herself, she couldn’t read or write, had never been to school, never read a newspaper, didn’t listen to a radio until the 1950s, and yet she knew this. As it turns out, Tchaikovsky spent two years in Italy, during which time he travelled around and collected the Italian folk tunes. The piece of music is called La Caprician Italienne, which, by the way, I can play on the recorder!”
As our time for talking drew to a close, Peter had one last thing to say in reflection: “Music gives you so much to discuss, and to think about. What is it that we’re doing, in our schools, that is more important than teaching our children music? Why aren’t we making music an integral part of the curriculum? It just doesn’t make sense.”
“You put something like this out there and you just hope that it might contribute to improving the situation” says Sarah Mandie, songwriter and creative director of That Girl, a song and dance-based community focussed project run in conjunction with Community Music Victoria to empower women and girls, encourage them to stand up against gender-based violence, stereotyping and inequality and say ‘stop’.
Two years after its launch in 2017, That Girl has brought together girls and women from the Indian and Bhutanese communities of Wodonga; culturally diverse groups of primary schoolgirls in Boroondara; and secondary school-age girls from Healesville High School and the Healesville Indigenous Community Association in the Yarra Ranges.
A day of song, dance and dialogue was also held at the Immigration Museum for the Prevention of Violence Against Women: Voices of Shakti was presented by Community Music Victoria, Sarah Mandie and Dr. Priya Srinivasan (ADI Deakin). Drawing on Indian cultural themes of the Goddess to educate, inspire, mobilise and create understanding between people of diverse backgrounds and genders, the program included That Girl song and dance workshops with Sarah and choreographer, Marshie Perera Rajakumar. That Girl has been mentioned in Parliament too.
“I really just wanted to make a powerful, impactful song and music video that showed diversity of origin and ethnicity and locations around Victoria to show violence against women is something which can affect anyone and everyone and that girls everywhere have faced these issues. The process then opened up. Getting involved with different communities, I couldn’t have foreseen what was going to come out of it.”
The idea of the project was to get girls and women to come together in a way which was fun, engaging, and using the opportunity to learn the That Girl song and dance as a platform for discussions and talk about how they feel as girls and women around issues of respect, and anything else pertinent to them and their personal experiences.
What transpired depended on the community. In Wodonga a connection was clearly made between the local health centre and the women who might need to access it at some point, which was a really positive outcome, as were the connections the participants built through supporting each other. “The women realised that it was okay to talk about this and that it’s really good if they talk about it together as women in their cultural community so that they understand each other. Tricia Hazeleger from Gateway Health in Wodonga was really progressive and saw the value of using a music video dance project to deliver a message.” It was this phase of the project, where Sarah worked in partnership with Tricia and the staff at Gateway Health, which led to the project being mentioned in Federal Parliament by the former member for Indi, Cathy McGowan, AO.
For That Girl Boroondara, there was a different focus and the girls didn’t come into the situation in the same way. There the workshop focussed more on what it felt like to be a girl, considering questions such as ‘do we feel respected?’; ‘how can we feel more empowered?’. A lot of the discussion was around gender stereotypes.
That Girl Boroondara became a real cultural festival which included both Indian and contemporary hip-hop style dances. Mothers of some of the girls became involved too, initially as volunteers but then going on to become part of the discussion groups which was a good representation of the community. In that sense the experience was uplifting for the girls involved, and Sarah was also touched by this development:
“The commitment of people who became involved along the way as creative or organisational volunteers and became so positively committed to the message of That Girl, sticking with the project until completion was really great. One of these people was Marshie who choreographed the dance for both That Girl Boroondara and Voices of Shakti. Marshie’s commitment to That Girl was because of the aims of the project and its message. The message is the thing that people identified with and committed to.”
In the Yarra Ranges where the girls who took part were older, some slightly more complex issues emerged, not all of which there was time to talk about. The therapeutic angle wasn’t something Sarah had necessarily anticipated when she embarked on the workshops, and she believes a need exists for further kind of That Girl styled programs in this area because of the many levels on which music and arts projects work. Working together with Wurundjeri elder, Aunty Joy Murphy, a verse of the That Girl song was translated and sung in Woiwurrung, the ‘nulu’ language of Healesville and the Wurundjeri people as part of That Girl Yarra Ranges. For Sarah, this was particularly rewarding and something she’d love to do again, taking the project into different communities and translating the song into different languages.
Each That Girl workshop was similar but tailored appropriately to the ages of the girls taking part: “I had grade four and fives in Camberwell and that’s a really different crowd to year seven. Then there’s the socio-economical and various other aspects of each group to consider, and the culture of the location, so that was interesting. Once you get to high school it’s harder to get people to want to dance and let go in front of their peers, so the method was a little bit challenging for them but very rewarding as well. The feedback was that it brought them together as friends in the year level, so again, it was good for their connections.”
Common to both school groups was a desire to be ‘the same’; for everyone to be treated as equals irrespective of their gender. Girls want the freedom to be whatever they want to be, based on who they are.
To close each of the project’s three stages, a film was produced showing the process and the journey of That Girl within the community. All three films are highly moving, goose-bump inducing testimonies to Sarah’s vision. “I just think, wow! Look at all the girls and women that were involved in this and putting their hearts and souls into this dancing and dressing up, and it doesn’t end there! They’re in a video now and they can watch it again and again…”
There was significant council support for the project each time the films were shown with people ‘blown away’ at each of the three screenings. “The principal of Healesville High commissioned a huge poster of the project for the school hall; the principal of Camberwell Primary cried when she first watched That Girl Boroondara; the Wodonga phase of the project was acclaimed in parliament and the film of That Girl Yarra Ranges was shown at the Memo Cinema in Healesville with the Mayor in attendance who welcomed the involvement and knowledge sharing of the Indigenous community. Each of the films are online and people keep watching them.”
As the project went along the priority became about getting as many people involved and participating as possible. As Sarah says, this takes time and then there’s life and unexpected things happen. “It did get hard at times to keep the momentum up when I had other personal challenges going on, so I’m very proud and happy that we kept this project afloat! Now it’s all about preparing for the launch and getting it out there.”
The film launch will showcase and promote one final, overarching musical artistic video combining footage from That Girl Wodonga,That Girl BoroondaraandThat Girl Yarra Ranges. The film, which is just over three minutes long, can be used in a multitude of settings and makes an excellent educational tool within community networks, schools and the health sector: “People can watch it and then if they want to learn the dance and the song, they can, it has all those elements to it. It’s a great resource because it makes you feel things and think things which can then be spoken about.”
Sarah’s ‘ridiculously super excited’ about this. As a conglomeration of the entire project the film will be shown and celebrated on a cinema screen at the Victorian Trades Hall in Melbourne on December 7 during the United Nations’ 16 days of activism against gender-based violence. A choir made up of individuals and community singing groups are invited to sing in a flash mob style to celebrate the success of the project and anyone is welcome to come along and get involved in the launch.
“I’m hoping that people will come together to sing the That Girl song for the first time. A few groups have learned it so far and are really loving it. We’ll have a workshop rehearsal just before the performance on the night for anyone new to the song in need of a run-through. It’ll be an opportunity for people to sing and dance and to see the end product and feel proud of being part of it or moved to share it with people. What That Girl needs next is support from the community to share, share, share, to get the message out there to offer strength to the people who need it.”
For the launch, Sarah has partnered with Impact for Women, an organisation run by ‘an amazingly committed woman’ called Kathy Kaplan. Impact exists to make a difference to women and children fleeing extreme violence at home. All money raised by the launch of the That Girl film will go to paying for any children needing to be looked after in safe, professional care whilst their primary caregiver is attending court due to family, domestic and relationship abuse.
Sarah was inspired to write and produce That Girl because of acts and crimes against women featuring repeatedly in the news from across the world, and then looking at her own two girls and thinking, what am I going to do? “They’ve now been part of something game changing and meaningful, something powerful. I want girls everywhere to watch the film and go ‘yeah!’ and I want boys and men to see it too and keep talking about this because it’s important. Above all, I want people to sing the song, watch the film and share it, I want That Girl to go viral and I want it to be valuable and used widely to raise awareness and bring about positive change.”
That Girl is for every girl. Join the film launch at the Victorian Trades Hall on Saturday 7 December.
“At 7pm on a night in the dead of winter, there’s often nobody but me in the room. As people come in they’ll say ‘ah there’s only three of us tonight’, then a fourth person turns up and there’s five… By 7:20pm, there’ll usually be eight of us and I’ll joke with them all – but it’s true – that I made this group, because I want to sing, and even if nobody else ever turned up, I’d still stand there and sing!”
It’s been twenty years since community singing leader, Dianne Stewart, made the move to Stawell in the shimmering Wimmera region of Victoria. Dianne relocated from Bendigo, via the Northern Territory: “I did my Grade 6 AMEB in Alice Springs at a time when they’d never had anybody do a voice exam there before, which was interesting. I come from the City of Bendigo which has this huge musical and choral culture, and I moved to Stawell where there was a two-act musical performance once a year which then disappeared. The state musical theatre wasn’t my background and it wasn’t my thing, but it was the only thing that was sitting in town that I could access, and I wanted to sing!”
Dianne approached Stawell Performing Arts Company (SPACi) and asked them about the possibility of creating a singing group or choir in the town. “They said if you put something to it, we can put something together so I spent the next year doing research and connected with CMVic back when Fay White was doing the Vocal Nosh stuff. Fay came to the Grampians to do some work around bushfire recovery and I went to a workshop she was running and I got some lovely feedback from people.”
Receiving the encouragement to ‘just start it and step out’ made Dianne feel a Stawell-based singing group of her own was possible if she adopted the Vocal Nosh model and set it up as a singing circle. Which is exactly what she did.
“I put the proposal to SPACi, told them this was what I wanted to do, how it would run and why it would work really well for them.” Dianne then started the Come and Sing group and it’s been running ever since.”
“I’d never led a group before, never been a singing leader at all. I’d been a singer in a choir and a voice student, but I’d never run a group, it was all very new to me. I don’t play the piano and I didn’t feel I could do the kind of things I’d been involved with in the past because my choir leader and singing leaders had all played the piano and had been the accompanist as well, but I couldn’t do that… “
Attendance to Come and Sing is very relaxed with no expectation for singers to attend every week. “It’s come as you like; come each week, or just when you can – pay as you go, and there’s only a very small payment each week because it allows access to more people. I’ve done a lot of work with SPACi around people’s capacity to pay. We’ll probably have between 8 and 15, sometimes 16 or 17 people through the door. The ages range from a couple of senior high school students (and their dads come as well) all the way through to people in their 80s.”
Dianne finds the geography of the Western District of Victoria can make connecting up with other leaders and attending events something of a challenge: “Trying to build and connect with anything past Ballarat is more difficult because of the distance. I see what Community Music Victoria is doing and a lot of the time the workshops are not accessible for me because of the distances involved.”
To stay up to date with professional development and for support in her singing leadership, Dianne seeks out resources and ‘stuff’ she can access online and in her own time at weekends. Despite the tyranny of distance, Dianne’s a member of several organisations including CMVic and the Singing Teachers Association, and these connections to the larger network give her the incentive to work at creating and making more of the community in which she lives.
“It brings me great joy. It’s the connection with other people and the community.”
“We always tell people come and see what we do, try it out, if we are your tribe, if we are your thing then you’ll continue to come, and if we’re not, then that’s ok too. The group is called Come and Sing because it’s for anybody at all who walks through the door who just wants to sing.”
Because Come and Sing sits within SPACi, for some people trying out for shows is a way to build skills and try bigger things. Being part of Come and Sing’s weekly sessions builds their capacity to prepare for the auditions which are a requirement of taking part in a rehearsed show. “They can choose to do that, or not. Quite a lot of our Come and Sing singers aren’t interested in doing that, but others are.”
“SPACi also runs a junior program which is very much a musical theatre program, and the kids who grow out of that tend to come and sing in the group, but being in the country, those kids usually move on and leave the community. “We don’t tend to get that 20 to 30 age group because they’ve moved elsewhere or gone to university and we work with that. I think we attract the people who are interested and we attract the people who want to do what we want to do!”
Dianne is happy to share the role of leader and enjoys encouraging anyone keen to have a go. “I always say if anybody comes along with better skills than me I’d be really happy to sit down and participate or if somebody else would like to step up and lead, I’ll be very happy to learn from them.”
“…As a leader, at the end of the day it’s good to keep reminding yourself that what you’re providing wouldn’t be there if you weren’t.”
collaboration is a slippery and elusive art. I find it a spacious and revealing
place to work. It sings to me and draws me in and on. I think it was a mixture of
naivety and courage that led me to working in this field. I am a singer,
song-writer and creative researcher with an Anglo-Celtic and Scandinavian
heritage. What I have
learned over the years is that an ocean of possibilities is available when we open
our hearts and take the risk to make genuine contact.
Anything can emerge when trust is laced with risk. What we share and what makes us different has room to come alive. There are no formulas for success and this, I think, is a good thing. The riskiness of it keeps us awake and alert.
The capacity to listen and the qualities of trust,
respect and openness are central to fruitful intercultural arts collaborations.
This is never more so than when the intercultural collaborations are between First
Nation community members and people from other cultural backgrounds. We work
together against the backdrop of colonisation, the massacres and government
policies of enforced dispossession and attempted cultural genocide. The impact
of these policies continues today and are evident in disproportionate rates of
incarceration and inequities in health, economic and educational opportunities.
The list of inequities goes on and is still being experienced by First Nation peoples
in Australia and across the world.
There are many compelling reasons why trust takes a long time to build in intercultural collaborations. Collaborations across cultures can create a bridge for connection, but it can be a perilous crossing. The potential risks of neo-colonial appropriation and misunderstanding are ever-present. The space in-between is where reconciliation can occur.
I have come to see that trust
is everything. It is slowly gained and easily
lost. Trust is what keeps the conversation alive. There are so many reasons not
to trust in this world but in my experience, a kind of magic emerges from the in-between spaces when music and art
are involved and an interdisciplinary approach is taken. A spaciousness appears. The reasons not to trust will always
be there, but creative engagement and active participation can enable people to
see and be seen, to hear and be heard. This is what bridges are made of and this,
I believe, is why the work is worth doing.
There was an opportunity to have a direct experience of these in-between spaces at the Intercultural Arts Program of the Island Whale Festival, held on the 5th – 7th July in Cowes on Phillip Island. The Island Whale Festival, now in its third year, celebrates the arrival of humpback whales and southern right whales in the coastal waters off Phillip Island as they migrate north to the warmer waters off Queensland.
The Intercultural Arts Program of the Island Whale Festival was designed to bring people of all ages and cultural backgrounds together through music, art, science and a love of the natural world. Steve Parker named the Intercultural Arts Program of the 2019 Island Whale Festival, ‘Balert Yirramboi’, which translates as ‘Strong Future’, literally ‘Strong Tomorrow’. Steve is a Traditional Custodian, an artist and musician and one of the Directors of the Yowengarra Bun Wurrung Balug Clans Aboriginal Corporation. Steve has lived on Millowl (Phillip Island) all his life.
Activities of ‘Balert Yirramboi’ included Ceremonies, Drumming Circles, Music and Dance, Song Circles, Song Exchanges, Concerts, a Street Parade and a Collaborative Artspace weaving together music, art and science. Elders and Special Guest Artists lead the activities, all of which were designed to deepen intercultural understanding, strengthen community and raise environmental awareness.
The 2019 Intercultural Arts Program of the Island Whale Festival was auspiced by Community Music Victoria, an organisation dedicated to bringing people together and strengthening communities through the power of music.
Here’s a link to a short film ‘Singing with Whales’ from the Intercultural Arts Program at the 2018 Island Whale Festival. https://vimeo.com/288066243
We acknowledge the power and beauty of the Bunurong/Boon Wurrung Country on which this event takes place. We honour and thank all the Ancestors and Elders who have lived on this land and sung it into being the strong place that it is.
Dr Laura Brearley leads a song at the 2018 CMVic Music Camp
**The latter part of this article was updated by CMVic on August 1, to reflect the fact that the 2019 Whale Festival is now a past event.
“Hearing three-part harmony sung acapella is magical” says Annemarie Sharry. “Teaching singing one on one just isn’t my bag. I come into my choirs, we do a quick little warm up and then I get them to sing in triads and I get tingles and I say, ‘hear that? This is why we do what we do and it’s pure energy!’ What a gift to be able to teach this and then get it come right back at you.”
For the past sixteen years and counting, Annemarie has run ‘South of the River’ a community gospel choir of around 40 voices, together with a number of workplace choirs around Melbourne, including at World Vision, Department of Human Services, Allen and Unwin, and the Victorian Bar.
“Sue Johnson asked me to fill in for her at the Allen and Unwin
Choir, and my first thought was ‘good grief I can’t do that’, but of course I made
myself do it and had a great time. At the end of that session, children’s
author Elizabeth Honey came running out as I was leaving and asked if I’d lead
a choir at her house. I said, “ooh no, I couldn’t possibly do that…!” The
rest is history.
The beauty of running a workplace choir as a self-employed singer or
musician is they are generally held mid-week and during the day. The challenge
of running a workplace choir is having to be malleable in finding repertoire
that can fit with all different ability levels and levels of attendance.
“Workplace choirs tend to be small and you’ll get intermittent attendance for all sorts of reasons. With an established choir you get more of a sense of ownership, it’s in the evening and it’s a different kind of commitment.”
There are obvious time constraints when you’re working with people on their lunch break, and the contact time spent with a workplace choir is often actually quite short. “It’s a bit of a hit and run” laughs Annemarie. Obviously you’ve got to travel there, let yourself in (which often involves waiting for security), pull out a keyboard, and then at the other end of that hour people are chatting, so while you might picture an hour’s work you have to include getting there and back, and then of course there’s the preparation.”
A tip from Annemarie for anyone thinking of starting a workplace
choir is to find a business that has a
lot of employees which gives you a huge pool of potential singers to work
with. “You might get an excited ‘yes great let’s do this’ type of initial response
but the reality is attracting enough numbers to sustain things financially and
to keep a good sound happening! It’s also really important to find a champion
for the choir who works in the place, to liaise with you. “
Getting a workplace choir up off the blocks can be a slow burn. “The choir at the DHS developed through a contact with my mum’s friend who was connected with the DHS social club . From the moment I made contact to the point we had a choir up and running took a full year. HR is usually the first port of call, however at the end of the day, it’s who you know. Talk to your friends, ask if they’re keen and then offer your services.”
In her experience of running workplace choirs, Annemarie has been struck by the high number of male singers who turn up to sing each week. “This means I usually keep it to 3-part harmony rather than SATB so I can get most of the blokes on the melody, then have low women behind them and high women above them.”
Quick and easy cookin’ gospel mixed with African tunes, some familiar Beatles and classical rounds always go down well. Annemarie has collected and fine-tuned a selection of songs over many years spent gathering repertoire, which she cross pollinates along the way by sharing sessions with other choirs, and song swaps. At the end of this term, South of the River will be hosting Flip Case’s ‘Flip the Table’ choir and Richard Lawton’s ‘Soulsong’ choir. Annemarie finds this type of collaboration works really well for everyone, leaders and singers alike.
TIPS for SELF-PRESERVATION and SUSTAINABILITY
Running 3-4 choirs a week, self-care is important. To assist herself with this, Annemarie doubles up on repertoire across some of her choirs and plays an instrument during sessions, for example a ukulele to keep time and pitch, which she finds a useful way to open up the repertoire.
Other pieces of advice include having breaks between the choirs, and identifying somebody passionate in place in each workplace choir who is willing to take on the administration. This prevents emails coming directly to your inbox from the singers, otherwise you’re just opened up to so much correspondence and, while this might sound easier said than done, Annemarie recommends anyone starting a workplace choir to stipulate it at the start. “Don’t give out your email or phone number, even though when you’re all keen and excited, it’s a very easy thing to do.”
Another simple thing it took Annmarie a long time to realise was not to sing with everyone, every time. Teach the part, then protect your voice. Also, be in touch and/or meet up with other choir leaders, as often as you can. Even if there’s just one or two of you, rather than a whole gang, you’ll get insights into things with a friend or colleague who’s doing similar stuff to you.
For the past eleven years or so, Annemarie has met regularly with Sue Johnsonand Lisa Schwabe for peer support. “We get to workshop ideas and just talk about things because it can be hard to compare what you do and as a result to determine your market value as well. When I started South of the River, I was getting $30 a week to run that. Then I had to be proactive and say, ‘this is the deal’…” This isn’t an easy conversation to have, but getting thick skinned and being clear about what you want to do with your choir is something Annemarie recommends.
“You’re always going to have a mixed bag of people, some who want to perform, some who don’t, some who don’t like singing ‘that’, some who do, so you need to get a little bit thick skinned and stay true to what you want to do, because there are plenty of other choirs out there if it doesn’t seem like a good fit for somebody in particular.”
Lastly, don’t take too many things to heart; do be spontaneous! With
a choir you’re a part of that group, you’re reaping the benefits straight off,
and you’re in it together.
Written by Deb Carveth, online editor for Community Music Victoria, with huge thanks to Annemarie Sharry for sharing her experience!
Annemarie Sharry is a Melbourne-based musical conductor of workplace and community choirs and a former board member of Community Music Victoria.For further info about South of the River Community Choir, email email@example.com
I love the radio. I love the way it makes me feel, like it’s just me and whoever is on the waves, having our own private moment. ‘Course that’s probably because I mostly listen to the radio in my car, or through headphones while I’m walking. I laugh, I cry, I groan and shake my head in disbelief, and no one else knows why I’m doing that. It’s a moment of private, concentrated listening.
Radio National is my main source of news and commentary on the world, and I’m ok with that. But community radio.. well that’s really special. To me, community radio is inherently political, because it is people taking back control of what is transmitted over the waves.
People meeting people, talking to people, organising for change, interpreting the world around them. All within a fairly strict legislative framework mind you, but still…it’s people power, and I love it!
Since moving to Geelong I feel much more inclined to get involved in community events and activities. It’s smaller and more like a country town than a big city, and I like that. So last year I enrolled in an introduction to radio broadcasting course through 94.7 The Pulse FM. For eight Monday nights I dragged myself along after work, battling exhaustion and hunger, and learnt about how to ‘do’ radio. It was fun, but I wasn’t sure where to go from there. One thing I did learn was how much work it takes to have your own show, and that dampened my enthusiasm a little at the time.
But life became a little freer for me, and I approached The Pulse earlier this year, asking if I could volunteer on a show. And so I was led to Kickarts, Chris Bryan’s show about all things arty in Geelong and surrounds. My intention from the start was to bring a focus on Community Arts, as Chris has more of a focus on the professional arts, and to look at making radio documentaries. So for the first month or so I came onto the show every week and did the Arts News segment, as well as providing a couple of interviews for the show. I loved getting to meet artists and gallery owners, as well as interviewing people involved in community arts.
Suddenly I found myself handed two shows to do on my own. Exciting! Scary! I decided the first show would focus on singing, and interviewed Kym Dillon, a supremely talented musician who leads a few With One Voice choirs including With Once Voice Geelong, through Creativity Australia, and who has been involved with Community Music Victoria a great deal in the past. We had a great chat, and I went to a rehearsal to record some vox pops with choir members. What a joyous atmosphere Kym creates as a singing leader! I edited it all down and spent hours in the studio trying to put together the show. After a few mishaps that saw me losing hours of work in a botched attempt to save my edits I decided I was going to have to wing it on the day. And wing it I did, with two musicians coming in at short notice to do a live interview about their forthcoming concert on the music of Hildegard de Bingen. Yes there was dead air…a few short periods of it as I struggled to coordinate faders and buttons and the quirks of iTunes…but overall I was pretty proud that I had got through a show alive and not humiliated.
My second show was focused on the sea, with
an interview with Lighthouse Arts Collective in Point Lonsdale and a phone
interview with Bryce Ives, the director of a play reading happening at
Queenscliff Literary Festival. The first
half of the show went well, and I silently congratulated myself on remembering
all the transitions. But after pride…..well,
you know the rest. While setting up the
phone interview with Bryce I forgot to turn off the microphone, so everybody
listening heard a very strange version of Ina Wroldsen’s song ‘Sea’, complete
with me talking and laughing the whole way through. Mortified. But still, I
mostly did a good job, and I’m inspired to keep working to improve my skills.
My hope is that through radio I can promote the stories of people living and working and making music and other art in the community.
I want to delve into what inspires people to create, and to support the voices of people who are not usually represented in the arts.
Who knows..maybe there will be radio documentaries in my future…probably there will be the occasional dead air…but I hope I will never leave my microphone on at the wrong time again!
Kylie is an ESL teacher, community worker and musician, and was once involved on the Board of CMVic. She is passionate about the power of music to connect, communicate and empower people, and hopes to start some singing groups in Geelong.
You’re going to bend it, you’re going to make it, you’re going to recreate it and it’s going to turn into your style and your method and your system in your community; it’s about making community music in your community in the way that suits it best. – Jane Coker, Community Music Victoria
The information-gathering phase of an exciting new CMVic driven Leadership Program is gathering pace, steered by the Gippsland-based, community music dream-team, Jane Coker and Lyndal Chambers. With funding from Helen Macpherson Smith Trust, the duo will design a proposal for a new state-wide community music leadership program based on what people who are passionate about the power of group music making tell them is needed, to stimulate the growth of inclusive singing and instrumental music making across Victoria.
Jane says, “one thing that excites me about the project is that many of the leaders who started learning their craft with us in the early 00’s have now had upwards of 15 years experience of leading inclusive music making. If they weren’t already, they have become experts in their fields, and this project will enable them to collaborate with others who have new perspectives and energy to shape and inspire the future of Victoria’s community music-making.”
Putting a key question to established leaders and to people who have never participated in CMVic skills development before- but who know they want community music to be happening in their organisation, community, agency, or wherever they are – is the first step: “What do you need to be able to do this, in order to make this happen?”
Subject to funding approval, the findings from the research and information gathered will then be used to enable a series of state-wide community music leadership programs to be rolled out in whatever way the people say they want them to be implemented.
stage of the project we don’t know how it’s all going to turn out. It will
depend on what the people want. It’ll be driven by our ethos of collective
empowerment, ie, we share our leadership, we share our skills and resources
because that’s what makes us stronger.”
the skills and leadership training which people feel they need to go out and
make music in their community is only the start. The vision for the Leadership Program
is to ensure individuals feel equipped to go out and find a way of creating and
leading music, and making music happen in their communities, that is all their
“We’re not going to give people a model to follow, there’s not going to be any ‘you have to be like this and you have to do it this way’ We’re going to find out what you need, we’re going to source it from our collective resources, and then you’re going to use that! You’re going to bend it, you’re going to make it, you’re going to recreate it and it’s going to turn into your style and your method and your system in your community; it’s about making community music in your community in the way that suits it best.”
“What do you need to be able to do this, in order to make this happen?”
whether the resources needed to do this are right out there under their noses
or on the other side of the world, Jane and Lyndal are keeping the focus of the
collecting information from people in Melbourne, from Victoria; Australia, and
from around the western world to ask what they’re doing and explore how they’re
promoting this development of leadership capacity. CMVic has never collected
this sort of research together and so we don’t really know where we sit in a
global sense, we don’t know where we sit in terms of whether other people are
using this collective empowerment model, and if so, what can we learn from them
and if they’re not, how can we share what we do with them. If we find ourselves
in a position to be able to enable other people around the world to make their
programs a little bit more to do with collective empowerment, that would be
Lyndal are keen to hear from people who have no idea of CMVic’s history, to
hear about what they feel they need and want in order to be able to get
community music happening in their communities. Similarly, the Leadership
Program is not a review of the training CMVic has offered in the past.
“When we get together with people to talk with them and find out what they want, a lot of them will say ‘we want more of what you offer.’ We know they love what we offer and that it works, so in a sense that does review what we’ve done in the past because it tells us what people want of what we’ve done in the past, and what they don’t want of what we’ve done in the past!”
shape will this year take and how will the research be done?
Lyndal have been working to identify nine regional areas across the state. The
key objective will be to connect people in these communities, who are working
in areas where they could use singing and they could use music but they don’t
know how, with the program. This will be done through a series of consultative
conversations and workshops.
“One of the
main questions we’ll be asking is ‘how can we fertilise the soil around here?’
What needs to be done for the ecology to be healthy in order that people can
empower each other and support each other in this work?”
The first two of these consultation style workshops will be held at the 2019 CMVic Music Camp at Grantville. These will act as prototypes for the rest of the meetings, conversations and workshops, that Lyndal and Jane will be running throughout the rest of the year.
“We’ll be talking about the geographical locations of where the project will be focussing and it means anyone there from any of these regions will then be able to start connecting us into their community and taking it to their region. “People can see what we’re doing, start passing the info on and getting enthusiastic about it.”
Jane and Lyndal can’t wait to share their passion for this project with everyone out on the road. Lyndal explains:
” A number of years ago we went on a CMVic team gathering weekend and allowed ourselves to dream about the state of Victoria as a ‘Community Music Utopia’ and we shared our dreams – through music making together, in all manner of forms and styles, our community is connected and strengthened; we are happier, we live longer more fulfilled lives; we are empowered socially and politically, we share loving empathetic relationships, we have a voice and more… true, it all sounds incredibly idealistic! But what excites me about this project is that as an organisation we are taking a step to turn our dreams into reality. We hope to have more people across Victoria engaging with music in ways that are most relevant to themselves and their communities. And I’m looking forward to being surprised by the outcomes!”
By Deb Carveth, online editor for Community Music Victoria, with Jane Coker and Lyndal Chambers.