WIDE OPEN SKY (Baradine )

18th August 2017

WIDE OPEN SKY (Baradine)

On 8th August I travelled to Baradine to participate in an Artistic camp with Moorambilla Voices. You may have seen documentaries based on this movement such as ‘Outback Choir’ or ‘Wide Open Sky’. As some of you may know, two of my biggest passions are embedding Aboriginal perspectives in education and… music (no way)! I was so inspired after I viewed these documentaries that I got in contact with this organisation and begged to be a part of it. I felt a calling to experience and learn from the magic that happens on these camps…and boy was I not disappointed. 

Over 100 boys turned up to the first camp ready to sing and give their all. They came from 17 different remote regions in NSW. Before the boys arrived, it was clear the sheer mountain of work that takes place before their arrival. A team of passionate, talented volunteers in all areas of the Arts had been brainstorming, creating, preparing, for a whole year. There was a sense of suspense and excitement as the day arrived and the boys burst through the door welcomed by a hall full of smiling adults and a bubble machine! You may ask... a choir of over 100 boys - it must be chaos? There was no sign of this here… just a group of dedicated, focussed, passionate, hard working choristers.

 Many of the artists in residence (professional composers, choreographers, visual artists, photographers) had travelled to Gundabooka (50k south west of Bourke) before camp began to participate in a cultural immersion program. This was where the team collaborated to work towards taking inspiration from the land to create a cohesive storytelling creation. It was mind blowing to see how each artistic form was connected throughout this experience. To see stunning photographs of the land, which integrated with the colour scheme for a totem pole art installation, which inspired a contemporary dance and 10 minute vocal and instrumental composition… all based on the land and the moon above,  it was remarkable. This was not just your average song about the ‘moon’, but a complex piece telling the true story of an Aboriginal boy waking up in the dead of night and feeling the magnetic pull of the moon… sadly wandering away from his family and finding himself lost. 

My heart melted when I heard the first note from the boys in their choral session. The sessions are run by Michelle Leonard, the gifted lady who has spent over a decade creating opportunities for these kids. Her quick wit and ability to make the boys focus was incredible. She was clear with the boys about their goal… to be ‘famous’. The boys rose to the challenge and searched within to make the sound she was asking of them. Boys will be boys and do they want to succeed when challenged to sing? YES! She is officially my idol and I feel SO privileged to work beside her. She allowed me to team teach with her in the delivery of these sessions. This certainly put me in the ‘pit’ and I gained so much from this challenge. 

I have always believed that EVERYONE can sing. Hopefully those of you who have children in our choir see improvement in vocal technique as they progress through the year. I certainly do. I work hard to build a culture of singing in this school. Every week at chapel it makes me so proud to hear every little individual voice pray to God through song. Singing has the power to heal, it is proven to help with anxiety, it helps children to grow inner self belief. It helps children to concentrate, to work as a team, to be critical, to be resilient.

 Do you sing with your children? Please do! I grew up in a house of singing. There was no shame if you weren’t pitch perfect. What better feeling is there than singing at the top of your voice in the shower, in the car, at karaoke? Be brave. Enjoy the beauty of expressing yourself as a family through singing! Never take your voice for granted. Children only have a few years embracing their voice before hormones take over and that voice is lost forever. Cherish it while it lasts, take care of it and USE IT!

 In Baradine I learnt so much professionally and personally from these few days. I gained so much more theoretical knowledge in the area of vocal training (boys specifically). I learnt more about how to help students as their voices change (one might think only boys voices break, but girls go through radical changes also). I gained skills to help me to be a better music teacher, conductor, dancer, creative, embeddor of the Indigenous perspective in the Arts. I am full of ideas to make my choral sessions even more jam-packed with fun activities designed to improve intonation, rhythm etc. Seeing strategies that I use in practice with the boys and observing how they really do help improve the voice has worked wonders for me and my understanding and planning of choir sessions. 

Concentration, empathy, resilience, risk taking, humour, reflection... these are skills that I saw developing in each child throughout this experience. Something puts me at ease knowing that a simple few days at camp has changed each of these boys. It has given them a sense of purpose, a sense of calm, an escape, a goal, an identity… a dream that could now become a reality. Isn’t this something we all strive for? This has made me realise how lucky we are in this school. We should be grateful each day for our unlimited access to music, to a wide variety of instruments, to technology. Some of these children had never even seen a real piano.

What else did I get from this experience? I realise that I can teach so much more than a song to a choir. I can teach a story, a language, a history, a culture. The Arts has a powerful way of bridging the gap in this country and in every nation. As an Irish teacher who has come to Australia, this journey has taught me so much not only about music, dance and art, but this beautiful country that we get to experience each day as well. This experience has changed me as a person, a teacher, a friend, a performer, a conductor, a musician, a singer, a friend, a sister, a daughter, a wife. I have a greater appreciation and gratitude of everything that I have in my life, and realise that I can not sit back and watch the world go by, I need to live and be thankful for all I have. This experience has opened my mind to the world, the landscape and the people that surround me.

Thank you Moorambilla, you have made an imprint on my heart that is there to stay. I hope I can share some of this with you at Claremont. Thank you Doug and Janelle for sending me… I am truly grateful to work in such a wonderful school that celebrates the passions, interests of our teachers and recognises a wonderful opportunity when it arises.

If you have not seen the documentaries named above, I strongly urge you to see them. And watch out… my mind is going 100 miles an hour with crazy ideas for our 2018 concert! To find out more or to donate to this wonderful cause through their website.

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Tara Barr
Head of Music