Giving voice to passion
More than 500 young musicians from NSW public schools dazzled the Sydney Town Hall audience at this month's In Concert.
The choral and musical showcase brought together members of the Voices in Performance Combined Secondary Schools Choir and, fresh from a very successful European tour, the NSW Public Schools Symphonic Wind Ensemble and Symphony Orchestra, as well as the NSW Public Schools Jazz Orchestra.
It was an extraordinary feat of organisation involving more than 50 schools that had been preparing since Term 1 by carrying out individual school rehearsals and then coming together for all-in rehearsals.
Louise Barkl, arts unit manager and the very passionate driving force behind the Voices in Performance initiatives, said the concert was being treated as a pilot to be expanded.
The initiative, in its third year, was "really about getting secondary school students, in particular, engaged in really exciting choral music experiences and giving them great performance experiences that would motivate them to continue to work in that genre".
She added that the arts unit was responding to the needs of music teachers.
"We surveyed high school music teachers from metropolitan and non-metropolitan regions ... and one of the things they were looking for was more experiences to bring a school group from their own school together to join with other schools," Ms Barkl said.
"We know how important the arts are in a broad education, an all-encompassing education, and there's nothing like the power of performing in an art form that students are passionate about.
"It gives them a way to communicate in a way that they can't through the use of language.
"The skills they gain from working collaboratively with their peers; having to think critically; being able to reflect on their own work and the work of others - they're just skills for life."
Brett Peter Weymark, the artistic and musical director of the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, praised combined schools concerts, pointing to their importance in developing a lifetime appetite for music.
"I got the bug for this repertoire in combined choral concerts in my high school years. If it were not for these concerts, I would not be a professional musician now," he said.
"They quite simply changed my life. It is here, at this age, that the appetite but also the skills are developed to enjoy a lifetime of music."
The evening's repertoire included the Gloria by contemporary English composer, John Rutter, whose music featured in the recent royal wedding.
Guest conductor on the night was Stuart Davis, well known for his work in the field of a cappella singing and in particular with the Sydney-based gospel choir, Café at the Gate of Salvation.
Find out more about the Arts Unit.
Photo: Andrew Lasky
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