Continuing through the Pandemic – A conductors reflection
Continuing through the Pandemic – A conductors reflection
A second year of the COVID-19 pandemic as Community Choir Leaders was, of course, full of many challenges. That doesn’t mean to say there weren’t many deep blessings along the way.
The big challenge: “How do we keep our choirs connected, inspired and singing through the various lockdowns and restrictions, in these times where opportunities for healthy, joyous human connection are needed more than ever?”
We can be super-proud of how each choir and WOV as a whole, found creative ways to achieve this.
Technology empowering WOV Conductors to outreach not only to our own local choir members, but way beyond our own backyards is something for which I know we are all entirely grateful.
Not only were we able to keep being employed in the job we love (no small feat), we were able to continue to use music to help ease isolation and loneliness, to bring joy and vital human connection when these were critically important for communities experiencing crisis.
Although we were “all in this together”, every region had its own situation and each choir its own story.
Some of our choirs were heavily affected by 2021’s COVID-19 ever-evolving situation, particularly those in Melbourne and Sydney which endured lengthy (dare I say brutal, but life-saving) shutdowns and restrictions. Other choirs hardly even needed to don a mask and continued on pretty much as usual!
Our great silver lining was that we actually came together more as a national community than we had before the pandemic. We found ways of operating which brought our beautiful WOV choir communities around Australia together on a regular basis.
Conductors connected with other more too through regular Zoom Meetings, accompanied by drinks, nibblies and much cheer. What a blessing to not feel alone as a Leader!
We continued to deliver an impressive program of weekly singing gatherings on the WOV Live Facebook channel; sessions which were a lifeline for many, including for the Conductors presenting them.
Through WOV Live, we saw the development of an “inter-choir” online community of people from around Australia and even overseas, WOV members or not. I got quite used to saying “Good morning” to folks in the UK when it was night-time in Australia. I even learned to say “Goedemorgen” to our ‘streamers in Holland, albeit poorly pronounced. I did get better at it as time went on, thanks to instruction from our lovely Dutch participants.
Borders being closed or open meant nothing when we came together to sing every night, wherever we were, We truly rose above, soaring on the wings of our shared love of song.
Zoom video parties showcasing both choristers and conductors were a highlight. These “Zooms” supplemented and complemented the Facebook Livestreams.
Some choirs did manage to sing together in person for a good part of 2021. I was grateful that in Brisbane we did. Sure, I lost lose count of how many times I rewrote our choir COVID-Safety policies and procedures. Who knew that being a musician would lead me to become an expert in devising health protocols for community choirs!? It was completely well worth it for us to able to more safely sing together between those lockdowns. And how lucky are we that we live in a country where we can perform outdoors most of the year!
2021 also brought us nourishing opportunities for inter-choir collaboration. The WOV Australia original music-video project We All Sing Together was a platform for creative and artistic expression by the broader WOV Australia community. My accomplice Jay Turner and I were thrilled to be involved in literally bringing together many diverse voices in the audio track and then to see the video come together led by WOV Dandenong’s awesome leaders, Nicki and Craig.
What a fun and apt way to celebrate and demonstrate WOV’s resilience, creative energy and optimism for the year ahead as we emerge from the shadow of the pandemic stronger than before.
Long may WOV continue to bring healing, joy and connection across the planet through the power of song.
Absolutely stoked and speechless that my spotlight performance (at WOVBrisbane’s Christmas Concert, 15 Dec 2019) moved so many people, even to tears and a standing ovation! Thank you to my beautiful choir teacher and mentor, Cath Mundy for helping me with this and my entire choir family for believing in me! I had no idea I had a voice that good! Video to come. My experience in this choir has been absolutely incredible, considering that I have a background of severe anxiety but I know that I couldn’t have done all the things I’ve done in my almost 1 year of being in this beautiful choir (in April) without the support of Cath and her husband Jay, and my support worker Roshjann Scott and of course my choir family. Cath, you have been incredibly supportive of me and have taught me so much in such a short time, it’s been an incredible ride! Merry Christmas to all of my choir family, even my sister choirs and I’ll definitely see you next year! Merry Christmas and love to you all.
I just wanted to explain the meaning behind the song I chose (Miley Cyrus’ The Climb). I was born with Cerebral Palsy, and from birth I spent months in hospital in ICU due to massive complications, docs didn’t think I’d make it. And from then, as a kid I went through countless hours of multiple therapy and now I am still having some therapy but not as much as I did. My life has been and still is, a climb. Same thing applies with my anxiety.
“My name is Jessie. I was a member of With One Voice Brisbane for several years. The reason that I switched choirs is not related to an issue with Cath or the choir itself. It was simply because I moved into a new home and decided to join a local choir to get to know people in my new area and cut down on travel time. Being with WOVB gave me the courage to do so!
WOVB was a wonderful and enriching experience for me. I was one of the Forgotten Australian contingents of WOVB members recruited by Cath through Lotus Place, which is a drop-in center run by Micah Projects to provide support and a community to people who had grown up in government/church care in their childhoods.
I am so glad Cath took the time to reach out to us. Cath, Jay and the choir members were so supportive and understanding when we first tried to join the choir at the weekly rehearsals. Their kindness helped our small group of Forgotten Australians to overcome our fear and a number of us joined the choir. All of us who became involved in the choir grew from the experience. The choir allowed me to feel safe again. I was feeling included and found a place where I belonged. Prior to that, my home (and sometimes Lotus Place) was the only place I felt safe in the world.
I was scared and distrustful at first but Cath’s kindness and bubbly personality were like a salve to a damaged and dying soul. She made rehearsals fun, welcoming and very, very, safe. I went on to sing with the choir at all sorts of truly memorable events, including coming down to Melbourne to sing at a concert in City Hall! I was able to start developing some confidence in myself and to feel like I might have some value. It was truly transformative.
I was no longer the unwanted child. I was no longer the sad and lonely teenager singing to her beloved pigs around the pig pens on the isolated rural farm. I was no longer the mother on the run with her children fearing for her life. I was A SINGER!!! Singing with a real choir. Singing with such greats as John Farnham, Kate Ceberano, and Isaiah.
I was SOMEBODY! A real human being with a place in the world. A voice. A right to take up space. A right to say, ‘NO!’, ‘ENOUGH!’ and ‘I MATTER TOO!’. It gave me the courage to laugh, grow and come alive again. Now, Cath and her clan are performing the same transformation and magic on my brother Paul – whom I also talked into joining the choir. Thank you so much for With One Voice Brisbane and for your funding of community choirs throughout Australia! The work you are doing is saving lives. Including mine.”
Several years ago, Amara, who is visually impaired and requires assistance to pursue her passions, was invited by a friend to join Ashburton’s With One Voice program. Amara, whose first musical love is Musical Theatre, was supported to attend by our very own With One Voice Bayswater Leader, Cassandra, who was working as a disability support worker. Together, the young women were able to share their love of music and singing, and come together with other like-minded people to share the joy of song every week.
Amara says “I love singing and I got a lot out of going to choir. I am a big music theatre buff. It makes me happy to go to choir every week because I make lifelong friendships. I love our conductor, Kym Dillon. I will be tuning in to hear Kym through Facebook now that we can’t meet for a while.”
“This choir means a lot to me because I have lots of fun singing with everyone and talking to everyone at supper.
Wednesday is my favourite day of my week because of choir.”
‘We bridge the gap between people experiencing disadvantage and those more fortunate through the neuro-scientific benefits of community singing. (CA)
On joining With One Voice Brisbane in April 2014, I was taken by the ethos of CA, but curious and a bit skeptical has to how this would play out.
Over the years hence, I began to witness and participate in the realization of this great social initiative. Moreover, it became evident that those among us experiencing disadvantage, were enjoying what for most was the highlight of their week. Personally, the participation and associated friendships formed thus has also enriched my life and no doubt that of the choir as a whole.
Until now, this phenomena has been for me one of appreciation with the process of which I was beginning to take for granted. However, from witnessing the WOV‘s Got Talent and in particular the dance exhibited by Nakinna Atkins and Hayleigh Farlow, my attitude has now gone up a gear and bought it all back home. Those two young ladies epitomized that ethos, for themselves and those others in our choir.
It is also important to highlight Cath Mundy’s role in all of this over the past six years or so. Cath has that unique insight into people which provides all choir members the same degree of welcome and inclusion without any hint of patronizing…….all members regard ourselves on the same level from day one. It follows that the neuro-scientific benefits take it from there, to the extent that WOVB hold it’s own with any community choir in Brisbane. In my words……”we are a bunch of ordinary voices who, being well led, produce an extraordinary sound“.
Thank you for the privilege
What have the With One Voice Live Streams and Zoom sessions meant to you?
When Covid struck and we were all having to keep our distance, the weekly Zoom sessions brought us all back together as one. We could still enjoy the company of others and we were actually able to get to know each other better and share stories even though we were physically apart.
I really enjoyed the nightly live stream sessions with all the different conductors from across Australia, I didn’t know there were so many of them. I got around to all of them and I enjoyed every one – each one had a different style of teaching. I got to meet members from all around Australia online and also all around the world – it’s like having global pen pals because of the live stream – we would never have thought that could happen. It was great to connect to people everywhere who enjoy song, something I’ve never been able to do before.
What does it mean to be part of the With One Voice Brisbane Volunteer Team.
When I was growing up, I was separated from everyone. I feel like I’m part of a team now and if I can do my bit and help out, I like that very much. It’s a nice feeling to be part of a team. Before I was just a loner, I was doing my own thing. Everyone knows me now! It’s a lovely feeling.
What is it that made you want to join With One Voice Brisbane.
I was dragged here by my big sister (laughs) who was a member of the choir. She knew what I was going through and with me being a loner, she said I had to get out and make something of my life. Previously I had seen the choir when they were performing and she dragged me on the stage and I sang with them. When I came along to that first rehearsal, I felt like I was accepted and everyone embraced me. I’ve never experienced being embraced in my whole life. Throughout my life, a lot of people have tried to change me and I couldn’t do it, I had to be true to myself.
That night, I went away happy and I thought, ‘I’ve got to go back, I have to get happy’.
What did it feel like coming back together as a choir in-person?
Relief. Such relief. I loved the Zoom and also the Live Stream but I missed the connection in the room. Even though we are now spaced out apart, we’re still back as a choir, hearing each others voices and being physically together and there’s nothing like it.
In short what does With One Voice Brisbane mean to you?
“I’m a migrant from Malaysia and since joining the choir I’ve made lots of friends, like family.
Singing is very good for my memory and for my relaxation.
I’m 83 years old and I never need to take medication. Singing is my drug and it makes me so happy.”
“While living in the US, my wife died in 2005 leaving me to raise our two year old son, I lost the desire to sing.
I returned to Melbourne in 2013 after being away for 23 years I was looking for a community to support me while settling back in.
I then found Ashburton Sings where I found my passion for singing and a wonderful community to support me.
My Wednesday nights singing with our choir is one of the highlights of my week!.”
“I went out one afternoon and had one of the most inspiring experiences I’ve had in my life – I rocked up to Ashburton choir. It was incredibly scary for me because I’m one of those people who probably still thinks they can’t sing! However, I went along and the generosity of spirit, the sense of community, caring and joy that exists in that choir, it’s so special, it’s powerful.
Every week I go there, I see, I feel and I hear how much compassion there is for one another and that’s what a community is about and what a family is about. I feel privileged to be part of this choir.”
“Many members have expressed that having the choir available online, the kinship and social contact and a reason to keep singing has been fundamental to their well-being during this very challenging time. Very special 🙏🏻❤️ I’m so proud of everyone! I believe that we will come out of this stronger rather than depleted.” Gabriel Macura, WOV Central Victoria Conductor
I joined Ashburton’s With One Voice choir about three years ago as I wanted something of my own to do.
Personally, this wasn’t enough for me, and I went looking for another activity. That’s when I found With One Voice Ashburton.
Six months later, Jon joined me. We both really enjoy singing and have always been involved with music in some way, and now singing is something we are working at improving. I never took myself as a singer, but our conductor, Kym, is very talented, extremely inclusive and fun.
Since January of 2017, I have been volunteering at the Ashburton choir. I take care of memberships, attendance and I also manage the database. This month, we have already had seven newcomers – and four of them have already become members!
I encourage anyone to come and give it a go! Just do it! The community within the choir is so kind and supportive, and we really do have a lot of fun!
Beth’s courage, keen sense of humour and incomparable love of life inspires us every week.
Beth was born with cerebral palsy and is one of With One Voice Melbourne’s original participants.
Peter: “Beth, why do you come to choir?”
Beth: “Freedom, independence and a sense of belonging. Because I feel like I don’t belong anywhere else. I do belong here. At choir no one sees my wheelchair. They see me, as a person.”
In 2014, Beth achieved two lifelong dreams: standing up for the first time, which she did at a choir rehearsal, and landing her first job. The job was at the Royal Melbourne Show, thanks to SKILLED.
“Beth welcomed show-goers with her incomparable enthusiasm and loved the job so much she extended her working hours,” said Delphine Cassidy from SKILLED.
“Both show-goers and co-workers were inspired by Beth’s passion for life and friendliness.”
The day before my first rehearsal for With One Voice, I had been searching the internet for things to do on the weekend when an advertisement popped up. I’d been searching for a community choir for about three months prior and couldn’t find anything that matched what I was looking for.
I joined because I love to sing and there are limited opportunities to sing with others in everyday life. I LOVE to sing, it makes me so happy to sing with others, with no pressures or competitiveness, but just singing for fun and support.
I loved meeting so many different people, hearing their stories, connecting, and witnessing some amazing musical talents.
“I have been looking for some way to give back to the community and I have found it in my much-loved community choir. It is really good therapy for me to meet so many different and wonderful people – people who are homeless or who have a disability or who are recovering from depression and other illnesses. People who have businesses and big jobs and office workers.
I was born in Sri Lanka and lived in a small village. During college in India, I used to take my guitar and go out to the lake to sing songs by myself. I have always been passionate about music and sing a lot – in those days it was Tom Jones, Englebert Humperdinck, and The Beatles. I still do a great rendition of Please Release Me!
After a strict Catholic upbringing, I left college in my early 20s and went traveling around India. I spent several years living in an ashram in Rishikesh and learned yoga and meditation from spiritual leaders.I also walked through the Himalayas, sleeping in temples and meditating lots, and taught English to young monks in a Buddhist monastery.
In 1989 I met and married Deb in Goa, where I was teaching yoga and meditation, and moved to Australia. We have two beautiful children, Alex and India Rose. I absolutely love being part of With One Voice Sydney. I have met so many people from all walks of life. Even my daughter’s school principal comes to the choir!
Every Tuesday I look forward to seeing my friends and singing together and bringing happiness to us all. I talk to the other participants and they have gone through so many hard things in their lives. Their stories really move me. Singing is something that comes from the heart – it is good for the soul! You don’t have to have a good voice. It comes naturally. Singing with my friends makes me feel very happy. At choir, I’m in a different world, completely. It’s amazing.”
“When I was 12, a music teacher told me that ‘you can’t sing’, some 60 odd years later
I joined this choir and sing every week and enjoying it, I can sing.”
“Hi Tania, my name is Sarah Ann Butler. The very big reason why I have joined the Melbourne choir was to belong, and to be needed. I have been depressed for some time now, as I have not seen my daughter, or my two beautiful grandchildren for the last 15 months, and I have been feeling very empty, lonely, and lost.
Most of my days I am crying. I know then I was going through depression. I had been going to see a Psychologist. The talks we had were good, but I was still going home crying. My son Paul had said to me, Mum you need something different in your life. He suggested music, as music is good for the soul. Paul went on to the internet, touch on to Google and found Melbourne choir at the Sofitel. Paul came with me for a few months until I got used to going on my own.
Tuesday is choir night, and I love looking forward to it. Singing makes me Happy. I have met so many nice people in the choir. The first few months I must say, I was still very sad. The people in the choir did not see the unhappy Sarah when I was singing or talking to them. I had a mask on, I hide my sadness. But as the months went by I knew I no longer needed that mask. I am now a Happy person once again. I am surrounded by people who love me, The Choir. And that lovely Young Conductor Kym, how great! So today’s new friend is tomorrow’s Best Friend, and we all need someone to Lean on.
There was one choir night! I was singing, there was a tap on my shoulder a young lady asked me for my phone number, I gave it to her. Katherine rang me two days later, we went out for coffee into the city, we talked and laughed. Katherine is from Sydney, and she has just moved to Melbourne. We just seem to click. I have taken Katherine to the Thousands Steps, we also climb the Thousand Steps. Katherine, and myself have joined the many Volunteers in this wonderful Melbourne Choir. We greet people at the front desk, we love seeing smiling faces coming towards us. I greet them by saying, Hi, my name is Sarah with a Big smile on my face.”
Sarah from With One Voice Melbourne
My name is Sera Elmasri. My last name means Egyptian and I am literally ‘Sarah the Egyptian’!
I am from an Islamic background. When I first went to the With One Voice Greater Dandenong choir, I didn’t know what to expect. I was met with welcome and acceptance.
I never told anybody what religion I was. In fact, I think I was afraid to say it. As time went on, I felt that I was in a space that was very safe that allowed people to be who they really are, without judgement and a space in which many people could come and talk about their lives in a very real and genuine way.
Coming to this choir has meant, for me, a space in which there is community. There is the joining of people from very different backgrounds.
As a Muslim, I feel very accepted. I feel part of one group. I feel part of a world. Please, join us. You are also part of this world.
With One Voice Greater Dandenong
“I am a proud man from two very diverse heritages – Papua New Guinea and Australia. I was born in Port Moresby. My beautiful mother is a proud Australian and my wonderful father is a proud Papua New Guinean. I am proud of who, what, and where I am, but the journey has not ended. I still have a lot to learn and to accomplish, but I want to better myself in order to have a positive impact on the current generation. I love fitness, although I don’t go to the gym as much as I should. Being balanced physically, mentally, spiritually, and socially is important for me. I discovered this the hard way, which was a strenuous and time-consuming process. I had a terrible accident nearly four years ago. My aunty in Sydney told me about the With One Voice choir starting in Brisbane. She thought I should give it a go, and I thought, ‘Well I have nothing to lose.’ I don’t really hang out with my old friends anymore. Being part of this choir has opened my eyes to a whole new world where I get to learn about other people’s perspectives and mindsets.”
“I have cerebral palsy and walk with elbow crutches. I also use a mobility scooter to get to where I need to go. I am passionate about singing and joined the program to meet new people and improve my networks. The With One Voice choirs enable members to meet other people who they wouldn’t normally meet. If I met someone who was struggling with something, I would encourage them to come to the With One Voice program because it will help them to forget their worries for a short time each week. They will find people in the program who will accept them for who they are and could even help change their lives for the better, even in the smallest way.
I had been looking for work for six years. I made a wish for help with my resume and then I managed to find a job in a call centre. Unfortunately, I was sacked from that job after eight weeks even though I tried hard to do everything they asked. I mentioned at choir that I had just been sacked from my job and my wish was to find a good ongoing job. That night I was introduced to a woman who had been invited to the choir by Tania. She said she might be able to help me with some voluntary work.
I called her and she offered me paid work! I worked for her for 36 months – the longest time I have had a job. I then got another job through the choir working for the Victorian Electoral Commission.
I feel so excited about how life has changed for me! I volunteered as choir member support officer at With One Voice Melbourne because I wanted to give back to a community that has given me so much. I also volunteer part-time at the Creativity Australia office.
I now also earn enough money to sponsor another disadvantaged person to be part of this life-changing program. Choir has changed my life!”
Annabel, With One Voice Melbourne
The choir makes me feel so good!
I am a carer for my two children and their mother, despite the fact I have a rare type of diabetic neuropathy that affects my entire body.
I needed to do something just for myself. I drive for nearly an hour each way to get to choir. Some days I can’t make it because of my condition, but it’s worth the drive when I do.
I come out of there on such a high and I don’t get pain from my neuropathy most nights I sing.
Everyone is welcome and although everyone is different we all are treated as equals. I really like that.
Marg & Jeanette
For resident Marg Walker and her daughter Jeanette, the With One Voice Altona Meadows community choir at Benetas St George’s is more than just an opportunity to sing along to their favourite tunes.
“Mum and I absolutely love singing in the With One Voice Altona Meadows choir,” Jeanette said.
“We feel closer with other residents at Benetas St George’s and enjoy meeting and getting to know the members of the community who participate.”
Jeanette added that involvement in the choir builds a sense of community between all of the participants and it is truly joyful to hear the different residents singing so enthusiastically.
Read more in this great article from DPS News.
Julian was born in Sri Lanka and came to Australia at 21. He joined Greater Dandenong Sings because he was not working and suffered from anxiety.
Julian had always been interested in singing and when he came across a flyer for the choir he thought it would be a place where he would fit in.
“I had bad anxiety, mainly from not working, which could have become depression if I had not found Greater Dandenong Sings,” Julian said.
“Singing has helped as it makes me happy, it’s uplifting, but also talking to people who had similar problems. The choir is supportive. We sing happy songs that give a sense of positive good feelings.”
“I always look forward to choir. I think I will be singing there until I can’t anymore.”
“My wife noticed the difference in me. I’m back to my normal self now.”
“The choir is an escape for me. To open my heart, to be relaxed, happy and forget about all the problems. It’s an open door where you can only see flowers in front and be happy. Enjoy the perfume of the song. The choir really had an important role in my confidence.
The diversity in the choir is amazing. When I got my job interview to prepare, they gave me a hand to improve my confidence and it was really hard for me to take that step. I was so nervous, so emotional. I couldn’t believe I would potentially have a job. Then I got the job. I say thank you to all the members of the choir.”
I’m a transient who was born in the once-beautiful city of Christchurch, New Zealand. I moved to Australia at 14. My wife, Sylvia, is my best feature and she was born in the Czech Republic. We have two kids, Charlotte (six) and Billy (three). I’ve lived in a few places, Germany, France, Belgium, England, and the Czech Republic.
I am a newspaper journalist and love writing. If I could find a way to get paid for it, I would spend my whole life learning languages, I love it. I love the theatre of speaking another language and the feeling of a foreign tongue in your head.
This is about meeting a real fear head on and doing something outside the comfort zone. It’s about the feeling of creating a big, proud sound with others and meeting people I wouldn’t otherwise have met.
Photograph by Hayley Marrs.
“To see my Mom’s enjoyment of belonging to a local choir made me interested to come along and see it for myself. After six months of attending, meeting new people, listening to Kym, our choirmaster, and learning from him, being involved in the big concert at the Melbourne Town Hall was something quite spectacular. What fun and excitement!
Being a stroke survivor, joining the choir has developed my social enjoyment of belonging, encouraged me to keep doing what I like and meeting local people. I was given a 3% chance of survival, yet here I am! Singing makes me happy. I had also played the flute since year 9 but hadn’t done so for about two years, which was sad. However, a member of the Creativity Australia staff recently granted my wish for lessons!
I want to be in a music group. I’m currently learning how to be a Laughter Yoga Leader, which is fun. If more people sung there would be less unhappiness, violence, and broken hearts. I am glad I am in a choir!’’
“I’m from Leicester in the middle of England and first moved to Melbourne nearly 16 years ago with my hubby. I then moved to Brisbane 18 months ago. I love sewing, renovating, watching movies, and volunteering with OXFAM.
I did a Drama Degree and then trained as a primary school teacher when I was in London. Now I arrange headsets for people to help with existing and potential neck injuries. It’s a strange job! A friend sent an email about the choir.
I love to sing but am not very good at is so I liked the ‘no auditions’ aspect! Also joined to meet people – I hardly know anyone in Bris Vegas. I’m blown away by how quickly we’ve got such beautiful harmonies – aren’t we awesome!”
“I sing because it makes me happy. I sing because it makes me well. I sing because I want to but most of all, I sing because it brings me joy!
I have been singing since I was a wee girl growing up in a family home filled with many and varied forms of music. My dad played the church organ, my brother played in a rock band and my other brother played in a brass band. My dear mom and I just sang along to whatever music was playing in whichever room we were in at the time. Different phases of my life have been represented by different genres of music.
Singing choruses along with all the hand actions in Sunday school was pure joy. Climb, Climb up Sunshine Mountain was a real favorite. The Beatles were a huge part of my early teens and it is with great joy that I am now singing A Hard Day’s Night in my With One Voice Geelong choir over fifty years later. The joy may be different, but it is indeed a joy.
During my studying and working years, I used the joy of song more as a tool to relieve stress and worry. There is nothing better than cranking up the volume and singing at the top of your voice in the car, in the shower or wherever. Now that I am retired, I find great joy in singing in my garden. I am blessed to live on two acres in the country so I can sing along to my music without disturbing the neighbors. I don’t think that they would derive the same level of joy that I do from my singing!”
“If anyone has been through the heart-breaking experience of social exclusion, bullying or ostracism because of the way they look or their disability, they would know equality is truly bliss. Bliss is home. I love my new found ‘home’ in this choir.
Once a week extends out to all aspects of my life, it isn’t escapism. It’s a healing experience that betters a person. I came from Beijing in 1990 and grew up in sunny Brisbane. Mum came to Australia two years earlier and worked hard to make a home for me. I lived through the Tiananmen Square massacre and got rice with food stamps. When I arrived in Australia, I was blown away! This is an amazing country, I’m very lucky to be here. I have faced many challenges, including child sexual abuse, but I am a survivor. I endured bullying and racism when I first lived in Brisbane, but that taught me compassion.
At 17 I was diagnosed with lupus, which can attack the body at any time. At 18 I was hospitalized with cerebral lupus. I was also diagnosed with bipolar 1 disorder. After 10 years I was put on medication that worked. However, the side effects are weight gain and kidney complications, which can be bad for lupus. My self-esteem went down the drain. I thought about suicide a few times but I had far too much to leave behind. One of the things I took refuge in was singing and music. I found With One Voice Melbourne online and went along in the first week of 2013.
The energy and connectedness of the people in the choir amazed me and I knew there and then I wanted to be a part of it. I smile a lot in the choir. Ever since the first time I attended, I could not stop smiling because I’m so happy being there. It’s so much fun and very healing. I feel rejuvenated and nurtured after choir! Each time it ends I feel good for two days and start craving choir again! It just keeps getting better and better!
The choir benefits me because it reminds me of my life’s purpose, to be happy, to sing, and to feel inclusion and community instead of isolation and alienation. Suddenly backgrounds, occupation, race, religion, and disability disappear and instead, there are only voices, song, smiles and happiness. We laugh and cry and lean on each other. This is what life is about, this is what happiness is about, this is true equality. The Wish List in the choir that gets read out each week is also amazing. So many people have had a wish come true! How often do people even dare to wish these days? If a wish comes true then I can only imagine how that person’s heart flutters with love and joy even if it’s something small. I got free piano lessons!”
I haven’t really grown up yet and don’t really intend to! There is something to be said for having a childlike curiosity, openness, and love. I find by giving I also receive. I lived in the tropical north for the past 30 years; I now live on the river in a houseboat at Kangaroo Point, which is fantastic!
I‘m also an artist, working on a series for an exhibition with two friends in November, I just love being creative. I have my own business with baths and showers, but my main business and passion is supporting people to optimum health and financial freedom.
At With One Voice Brisbane I am a buddy for new people. I always like to make people feel at ease and welcomed. It’s wonderful to hear people’s stories and enjoy the richness they contribute. I enjoy being part of the amazing growth of the choir after only such a short time, making new friends, and seeing others get confidence and realise that we are all the same in song!
Photograph by Hayley Marrs
I always regard singing as a way to express your feeling because people say that your voice is the reflection of your soul.
Every time I come I sing very happily. We open our hearts and make friends.
It makes your life rich and also this is a means for us to mix together with Australian society which is very important.
“I am 45% Australian, 35% Japanese, and 20% Taiwanese. Apparently, I mix up all my languages when I’m tired, and according to my friends, it’s very entertaining! I love people and culture, gourmet food, arts and traveling. I have a dual degree in Music and Education, and some diplomas in TESOL.
Currently, I teach piano privately, and I also work casually as an informal guide and interpreter for international participants in professional development programs seeking opportunities and stable employment. I saw the advertisement for With One Voice in BMag and thought it would be a fun way to make new friends. I have volunteered to be a choir buddy because I enjoy interacting with people, and think it’s a great way for me to mingle with the group too, as I am shy!”
“I won a double pass to see the With One BIG Voice concert from a radio station called ‘Radio for the Print Handicapped’ 1179 AM. I thoroughly enjoyed it and decided to join the choir.
I love and enjoy coming every week to rehearse with With One Voice Melbourne. The choir, for me, is a source of strength, encouragement, and support in every way, emotionally, spiritually, physiologically and cognitively. Singing is a way of self-expression and it is also a stress relief.
I am dealing with issues with my family and home, and a friend from With One Voice Greater Dandenong keeps reminding me to stay strong. We also sing songs such as Lean On Me and Keep Smiling, Keep Shining which has been a source of strength throughout my life.
The choir has also connected me with a mentor, Peter Kronborg. He is and has been a source of support and encouragement when I’m going through challenging times.”
I was born in Peterhead, Scotland, and have been in Australia for eight years. I recently worked with Cath and Jay as a cast member of their recent world premier musical, Billy Buckett – A Rock and Roll Love Story. I just can’t get enough of the energy and positivity Cath brings to every rehearsal.
I value her ability to bring out the best in everyone, to raise your confidence beyond where you thought possible, and to push you to your limits while having a tremendous amount of fun.
It can sometimes be intimidating to attend a choir rehearsal for the first time when you don’t know anyone. I like to be a friendly smiling face that can welcome new comers with open arms.
Photograph by Hayley Marrs.
“My name is Samantha Camilleri. I feel so much happier when I go to the choir at the Austin Hospital at Heidelberg. I’ve been in the choir for one year. I enjoy it and I am inspired by it and, when I wheel in the door, I see people smiling, dancing and laughing. I love seeing and meeting new people of so many nationalities, from all around the world, who are very happy to see me. There is this big and huge energy in a big and huge room and it gives me so much joy and happiness.”
With One Voice Heidelberg
I often sing along to Michael Crawford or Tony Bennet when I’m alone. I started working as a Mechanical Fitter but was always interested in ambulance work from my days in the scouts as a lad. I joined the Rockhampton ambulance as a volunteer at 19 and went full time at 24.
Between my 30s and 40s I attained a Bachelor of Business, Graduate Diploma in Management, and a Master’s in Business Administration. On the 19th of July, 2014 I became directly involved with Queensland Ambulance for fifty years.
I am enjoying learning how to relax, and enjoy singing with others who have the same interests in singing and the same reservations about their own singing.
Photograph by Hayley Marrs.
The choir is a big part of my life – they are like family to me, and are always so encouraging and helpful.
I was given the opportunity to sing a solo in the choir, and they helped me believe that I could do it.
People in the choir also helped me to get a job. Chris helped me with my application for TAFE, where I am studying for a Certificate III in Childcare, and let me know how I could get casual work as a childcare worker.
With my children living away from home I decided to move somewhere he and I would have never chosen – the city! The move has been a mostly successful challenge, especially in late 2012 where (to my surprise) I remarried!
I have been on leave from full time work for two years and miss the sense of challenge and satisfaction you get from doing something worthwhile. I hope that singing in the choir will keep ‘the glooms’ at bay, while also having the potential to make new friends as well as contribute to the ‘social good’ – one of my strongest life values.
Photograph by Hayley Marrs.
I was born in Buenos Aires, during a period of unemployment my father applied to migrate to Australia. My grandfather took a second mortgage to pay for the airfares. We arrived in 1972 with a suitcase each and $100 US and fell in love with Australia straight away.
I have been an ESL teacher for 30 years. I taught Vietnamese refugees in Darwin and refugees from El Salvador in Melbourne. I also taught African refugees Spanish in Spain. Currently I am employed by TAFE Queensland as a Case Manager for the Adult Migrant English Program.
I was sent a pamphlet from the City Council about With One Voice and was curious. From the first night I felt the choir was a community body, and I wanted to be a part of it. It felt “right” to help. This is secret, so don’t tell anyone, but I can’t really sing!
I was born in Western Australia, but my accent sounds kind of American.
I love photography, and looking after children. I also love anything funny, talking on the phone, and I hope to do a photography course.
I already have a Certificate 3 in children services, and my volunteer job is to take photos and look after the With One Voice Facebook page.
I heard about With One Voice from Facebook and my mum thought it would be a great idea to go and join.
I enjoy singing every week and meeting new people.
I like to try to be positive about myself – no matter what I face in my life.
I am from Prague, a beautiful city in the middle of the Czech Republic.
I’ve been staying at my uncle’s house while backpacking. I’ve also been living out of a big blue Nissan limousine campervan, parked in some of the most beautiful places around Australia.
Four months after my arrival in Australia, I realised how much I missed singing and being party of a community choir. Being part of With One Voice was an amazing experience.
There are so many things I enjoyed, the possibility to talk to friendly people, which is extremely precious for a stranger who is struggling with the language and feeling a bit lost and dispossessed.
Thanks to With One Voice Brisbane I am able to get to know local people who provided me with advice, and helpful tips on where to go and what to see in this beautiful country.
I also got the feeling that every Wednesday night I belonged somewhere.
Photograph by Hayley Marrs.
My life is full and happy with interesting work, family and friends. But too often a full life can become a frantic life. At choir, I can forget about lists and obligations.
I also discovered that choir filled a need I didn’t know I had: to be creative and to express myself. I was even inspired to start singing lessons at the age of 50!
I love knowing that the donation I make to the choir supports others – not just those looking for help with work or study, but those looking to connect and find meaning in their world. For some of our members, choir is the highlight of their week.
As the volunteer Secretary of a With One Voice choir, I also try to foster a strong sense of belonging among our members. Not hard to do, because ours is a choir with a beautiful spirit – open, accepting, caring and with a great sense of fun.
I’d love to see us still going strong in ten years time, with even more members, more songs, more gigs – while still holding on to that special spirit we’ve built over the past three years.
“About a month ago my mum joined the choir, so excited and inspired by the meaning behind it and the community spirit.
She arrives back home each week with a massive smile on her face, singing the songs and retelling us everything that happened on the night.
It makes us all smile as we hear mum humming around the house these days.”
“The choir is an escape for me. To open my heart, to be relaxed, happy and forget about all problems.
I was looking for peace elsewhere, I couldn’t find it.
After I joined the choir I gained peace of mind.”
“All the TED and TEDx talks I’ve watched have been amazing, but this one was the most amazing yet! Seeing how the spark of wonder that is so often hidden in people can bloom with love, connection, encouragement and friends is one of the best of feelings.
Earlier tonight I was talking with friends about a group we want to set up for people who are living alone or feeling alone. We want to make it fun and caring and useful and to help each other give inspiration and meaning to the people in our small rural town.
Tania, you and the awesome people you work and sing with, are an inspiration to everyone whose lives you touch, and will make a big difference to the success of our little group. I might even try to overcome one of my fears and reach one of my goals – to learn to sing and one day sing in public.
To you and all those in one voice – THANK YOU so much – you rock!!!”
WOV Ashburton Participant
“It’s worth reiterating how much fun I have at choir rehearsals and gigs, which, to be honest, is probably mostly down to our conductor, Kym Dillon.
Kym is hilarious and so entertaining to watch, and just makes it so worthwhile to go to practice every week!”
With One Voice Participant
“If it wasn’t for the choir I wouldn’t be alive today.”
With One Voice Participant
“I have always loved to sing and now I have an outlet where I can express this aspect of my personality without being nervous about my musical abilities or being judged.”
“I absolutely love it because it is fun, challenging, rewarding and inclusive. Choir night takes priority over everything else”
With One Voice Participant
“As for me personally, I love the choir, and it provides significant value for me personally, AND for my granddaughter, who simply loves interacting with all the diverse members of the choir.”
With One Voice Participant
”I am a carer. I go to the choir to support & care for my client (it’s my job).
But, I also come to enjoy the singing as well. In the short time that I been there I found people are very friendly, helpful and inclusive to my client.
They accepted his disability, which I appreciate and valued most.”
With One Voice Participant
“When I attend choir I feel empowered , happy and alive I really love to sing it makes me feel great!!!!!”