Roslyn Sullivan creates magic for backdrops

Roslyn Sullivan is a Wongi woman, born in Kalgoorlie and now living in the outback town of Laverton in Western Australia. She watched her father paint when she was a child and has been drawing and painting ever since. Roslyn is the Art Supervisor for GETS in Laverton. Roslyn has exhibited her art all over the WA Goldfields and in Perth and has had some work exhibited at the Perth State Library in the 1990s. She has been working with textiles, experimenting with dying and different materials.

Every day in the August residential camps she soaked fabrics in colour – using turmeric, gum leaves, wattle flowers, and eventually onionskins, powdered turmeric and curry powder! As she read about the mussel shapes at Narren Lakes, meeting children and supervisors from the 17 communities the Moorambilla children are from, her artwork took shape. The dyed fabric was then painted with charcoal mixed with acrylic paint, with shapes that reflect communities and centres where people gather, with lines that move like dancers in space – connecting, rotating and moving with elegance and fluidity. The overall effect is spell binding.

“The energy that Roslyn has captured, and the sense of joy and movement really was Moorambilla magic,” says Artistic Director Michelle Leonard. “Personally, it was wonderful to see the change of direction her painting took once she saw the MAXed OUT Company dance – like clouds over the Gundabooka landscape. The vibrant yellow and ochres were layered into the fabric over multiple dying.”

We can’t thank the generosity of the Laverton/Leonora cross-cultural association (LLCA) and Anglo Gold Ashanti for their generous support of her trip across the country to make this happen. Moorambilla Voices looks forward to the start of an incredibly fruitful artistic collaboration between our region’s artists.

Photography: Noni Carroll (noto)

Kevin Barker writes ‘Gunderbooka’ for MAXed OUT Company

Kevin Barker spent time in Mount Gunderbooka at the Moorambilla Artist Immersion, and from that created a piece, for three-part choir, Song Company and Australian World Orchestra. He explains his inspiration and talks about working with the young students to sing the music in during the residential camps at Baradine.

I spent a long time watching and listening to the slow movements in the landscape around me at Gunderbooka. At times I felt the breadth and age of it, and a sense of its nurturing spirit, flow into me; I could almost feel myself merging with the spirit of the land. I’ve wanted to give a sense of all that in my music.

Knowing that I was writing for the MAXed OUT Company, I thought about how teenage years can sometimes be a bewildering, lonely time. I wondered if the music could help nurture an understanding that individuality need not be isolating, that their experiences are in many ways shared, and that both drawing on and giving to their connection with nature, community, and each other can provide support through their journey.

These, then, are the things I’ve tried to evoke in my music — breadth, timelessness, wonder, and connection.

The opening music is a Dance of Creation inspired by an Ngemba story of how the land around Gundabooka was formed. Goanna-dancers enact the land accompanied by music that is energetic, percussive, primal.

This music is made from layered rhythmic patterns, echoing the layers of time and earth built into the land. The clapping patterns are of unequal length, so as they overlay each other they phase and resynchronise, building a solid but motive foundation to the more freely creative percussion part.

As the goannas finish their creative task and move off to rest, Mount Gunderbooka is formed, and we begin the Dances of Nature. Now
the music loses its impulsive energy, and becomes broad and timeless. Parallel blocks of sound move to the contours of the mountain; each chord its own root but linked one to another by the sweep of motion.

The final section is Song of the Spirit. It begins tentatively, with hesitant phrases interspersed with flurries and arabesques of birdsong. The music is lifted and carried forward on the wind, before touching down and beginning to move more surely. I’ve tried to give this music a soaring breadth of melody, emerging from the timelessness of the cloud dances, yet always with an urge forward, to move and breathe and grow.

Working with the MAXed OUT Company has been a fantastic privilege. At the Baradine workshop they gave their all, and I was floored by what they achieved. Their openness and generosity imbue the music with true spirit.

Collaborating with an artist like Michelle Leonard, working together to shape the music to fit this particular ensemble, has been amazing. I have learnt alot about writing for choral voices, how to draw out the potential of voices within my music. Being able able to draw on her experience and advice has been invaluable.

Photography: Noni Carroll (noto)
For more on Kevin:

Yindyamarra: a CD from Moorambilla Voices


Songs to Celebrate Christmas

Recorded live at Eugene Goossens Hall, written for Moorambilla Voices.

Artistic Director Michelle Leonard OAM.

The CD features all Australian compositions, by the stunning voices of children from across rural and remote regions of NSW, members of the Australian World Orchestra and Clem Leske on piano.
1. Yindyamarra, A Promised Sign, by Josephine Gibson (sung in Wiradjuri)
2. So Strong by Alice Chance
3. Ride On by William Yaxley
4. Joyful Expectation (of seeing Santa!) by Georgia Scott
5. Sleep little Baby Sleep by David Basden
6. Home Again by Andrew Howes
7. Yindyamarra, A Prospect of Peace, by Josephine Gibson (sung in Wiradjuri)
That’s Why I Really Love Christmas by Owen Elsley

Accompanied by Clem Leske on piano
Chamber ensemble from the Australian World Orchestra:
Monica Naselow – violin
Madeleine Easton – violin
Tahlia Petrosian – viola
Christina Leonard – saxophone
Kirsty McCann – double bass
Peter Morrison – cello

Take a look behind the scenes of the recording here!

Excited, inspired: singing with Song Co at Moorambilla

Chloe Lankshear is clocking up firsts: singing for the first time with The Song Company, and as part of their collaboration with Moorambilla Voices, working for the first time with the children and artists residential camps in Baradine. She shares her experience with some photographs by Noni Carroll.

It’s my first project as a contractor with The Song Company and we’re working with Moorambilla Voices high school ensemble, MAXed OUT. This year there are 97 attendants, all of which are at varying levels of music training. For some, this is the very first time they will sing in a choir, see and play a taiko drum, and explore the beauty of contemporary dance. For others, this is a treasured experience with their Moorambilla ‘family’. Either way, each student has found a sanctuary where artistic expression is nurtured and cherished, all under the vision of this one extraordinary woman, Michelle Leonard. As the first choir rehearsal commences, she walks among the choir and talks to each kid individually, instructing, guiding, cultivating, and disciplining. A loving and devoted task-master.

Our first piece, a major composition called Gundabooka by Kevin Barker, sits fragmented in green paper folders for the kids to workshop. The Song Company model the excerpts for the choristers to mimic back, while Michelle and Kevin discuss the workability of each section. The young men of the group do an admirable job with their new found vocal register, as they take direction from Richard Black and Mark Donnelly on the intricacies of their recently developed instruments. Meanwhile for Steph and myself, we tutor the sopranos and altos on the importance of opening one’s mouth without swallowing their tongues, a necessary technique for excellent choral singing. It’s clear that, although the selected few have demonstrated remarkable aptitude for the arts, that the majority do not read music fluently, if at all. With days so full of choreography and drumming, it astounds me just how quickly these kids absorb all of the new work, and rewrites, by rote.

It is a truly excellent experience for any composer to be able to listen to their work read by the voices that will eventually premiere it. To be able to rewrite live, and experiment with sounds and voices, brings a whole new depth to the work. As well as modelling the major work, Song Company is accompanying a beautiful text written and read aloud by Clive Birch. The music is atmospheric of the textures and sounds of his word painting, and the tones of each singer brings new colour to his words. Soaring above his resonant voice, bird calls and long tones animate the text. There is something inherently Australian about birdcalls in contemporary composition. Many have done so before Kevin, Stephen Leek and Sally Whitwell to name a few. With such a rich history of indigenous culture, and so many dialects to explore, there is seemingly a never-ending supply of inspiration for composers and artists. Just thirty minutes down the road is the Dandry Gorge, a place overflowing with colour, textures, and light. I stopped every hundred paces to record the sound of bird calls or take in and imprint upon my mind the many different greens and blues and oranges that had been painted upon this beautiful land thousands of years prior. Returning back to the workshops I had a fuller appreciation of the research and understanding behind the education that these kids receive.

That night, in conversation with Moorambilla Voices Board member Margie Moore, I learn of Michelle’s true dedication to the program and its cause. Originally starting out as an outlet for young boys in the bush, it has grown into a program that fosters and encourages rural girls and boys to aspire to greater heights, not just in the arts, but in anything they put their minds to. A message from my friend Nathan Byron, once a Moorambilla boy himself, tells me how excited he is that I am there to work with the kids. How, without that experience and support, he might not be where he is today, a spectacular second year tenor at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Regardless of how many actually go on to pursue music as a career path, guaranteed every single one of these kids will come away from this experience more confident in themselves and their abilities to achieve excellence in whatever they put themselves whole heartedly in to.

As I approach the end of my time here, I recognise the soul that goes into pulling together such a rich program. Every kid is cared for; every art form pushes them to achieve a higher standard than the year before.

The choreography, the musicianship, the conceptualisation turning into realisation; you can’t help but be excited watching this genuine outpouring of creativity from every single teacher and performer involved.

There is so much love for everyone here that you see even the most introverted and self-conscious kids become vibrant and confident individuals. Needless to say, the upcoming Gala Concert performance in September will be a showcase of talent and hard work, fostered by Michelle and her team, and perfected by every child’s devotion to the arts. I can’t wait.

About Chloe: As a child in Canberra I joined every choir, orchestra and band that I could possibly apply for. I studied multiple instruments and was enrolled in the pre-tertiary music course at ANU School of Music for years 11 and 12. Since that time I have pursued a career in music, co-running Luminescence Chamber Singers and Children’s Choir in Canberra, running the sight-singing and aural program for that same organisation, as well as studying at The Sydney Conservatorium of Music, specialising in classical voice.

Leonora students from WA thrive at Moorambilla

For the first time at Moorambilla Voices residential camps, three students from Leonora District High School, in remote Western Australia, came to Moorambilla MAXed OUT Company. And they had a blast of a time. Leonora students Braedyn Butson, Shantahlia Kenda and Lakeisha Whitby travelled with teacher Jenna Corlett, AIEO Dianne Vincent and Education Assistant Luke Maxfield.

Jenna Corlett, Leonora District High School Teacher, shares their experience, with photographs by Noni Carroll.

We began our adventure in our small rural town of Leonora in Western Australia. Three of our students were selected to participate in MAXed OUT Company to sing, dance and play percussion with other like minded 12-16 year olds from towns across rural and remote Australia. We were the only school from Western Australia participating in the event, which was pretty exciting!

Our first flight from Leonora to Perth was a wickedly, windy flight where the turbulence allowed for no real rest. With a two hour delayed departure we arrived in Perth and made our way straight to the Qantas domestic terminal to catch our second flight to Sydney. Out of our small group of three students and three adults only two of us had flown to East Australia before so the thrill of a flight on a larger plane as well as a new city was evident.

We arrived in Sydney late and caught a cab to our hotel. The next morning we woke and returned to the airport for our third and final flight to the rural NSW town of Dubbo. From there we hired a car and drove to Baradine, a small rural town of approximately 500 people. This would be our final destination and home for a week to the 97 enthusiastic high school students ready for a unique opportunity to share their creative selves with professional musicians and artists and choreographers.

Workshops and sessions start immediately the students arrive into Baradine, with Taikoz artist Ryuji Hamada leading the session on fan and sword dancing, and Artistic Director Ian Cleworth on taiko.

Each day consisted of a range of workshops to build on the children’s natural talents, whether it was choral singing, percussion and taiko or composition techniques and performance experience with the ultimate goal in mind of an end performance in September . The workshops were run by professional artists, who have a passion for their area as well as passing their skills and knowledge onto these aspiring young people. However, to me this whole experience has been so much more than just a music workshop. There are so many underlying qualities that this camp teaches these students. Qualities such as social skills and leadership, self- confidence and self- discipline and the opportunity to make lifelong friends.

Choreography with Queensland Ballet Education Executive Jacob WIlliams and intern Tainga Savage.

Luke Maxfield was a wonderful part of the supervisors team on camp.

The passion of Michelle Leonard, the Artistic Director, is highly apparent and the students truly respond to this. Her high expectations, guided with the clear directions of all the experts allow for outstanding results. Being a resident of a rural town in Western Australia, I believe there is a need for such a experience to be brought to our state. The way it brings the local community as well as communities within the area together was admiring to witness and is what I took from this experience the most. Whether it was creating the props for the final performance, catering the food for the students, staff and volunteers, or providing the accommodation for everyone, they all came together to make this event such a success. It was truly a beautiful occasion to witness and be a part of!

Above: Michelle Leonard works with the children as they sing and guides the artists at the MAXed OUT residential camp. Below: The WA children were part of a large group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students this year from all over Australia and could share stories and experiences as they took part.

The children worked with artist Roslyn Sullivan, from Laverton in WA, as she produced textile backdrops.

Jyllie Jackson, from Lismore Lantern Parade, worked with the children to build sculptures for the lantern parade.

National Excellence in Music Education award for Moorambilla Voices

Moorambilla Voices received the national Award for Excellence In Music Education from APRA AMCOS Australian Music Centre this week. An award for everyone involved in the 2016 program and for our relentlessly positive Artistic Director Michelle Leonard OAM. A well deserved recognition for your drive and passion!

On behalf of our Board we’d like to thank all the parents and children of the program, our amazing General Manager Dayle Murray, artists Taikoz and Song Company, the The Australian World Orchestra, composers Andrew Howes, Josie Gibson and Will Yaxley, choreographers Jacob Williams and intern Tai Savage, visual artists Noni Carroll and Jyllie Jackson, our phenomenal ground force Annie Berrell and Karen Saunders and their team of supervisors and volunteers! We just couldn’t do it without you. We would also like to thank our funding bodies Create NSW, Australian Government Dept of Communications and the Arts, Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation and Scully Fund.


Sensational residential camps herald Gala Concerts

Buy tickets to the 2017 GALA CONCERT

Over two weeks, over 300 Moorambilla Voices children sang up a storm, creating new Australian music, choregraphed dance moves and new percussion in Baradine.

Some children experienced the magic for the first time, and all of them loved the opportunity of being allowed to discover the unknown paths of their imagination. For many, this was the only chance they have annually to express themselves through dance, how to read music and sing in a choir.

The children came from schools across the whole of Australia. In NSW, the children are from the whole of the north-west region, from Bourke to Dubbo, from Lightning Ridge to Coonabarabran. And this year the program included children, teachers and artist Roslyn Sullivan from Leonora in Western Australia, and students and teachers from St Ursula’s College Toowoomba in Queensland.

Read about their experience here.

Artistic Director Michelle Leonard OAM, originally from Coonamble, is fired up about the talented children in the room this year. “These primary and high school students were busting to sing about new music and we kept them on their toes,” she said. Michelle and her team of artists, choreographers and lantern makers shaped 2017 Gala Concert, performed over 3 concerts in September in at the Dubbo Regional Theatre. The resulting performance will bring to life stories of the night sky, mountains and trees of the ancient landscape around Gundabooka National Park near Bourke.

The week included the arrival or a new set of taiko drums, made especially for the children of regional NSW.

“We were delighted to be given support by the NSW Government to provide our region with the first EVER set of Australian-built set of Taiko drums – made by TaikoDrumWorks – which will be used initially by children in high schools in Coonabarabran, Cobar and Lightning Ridge. This is an exciting new development for us as we invest in our community.”

Artistic collaboration is one of the hallmarks of Moorambilla and the children have the opportunity to work with these leading Australian artists:
• composers Kevin Barker Patrick Baker and Josephine Gibson from Sydney Conservatorium of Music
• Taikoz, one of Australia’s most versatile music percussion ensembles
• Australia’s premiere vocal ensemble The Song Company
• Chamber Orchestra made up of eight members of the Australian World Orchestra
• Accompanist Ben Burton
• Queensland Ballet Schools Education Executive Jacob Williams, originally from Dubbo, with Tainga Savage, our 2017 dance intern.
• Lantern workshops and artworks made by Jyllie Jackson, founder and artistic director of the Lismore Lantern Parade, with Sara Tinning
• Photographer Noni Carroll and resident visual artist Phoebe Maroulis
• Textile artist Roslyn Sullivan from Laverton in remote Western Australia

Read more about the stunning lanterns here.

Read Chloe Lankshear’s experience with The Song Company on camp here.

“We’re just about to release a stunning CD full of the sound of young Australian voices from the bush called Yindyamarra: A Prospect of Peace. It’s a our Christmas gift to the region and has some uplifting and inspiring music for everyone to celebrate with.”

“We invite everyone in the community to come to Dubbo, on Saturday September 23 and Sunday September 24 to experience the magic of Moorambilla.”

Photography: Noni Carroll

A female Maliyan poised for flight

Lantern artist Jyllie Jackson, assisted by Sara Tinning, build a female Maliyan (Wedge-tailed Eagle) to fly at this year’s Moorambilla Gala Concert. Coolamon shapes are also created which will be carried by the children of Moorambilla Voices into the night-time sculpture space which includes fire and lanterns.

“This bird is poised at the top of the mountain, and is building courage to take flight,” says Jyllie. “She comes after the first bird of compassion, the second pair of birds who were about freedom, and now this third bird is about courage.”

Photographs: Noni Carroll.

The magic has begun

Harriet D’Arcy, undertaking a BMus Performance at the Sydney University Conservatorium of Music, is a Moorambilla Voices Intern this year. She writes about her experiences at the Boys Regional Choir Camp.

As the chatter of children on their morning tea break filled the room and the sunlight danced through the windows, I couldn’t help myself from reflecting on the sounds around me. Indeed, this was no dull chatter. Rather, a raucous buzz of young boys and the faint exasperated sigh of a supervisor struggling to get an over-enthused eight-year-old to stop eating, sit down, and look at their music.

But after five minutes into rehearsal with Michelle Leonard, you could have heard a pin drop in the dusty Baradine Hall. Another exaggeration yes, (because dust would of course muffle the sound of a pin dropping) but I cannot deny a palpable shift in the energy, poise and concentration of the children. Posture? Check. Breath control? Check. Intonation? …..Check. The boys were working together to create a beautiful sound.

With guidance from Michelle, their voices are blended together, matching timbre and dynamic. The hairs standing up on the back of my neck were a sure sign that a choir had indeed been born. After each rehearsal there are definite improvements, whether it be that another piece has been memorised, the children have started to get a grasp on musical notation, or even that we’ve made it through half an hour without 17 individual water breaks.

The boys’ focus is admirable. Today, as my mind wandered a tad further than it should have in the direction of the upcoming lunch break, I heard a little voice behind me whispering, “this is so weird, I’m not even at school, I don’t have to concentrate, but I want to!” I stifled a laugh and grinned into my copy of ‘Going Home’, thinking that this little statement had totally encapsulated the nature of the Moorambilla Voices camp in that the children are inherently inspired. As an educator and leader, Michelle entices out the best version of the boys’ self, and engages them wholly for two hour rehearsals. Even as eyes wander at the 1 hour 50 minute mark, the boys will bounce joyfully into the lunch line singing the melodies of the compositions that have been workshopped in the hour prior.

After warm instructions not to eat until they feel sick, the boys resume their afternoon dance and art workshops. Traditional gender expectations are shattered as the boys boogie across the floor (albeit some more gracefully than others) and express their connection to country by creating landscape-inspired lanterns and regional totem poles.

By the time 5pm rolls around the boys are tired, but never seem to loose their zest and enthusiasm for camp as they trundle off into the sunset toward Camp Cypress. It is something that gives them purpose, and for a lot of the children it encourages them to come into themselves and openly express and regulate their thoughts and feelings.

For those coming from under-resourced schools and difficult family situations, the camp offers security, positivity, reward and purpose. It provides a respite of routine, good food, encouraging feedback and nurturing praise.

Music is often referred to as a universal language, the one vehicle of expression that transcends race, religion and privilege. Moorambilla Voices epitomises this, integrating music with other art forms to connect children to each other, to themselves, and to their environment. And, perhaps most poignantly, the program encourages personal growth, and an increasing awareness of the history, and cultural diversity of NSW’s far north west.

As a tertiary music student, I was drawn to the camp initially because of its focus on regional and remote communities. I grew up in Tathra on the far south coast of NSW and after having the opportunity to board for my final three years of high school in Sydney, I became aware of the immense educational gap that plagues a majority of regional centres – particularly in regard to the arts.

Throughout my university experience I have continued to be inspired by the challenge to close this gap. As a result, when my Dad whipped out the Moorambilla film ‘Wide Open Sky’ for a family movie night (although I initially critiqued the choice of a documentary) I was quick to eat my words and apply for a position on the team for the 2017 season. Michelle’s pedagogy throughout the choir workshops is incredibly unique, and her energy and drive with the boys pushes them to improve both as individual singers and as a choir at a whole at an incredible rate. I have loved every minute of it thus far and cannot wait to see what the journey has in store next.

So, as the Baradine Hall warms up for the arrival of the girls regional choir on Saturday, the boys can rest easy knowing they have set an incredibly high standard. Their character, persistence and commitment are to be congratulated. Bravo. On day three, I fear the magic has only just begun.

Text and photography: Harriet D’Arcy

Carving culture with Coolamons

“The Coonamble Ceramics Collective is a pretty special place”, says Sooty Welsh, a Wailwan ceramicist from Coonamble.

Sooty discovered ceramics working with Dharug people in a creative centre in Doonside and he hasn’t looked back. When he moved back home to Coonamble, he became involved in Outback Arts and discovered the Collective.

“Now ceramics has taken over my life,” he says. “It’s all I do. With ceramic artist Prue Cullen, you will generally find me at the ceramics shed nearly every day.”

Sooty was inspired when he participated in a NAIDOC Week workshop to make coolamons. “Coolamons are found all over Australia and indigenous people use them for everything – carrying seeds or water or babies. I make them from hand and they connect me to my culture,” he says. The coolamons are shaped from the clay and then carved, drawing inspiration from patterns and designs found in scar trees that pepper the landscape of Wailwan country.

“Ceramics is not about the money for me,” says Sooty. “It’s about the enjoyment of making things. And all of my stuff revolves around my culture.” Sooty drops by Moorambilla residential camps in Baradine to see how the program is taking shape. The coolamons are starting to appear in the lantern shapes that the children are making with lantern artists Jyllie Jackson and Sara Tinning.

“I love coming to Moorambilla. It brings people together now matter who they are. I like the way that the children sing in language, because back in my day we weren’t even aloud to speak language.

“Moorambilla allows the kids to dream about what they want to be. It’s like the Troy Casser Daly song. Dream out aloud – don’t be afraid to dream because the person beside you might have the same one.”

Above: Sooty Welsh is mentoring Coonamble High School kids to create a mural in their school.