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Seven of the best

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Published: 4th January, 2017

Eight inspirational women are making their mark on Australian music, as the success of their latest CD shows, says Julie Houghton. Meet The 7 Sopranos, a group of women who cover a diverse age range – and who, although classically trained, are creating their own successful paths in the world of Australian contemporary music thanks to their founder, herself a singer. Together they have just released their second CD, Popcorn – Songs from Stage and Screen.

If we believed all we see in the media, it would seem that successful singers in Australia are young and nubile 20-somethings, made to fit an idealised notion of how women should look. Thankfully, all is not what it seems, and there are many women happy to own being over 25. Queensland’s Tarita Botsman enjoyed a successful operatic career and decided to gather together a group of seven hugely talented women to pool their vocal strengths and form The 7 Sopranos.

It was a unique opportunity that led Tarita to create our own female classical super group. “In 2009 I was asked to put together a group of singers for an event in Cambodia, so I suggested seven sopranos. So The 7 Sopranos sang on the top of the Angkor Wat in Cambodia to 2000 guests,” Tarita says. “I witnessed how much the audience were transfixed by the power of our performance and decided to run with it and keep going!”

While Tarita originally sang with the group, as time progressed she realised she needed to focus on managing the group. They have previously recorded a self-titled album through ABC Classics, and the release of  Popcorn is a strong indicator of their success. On the CD is a remake of a 1933 song “Keep Young and Beautiful”. But in the video clip, glamorously dressed and coiffed singers cleverly update (and subvert!) the song with important messages for 21st century women. These include “A girl should be what and who she wants”, and “Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes”.

“The 7 Sopranos are real women, not super models, they are all healthy and strong and it’s great to celebrate messages like “Be yourself” and “Embrace your curves” in our film clip …  Positive messages so women of all ages are perfectly aligned with my aims for the group,” Tarita says.

The group members are all classically trained opera singers—Zoe Drummond, Clarissa Spata, Claire Candy, Kyla Allan, Jessica Low, Deb Rogers and Kathryn Bradbury. Kathryn has two young children and one of Tarita’s aims is to encourage young mums to continue their singing careers around their children, as both she and Kathryn have done.

Another important reason for having The 7 Sopranos is the increasing lack of work for singers in Australia, and Tarita hopes that the group will raise the profile of its members.

“With funding for opera companies being cut, singers being imported and full-time opera chorus numbers dwindling, we are losing our opportunities to find the next Dame Joan Sutherland or Dame Nellie Melba—we are seeing a huge vocal talent drain out of Australia, and for a country with a proud tradition of creating and celebrating their internationally recognised opera singers, it’s a huge pity,” Tarita says.

“In this difficult and bleak environment, The 7 Sopranos helps singers to tread the boards and work on their craft.”

It seems that Tarita’s work with her supergroup is paying off, as with the release of the new CD, it didn’t take long to get 60,000 views on YouTube, and more albums were sold on the first post-release weekend than ever before.

Which just proves that Australians want to support and hear these fabulous female voices we have nurtured. Long may they sing!

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