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Viewpoint: Joyful! Joyful!

by M. Leonard Cannon

A spectacular Christmas fundraising concert in support of the Choir of Hard Knocks, the name of the concert said it all – ‘Joyful! Joyful!’.

Where to start? At the start! Within the first minute, the award-winning Footscray-Yarraville City Band, under the direction of Phillipa Edwards, one of Australia’s best and most charismatic conductors had the audience and the Play It Forward massed choir rocking and doing all the actions to a medley of Village People hits including YMCA. Some of the actions were not exactly right – who cared? Nobody! Everybody was having fun.

Then the multi-award-winning Dr Jonathon Welch AM literally bounded onto the stage, brimming with energy, positivity and joy and started weaving his magic. The setting and the weather were perfect. Deakin Edge is a unique venue in Melbourne, particularly beautiful on a sunny day when the sparkle from the Yarra River was matched by the sparkle of this delightful concert.

The Yarra is a special place to indigenous Melburnians, as is the spirit, Bunjil, the eagle of their stories. So it was fitting that Jonathon’s Acknowledgment of the Traditional Owners was preceded by ‘Beneath the Wings of Bunjil’ by Deborah Cheetham AO, which was sung beautifully by the massed choir.

Dr Welch is best known of course for creating the Choir of Hard Knocks and once again they did not disappoint, particularly singing their own song, ‘Yes I Can’. This choir gets under your guard and connects with the audience on a profound level. Perhaps this connection is from the sheer joy and community they find through their music and that being part of the choir helps them to overcome their daily challenges.

For me, the most moving part of the whole show was seeing the members helping and supporting each other on stage and leaving the stage. The rapport between Jonathon and the choir is tangible. I found myself clapping and humming along with them. Long may this connection continue to bring a tear to every eye and joy to every heart.

How do you top that? Well, try the extraordinary voice and versatility of Australia’s acclaimed contralto, Liane Keegan, singing everything from the cheeky, operatic ‘Habanera’ (Bizet’s Carmen), to ‘This is Me’ (The Greatest Showman) and ‘Makin’ Whoopee’, then joining the massed choir for the glorious finale with of ‘Joyful, Joyful’ (adapted from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony).

Liane also trains and mentors a highly talented group of young opera singers called XL Arts, who joined her and then the choir to show off their skills. There is a lot to show off – Australia has some exceptional voices to enjoy over the coming years. A highlight was XL Arts and THECHO!R combining for a powerfully restrained rendition of Carol Bayer Sager’s ‘The Prayer’. The audience were enthralled for the entire journey.

The virtuoso performance through a full range of genres by pianist extraordinaire, Adam Przewlocki, had to be heard to be believed. Drummer Timothy Phillips had the exquisite timing of a master. Phillipa’s band provided the music and not one, but two, solos. The cornet has never sounded better than when pressed to the lips of Jamie Lawson. Probably the biggest surprise of the afternoon was Byron Crump leading us through a hilarious rendition of ‘Batman Smells’. More up-front work coming for you I think, Byron!

There was mention of the band’s recent return from Europe, touring their incredibly moving work, ‘The Silent Anzac’ for the 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1. I’ve seen this and it’s not to be missed. Log in to FYCB website to check on future performances.

So how do you end such a wonderful two and a half hours? Everyone was on stage, XL Arts led us through an entertaining version of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’, the massed choir gave a soulful rendition of Handel’s ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ from Messiah and last, but by no means least, Liane and the choir sang us to a stunning full stop with ‘Joyful! Joyful!’.

All performers donated their time and talent to be part of this concert and to support the Choir of Hard Knocks and Jonathon’s inspiring new organization, Play It Forward, providing inclusive arts programs for all Australians. I strongly recommend you check out their website to see what they have coming up next!


Participating choirs: Choir of Hard Knocks; THECHO!R; All Together Choir; Choir of Opportunity; Latrobe Valley Community Choir; Voices of Casey; Voices of the Alfred; Western Health Singers


Viewpoint is a new feature of Classic Melbourne, which seeks to involve performers or members of the audience in considering their experience of a performance.

Leonard Cannon was a member of the choirs participating in the performance given at Deakin Edge on December 1, 2018

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