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Outback Choir

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Outback Choir

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Outback Choir follows the heart-warming story of Moorambilla Voices Regional Choir and its founder Michelle Leonard’s personal mission to bring a desolate musical landscape to life. Chronicling their journey from audition to stage, the film reveals the trials and tribulations of running a children’s choir in the most isolated and disadvantaged region of NSW, where sport is king and music education is non–existent.

Set against a landscape of devastating beauty, Outback Choir is a moving portrait of the fragile world of possibility that is childhood, and reminds us why no child, anywhere, should grow up without music.

Every March, Michelle Leonard gets in her car and heads west. Travelling 4,000 kilometres across the remotest regions of NSW, she visits 30 towns and 55 schools to audition 2,000 kids for her Moorambilla Voices Regional Choir. Just 120 kids will make it in.

Originally from Coonamble, music was Michelle’s ticket into the world. Sitting on the veranda, her Dad can remember a time when there were at least 20 jazz bands in town. These days, there’s no band. No choir. No music teachers. No music education full stop. In every town she visits, the story is pretty much the same. For Michelle, kids growing up without music is unthinkable.

For Riley from Coonamble, this is his third year auditioning for the choir. Handsome and built, everyone’s pushing Riley to be a footy star – but when he sings he just beams.

Living on the mission in Walgett, nine-year-old Shari dreams of being a pop star. When she gets a place in the choir, her teacher Nora offers to drive her and her cousins to the choir’s music camp. Looking like the young Sapphires, the girls are nervous. Making friends can be scary and ‘you don’t know what people will think of you’.

For four days, Shari, Riley, and 120 other kids will write, play and sing with Australia’s finest musicians and composers. For many, it will be their first chance to express themselves musically.

But it’s not just the music. Going away to camp is a major event on the road to being a grown up. Eight-year-old Keira has packed her own bag. Walking 20 minutes along the dusty road to the hall each day, she wishes she packed something other than her high heels.

Like most of the kids in the choir, life for Keira is pretty tough. But the choir is a welcome respite from daily life. A chance to sing and make new friends. A chance to eat homemade cakes. A chance to be challenged and believed in. A chance to be good at something.

As spring ignites fields of yellow canola, the children take to the stage at Coonamble Showgrounds for their big concert. For just one night, they will all be super-stars.

Through this film, we witness a desolate musical landscape slowly coming back to life, and open a door into childhood to be reminded why no child, anywhere, should grow up without music.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2014

In remote areas of Australia art and movement are infused by music, giving a sense of heroism and great energy, securing confidence for all involved.
So it is with the Outback Choir, the story of the Moorambilla Voices.

Creating social networks power and sustain our society. This wonderful choir in a cross-cultural exchange of both knowledge and creativity is empowering individuals, emboldening community outcomes and strengthening the values and freedoms that inform our thinking.
These are cool kids of today coming together to inspire all the children who live in the country, on the coast, as well as in the city.

They are uplifting their voices binding community and culture together, enriching the Australian way of life.
In Victoria at Melbourne Outback Choir, the story of the Moorambilla Voices.will be up on the Big Screen at Federation Square. In Western Australia it is on the Big Screen at the Perth Cultural Centre.

The story reveals how 200 children, who live in remote areas of central and northwest New South Wales, are gathered together from 70 schools in 42 towns to become a unique choir.
Artistic Director Michelle Leonard is developing both the children’s abilities and skills, assisting the participants to value add to their own community as well as their life’s journey by restoring their faith and hope through music.
“We are incredibly excited about the ‘Outback Choir’ documentary” says Michelle. “It gives us an opportunity to share the Morrambilla experience and the power of creative learning’

Michelle Leonard founded this initiative and is inspiring these children to not only find their voices but also to discover what their passion in life is really all about, helping them to see a clearer pathway forward towards the future.
With sponsorship and a great deal of support, being a member of the choir gives the children both the courage and momentum to give outstanding performances collectively. They gain in both confidence and self-esteem.
This is one of the only cultural experiences available to regional and indigenous children in remote areas.

Australian conductor Richard Gill OAM is their Patron and generous patrons supporters and donors contribute to make it happen.

Michelle emphasized “We also hope the broadcast will support us in our constant search for financial assistance, as we celebrate our tenth year in 2015″ said Michelle.
The children’s time spent with the choir is highlighted when they perform at the major concert held each year at the Moorambilla Festival.

They live in at Coonamble and become an integral part of the festival’s ‘residency program’ so they can perform with some of the Australia’s greatest performing and visual artists.
This style of social structure is fundamentally relational. It also helps us measure our social connectedness, improving opportunities for all.
It’s a visible entity fostering pro-social behaviour.
Life in outback and remote areas of Australia can lead to heartache and heartbreak in communities where children struggle on a daily basis with living isolated lives.

Our geographic sense often conflicts with measures of network centrality, and this sort of activity breaks down the barriers and surmounts the boundaries that often restrict outcomes.

This is also a superb cultural awareness activity, one that is also about the children learning how to discover their own centre of creative expression to build upon.
Michelle is helping children to unleash their innate creativity, which is intrinsically human and integral to all our characteristics.
Creativity is not about just painting, drawing, dancing or music, it is also about so much more. It doesn’t care about skin colour, origin, gender or how rich or poor you are, or the kind of family you grew up in.

It’s about the future you create for yourself and how you empower others to transform.
In practical workshops the children explore their ‘creative’ self by discovering how best we can communicate with those around us, one of the most important issues affecting how we work and live in the 21st century.
Community matters and this is about establishing our values and changing the way we understand diversity and how we can harness untapped potential and leverage our differences for the benefit of all
It’s all about how, in this so-called age of communication, we can really relate to those around us by learning to listen, react and contribute by connecting and conversing with those around us.

Culture and creativity need to be mainstream elements of any country and its social and economic life. They help us to expand and value democracy and its important processes.
A truly creative nation is one that is productive, not destructive.
All over the western world the rise of creativity in the past few decades has meant communities coming together to stand up for the aims of the society they belong to.
It’s all about supporting innovation, new ideas, expanding knowledge and championing social growth and cultural development
Communities can become diverse, thriving economies based on a concept of ‘vive le difference’ if they ensure that creativity is a force for good.
The defining characteristics of a creative activity means endeavouring to be unique, pro-active and self-determined

Michelle’s guidance and leadership means the Moorambilla Voices and Festival have won several awards.
the 2011 Australia Regional Achievement and Community Awards, NSW Trade and Investment Event and Tourism Award, Music in Communities Network National Award, Celebrating Creative and Inspiring Partnerships. In 2012; APRA/AMCOS Australian Music Centre Art Music National Award for Excellence in a Regional Area, 2013 NSW State Award for Excellence in Music Education

Michelle Leonard, says: “Moorambilla Voices gives our children an experience that even kids in the big cities would love to have. We are headlong into planning our exciting 10th year anniversary and encourage everyone to donate via our facebook or website pages.”

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