One Voice Choir is a “big book of Australia” by: Samuel Burnett

One Voice Choir is a “big book of Australia”

“I’ve been here for three years and I’ve loved every minute of it. I love people. For me the choir is about connecting with people from all walks of life, I like making new friends and, I have to say, that the choir has become my family. It’s a beautiful thing to have my work life nourishing my personal life so much.” – Cath Mundy

It’s always a little disconcerting doing something new. There’s the usual nerves of course but it’s also the terror of being forced out of one’s comfort zone. My Wednesday nights have always been for dinner, television and bed, not visiting a community choir and I am ashamed to confess that I was apprehensive.

I was lucky that Frank*, a man of around forty years with a cognitive disability, took me under his wing when I attended One Voice Choir. He knew everyone and everyone knew him. He was proudly wearing a North Queensland Cowboys hat and eagerly introduced me to all the people present. He definitely made attending a choir significantly less scary than it might have been otherwise and showed me the magic of singing. His disability was irrelevant when he was singing with full gusto during the group number.

“I have to say, that the choir has become my family.” Photo: Samuel Burnett.

Helena Roennfeldt was another person who gravitated to me, introducing herself and telling me how the choir worked. She is a friendly, open person who wants to share song with as many people as possible.

“I was looking for somewhere where I could sing in a safe space without having to audition and explore my voice and see what it’s like to sing with other people,” she said.

“My favourite part is probably the space that’s created where everyone is accepted and included and when we come to choir it is more a celebration of each other. It’s like a family and that’s probably what I like the most.”

“My favourite part is probably the space that’s created where everyone is accepted and included and when we come to choir it is more a celebration of each other. It’s like a family and that’s probably what I like the most.”

It was certainly an eclectic group that gathered to sing that Wednesday, people with disabilities, immigrants, bankers and curious journalists all made appearances. This diversity is a key part of what makes One Voice so special, says choir conductor Cath Mundy.

“It’s a great group here. We all help each other,” she said.

Cath Mundy is a kind-hearted woman with a warm smile and the voice of someone who truly loves to sing. For more than three years she has led a group of people from all walks of life and turned them into a choir worthy of the name. Alongside her husband, playing acoustic guitar, she has been here since the beginning.

“Creativity Australia, the group that runs the One Voice programs was starting a Brisbane choir back in 2013,” she said.

“They said ‘We’re starting a choir next year and would you like to be conductor?'” I said I would be interested and I’ve been here ever since.”

Jason Xu, a young banker, had clearly just finished work, he was still wearing his ANZ shirt when he came to the choir. Mr Xu and his wife came to Australia from China and, not knowing anyone, were very eager to find ways to socialise.

“We have people from the forgotten generation and people who suffer from domestic violence,” Jason Xu said. “It’s a big book of Australia.”

“You can join a big family and promote the idea of singing together and live a really good life. You know how when you have a really bad day? Singing can really keep the blues away. It’s a really awesome experience. We have people from the forgotten generation and people who suffer from domestic violence. It’s a big book of Australia.”

Cath Mundy is a kind-hearted woman with a warm smile. Photo: Samuel Burnett.

The kindness and open nature of the choir was shown to me vividly within the first moments of arriving.

I don’t know what it was that I had expected to find while I was walking down the stairs of Brisbane City Hall down into the bowels of the building but it certainly wasn’t this:

Chattering voices, casual greetings, handshakes and hugs and of course, talk of a raffle. It seems that raffles are and always will be an inescapable part of any local community arts group. Tonight’s prize was bottle of red and tickets were eagerly purchased with beaming smiles. When asked, one woman said that she didn’t even drink alcohol, she just liked contributing to the group. The words, “It’s a lark” were mentioned at one point.

“It’s a big book of Australia. Photo: Samuel Burnett.

This is One Voice Choir. Every Wednesday evening from 5:30pm, the Wynnum Room of Brisbane City Hall bursts to the seams with laughter and song.

“I’ve been here for three years and I’ve loved every minute of it,” Cath Mundy said happily. “I love people. For me the choir is about connecting with people from all walks of life, I like making new friends and, I have to say, that the choir has become my family. It’s a beautiful thing to have my work life nourishing my personal life so much.”

Today’s focus in rehearsal is harmonisation, every group sings slightly different lines at slightly different intervals creating something truly musical.

Everyone has their own reasons for being here. Sharmalene Fernando, a perpetually smiling woman who is constantly swaying even when the music has stopped, simply wanted friends.

“I also wanted my little boy to accept people so we have different people here, different nationalities and I wanted him to accept them,” Ms Fernando said.

“I wanted new friends, new contacts and I also wanted my little boy to accept people so we have different people here, different nationalities and I wanted him to accept them.”

To use an old and worn cliché, there is a real sense of community here. These people aren’t here because they couldn’t find something else to fill their time, they are here because they want to be. Joy is shining out from their eyes with every musical note that leaves their lips and it was infectious. There was a man with one hand and he was singing with as much gusto as any other present there.

Some people just want to sing. Photo: Samuel Burnett.

Maybe even more so.

People are complicated. They cannot be summed up as, “she’s not from around here” or “he has a disability.” People are more than their circumstances. They don’t have to fit into specific categories.

Sometimes they just want to sing.

One Voice Choir takes place every Wednesday from 5:30pm onwards in the Wynnum Room of Brisbane City Hall. All are welcome.

* Name has been changed

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