High notes: Indigenous Australian youth learn opera | Pacific Beat

High notes: Indigenous Australian youth learn opera

High notes: Indigenous Australian youth learn opera

Updated 30 November 2012, 12:31 AEDT

It's far cry from the concert halls of major cities, but some Indigenous students in eastern outback Australia have been training as opera singers.

The program's aiming to open the minds and boost the confidence of the students.

Presenter: Cherie McDonald


CHERIE MCDONALD: In a sport stadium at a local school, some of Australia's top opera singers are teaching local students to have a big voice.
EVELYN DUTTON: Before we begin, I would like to acknowledge the elders both past and present - Barkindji people of the land.
CHERIE MCDONALD: The director of Queensland Opera is Brad Jennings.
He says the songs chosen are ones that tell stories.
(Sound of students singing)
BRAD JENNINGS: The Ocean Drum, which does very much sound like waves crashing upon the shore, and some of the kids instantly knew what that sound was and some of them had never heard that before.
CHERIE MCDONALD: The program is trying to give the students more confidence in themselves by coaching them for a performance for family and friends.
BRAD JENNINGS: I think for some of these kids who have never heard opera before, looking at their faces the first time they hear the singers sing, it's a mixture of reactions from, you know, kids covering their ears to delight.
CHERIE MCDONALD: The school principal, Michelle Nicholson, says the music opens up the minds of the students.
(Sound of singers performing)
MICHELLE NICHOLSON: We try and take the school out of Wilcannia and out and about and we try to bring the world into Wilcannia School.
How do you know, until you try something, what you're good at?
CHERIE MCDONALD: She says the town's isolation makes the program and others like it even more important.
MICHELLE NICHOLSON: Having Opera Queensland commit to Wilcannia Central School over a three year period really does allow our children to learn to communicate in a different way.
Opera is not for everyone, but to give our kids an opportunity to express themself and to be able to learn how other people communicate is really important.
CHERIE MCDONALD: Fourteen-year-old Ethan Whyman is known for his talents on the rugby league field and he's been chosen for a local talent squad.
But soon he could be known for his vocals as well.
ETHAN WHYMAN: Low... Low...
CHERIE MCDONALD: Although, he says, it took a while to get used to the high and low sounds.
ETHAN WHYMAN: She made my ears ring - like, watching the people signing it. thE big fella there, when he singing in the deep voice and he make funny faces too when he sing it.
It makes me want to go to sleep.
CHERIE MCDONALD: The chance to sing in front of her family at the community concert is something 15-year-old Evelyn Dutton has been looking forward to.
EVELYN DUTTON: I like how they sing.
I'm learning opera this week because I want to show the community how to sing and all my family and that, so they can enjoy themselves.

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