Celebrating the Birralee families

At Voices of Birralee, we often feel like one big family and it’s wonderful to see how many actual families sing across our ensembles! We asked some of these families to share their experiences with Birralee.

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Singing in a choir with her own siblings as a child inspired Samantha Cook to sign her four children up to Voices of Birralee; Darcy (Birralee Singers), Reuben and Matthew (Birralee Kids), and Abigail (Birralee Piccolos).

I wanted my children to develop the same love of singing. As a choral conductor and music teacher, my opinion is that Birralee offers one of the highest quality choral experiences for children in Brisbane. As a mother of three boys, I was also very keen for them to see the Birralee Blokes perform,” Samantha said.

“I am very aware of the social and mental health benefits of singing, and I hope that through Birralee, my children will also develop a lifelong love of singing.”

Samantha enjoys watching her children perform on stage together, but fondly remembers her eldest child’s first choral performance.

“He was terrified of performing on stage in front of people but enjoyed the experience so much that the ‘after performance high’ was such a delight to experience. At a later concert, one of the Birralee Blokes gave him a high five as he came off the stage. It was as if he had met a rock star!” she said.

“My youngest refers to Saturdays now as ‘choir day’ and looks forward to it all week. It’s a great family activity as they can all be involved in the same rehearsals and concerts, even with their age differences. It’s also been good to meet other families, particularly when car-pooling, who also share the same love of choral singing.”

Birralee has also been a family affair for Louise Newman. Her two daughters, Jacqui and Genevieve sing in the Birralee Kids, with her mother-in-law, Anne, in Birralee Recycled.

Louise has enjoyed the other side of the Birralee world: I really enjoy being the manager of the Birralee Piccolos and having fun with the little kids. I’ve also learnt a bit about musical copyright along the way! I like that I can be involved in (and supporting) such a wonderful organisation, in ways other than singing.”

A family highlight was performing at last year’s Poppies & Poems concert at QPAC where even Louise had an unexpected moment on stage.

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“Anne was singing in Recycled, my daughters were in Kids and Piccolos at the time, and I, as the Piccolos manager, ended up on stage with the Piccolos. Their musical assistants were singing with their regular choirs and it was a massed piece and I had led the kids onto the stage but I couldn’t leave them there on their own. Singing ‘Amazing Grace’ on the QPAC stage was not something I ever thought I would end up doing, let alone with my daughters and mother in law!” Louise said.

Sarah Hillier, Voices of Birralee’s Honorary Secretary, has two children who sing with the organisation, Henry (BBV) and Alister (Birralee Singers).

The boys were referred to Birralee by their music teacher at Churchie, Rosemary Oxenford.

“The boys play piano, clarinet and saxophone and there is always music playing or being played in the house. Right now we are struggling a little though, as the boy’s sister is trying to master the recorder!” Sarah said.

Over the years the children have experienced many highlights, but Henry’s recent trip to Villers-Bretonneux, France for Anzac Day was unforgettable.

“Both boys have developed tremendously as singers under the tutelage of Paul, Jenny and Julie. Singing with Birralee simply makes them happy. It doesn’t matter what has happened in their day – good or bad – as soon as they get to Birralee and sing, all the troubles disappear. As a parent, what more can you wish for?” Sarah said.  

Another family that sings across Birralee’s ensembles are the Bryers; Cameron (Birralee Blokes), Angus (BBV) and Elizabeth (Birralee Kids).

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Parents Karina and Tony are both music teachers, with their children playing instruments from an early age.

A highlight this year was Cameron, Angus and Karina participating in the Europe Tour, learning about different cultures and new places.

“The highlight was watching the boys performing at Villers-Bretonneux on Anzac Day. It was a very emotional time and a wonderful culminating activity for a trip of wonderful performances,” Karina said.

Our children have had lots of experience performing previously, but not in such large ensembles, which I think has helped with learning to blend their sound with the rest of the ensemble. Being billeted overseas was a wonderful experience for the students, learning to appreciate different cultures and cope with language difficulties.”

The Moore/Putt family might be the biggest family cohort at Birralee (but please let us know otherwise!). There are five members of the family who sing in Birralee; Ruth (Birralee Recycled), Sophia (BBV), Esther (Birralee Singers), Edith (Birralee Kids), and Martha (Birralee Piccolos).

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The family, who used to live on the Sunshine Coast were inspired to join Birralee after a recommendation from Sophia’s singing teacher.

“I thought it would be fun to try it, little did I know it would be a great experience and I would meet so many great friends,” Sophia said.

In 2017 Sophia, Esther and their mum Ruth toured with the Birralee Singers to Tasmania.

This was an awesome experience because I was singing on stage with my sister as well as my mum watching in the audience. I loved this experience and I hope we can all tour together again. I also loved touring with my mum in Europe earlier this year. We got to stay together in Venice which was nice,” Sophia said.

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“Another highlight for our family was Birralee’s Poppies and Poems concert last year. My dad was fortunate to see all the girls in our family performing in the one concert. It was lovely to know that my mum and my sisters were performing alongside me, which is something I don’t get to experience very often.”

The O’Regan family are a trio who have made lifelong friendships at Birralee. The choristers are Dan (Birralee Blokes), Bridie (Resonance of Birralee) and Anne (their mother and Birralee Recycled chorister) who have been a part of the organisation for more than 15 years.

Dan and Bridie have travelled across the world with Birralee, having performed at memorable and meaningful events, like the Anzac Day service in France or singing in 14th century chapels in Venice. Anne and their father, Phil have been lucky enough to watch their children perform at these notable occasions, feeling proud to be their parents.

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In addition to experiencing the beautiful sounds of their children, Anne enjoyed performing with her daughter as part of QPAC’s Spirit of Christmas in 2017.

“It was such a special treat to perform with one of your children, and for one wonderful year, Dan and Bridie were both part of Resonance!” Anne said.

“We have lots of proud parent moments in the memory bank, courtesy of special Birralee performances and concerts.”

Is Birralee a big part of your family? Comment on this post or share your experiences and photos by emailing marketing@birralee.org

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