Four years and counting, Birralee Celebrates… Birralee Recycled

In early 2016, Voices of Birralee’s artistic team was contemplating beginning a project choir for adults, 18 to no limit. For an organisation that had been run on the concept of youth choirs since 1995, this was quite the bold idea.

Four years later, Birralee Recycled, the ‘give-it-a-go’ adult community choir is thriving, this year and last year attracting more than 100 choristers of varying musical abilities.

The six-week project choir has been spearheaded by conductor Peter Ingram, with accompaniment by Brendan Murtagh, along with support from Birralee’s artistic and organisational team, and volunteer manager, Judy Nolan and Choir Administrator, Jacqui Edgar.

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(Birralee Recycled 2016 and 2017)

Although Birralee Recycled were featured in last year’s major concert, Poppies & Poems, this Sunday marks the first year the choir has performed at Voices of Birralee’s official end of year gala, Birralee Celebrates.

We chatted with some of this year’s members to find out what they love about singing with Birralee Recycled.

Original chorister, Liesel Higgins says music has always been a strong feature of her life, however, when she had three children, her focus shifted to them, although she has instilled music into their lives.

Her eldest, Maddie, joined Birralee Piccolos in prep, recommended by Kids Music Beat Director Dr Vicky Abad, as the next step to continue her musical development.

“As a Birralee parent, I was thrilled when this opportunity arose four years ago. It seemed like an achievable goal to dedicate two hours a week to making music again. I also managed to rope in one of my very good mum friends (also a Birralee parent) and so it became a really nice time to socialise, have a break from parenting duties, and to do something just for me,” Liesel says.

“I love the music, the learning, the friends and the laughter. It is genuinely difficult to make it to rehearsals each week and often means a complete rearrangement of all family commitments, extra people helping to look after the kids at times, and lots of convincing myself to turn up when I am absolutely exhausted. But! I know that each time I go, I come out at the end feeling invigorated and refreshed and with an overwhelming feeling of achievement. This is what keeps me coming back every year.”

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(Birralee Recycled performs at Poppies & Poems, pic: Darren Thomas)

Birralee Recycled has solidified in Liesel the pure joy of singing.

“I absolutely love seeing that joy and it was not necessarily something I appreciated or understood as much when I was younger. I particularly love seeing the mix of skills at Recycled as well,” Liesel says.

“There is always a look of horror on the faces of those who turn up for the first time and hear Peter say, “Just sing anything, I don’t care what note, just sing anything!” I feel like I have a secret that they don’t. The secret that they will sound like a professional choir member within six short weeks and how amazed, at themselves they will be when they get to the final performance. It is such a joy to watch the transformation and the inclusivity that music brings.”

This is the second year Robert Jarman has sung with Birralee Recycled. He joined as he loved the idea of trying something new and loved to sing. Robert sang in choirs as a child, but notes he does not have too much experience when it comes to singing.

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(Robert Jarman (centre))

“My daughter sings in a junior choir for her school and Birralee was judging one of her concerts. I saw an ad in the program and the idea appealed,” Rob says.

From the first rehearsal, Rob loved it.

“It was an amazing time, great people, a new challenge, a very inspirational time. I just loved it! I will never forget the sound or the experience of everyone singing at QPAC and personally the timing was perfect and it did me a lot of good,” he says.

The biggest thing Rob has learnt is: “How you can improve and learn in a very short period, gain more confidence, make new friends, and the reduced pressure of singing in a choir as opposed to going solo!”

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(Birralee Recycled performs at Poppies & Poems, pic: Darren Thomas)

Martina Ranson, another original Birralee Recycled chorister, whose daughter is a Birralee Singer, says she joined the choir to get back to doing what she enjoyed. And she’s been back ever since.

“Every year I’ve thought twice because life is so busy trying to fit in all of our kids’ activities but this is the one thing I do for me! Peter is a fantastic conductor and he makes rehearsals really fun – between fun warm-ups that mess with our brains and stories about his early morning rehearsals at school – it doesn’t matter how tired I feel on the way to rehearsal, I am always energised by the time rehearsal finishes,” Martina says.

Confidence is a major aspect Martina gets from each rehearsal.

“Every year we talk about how quickly the rehearsal weeks go past and how are we going to sing without our sheet music. But we always have a fantastic time,” she says.

Highlights from the years include singing at QPAC last year and when she sang her favourite piece, ‘South of our home’ by Paul Jarman in a massed choir setting with Birralee’s younger choirs at the 2017 Young & Recycled concert.

Hear the beautiful and inspiring sounds of Birralee Recycled when they take the stage at this Sunday’s Birralee Celebrates. More info here.

One thought on “Four years and counting, Birralee Celebrates… Birralee Recycled

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  1. The Birralee Recycled experience 2019 has been life lifting. I was impressed with the encouragement by fellow choir members and how professional an amateur choir can perform. I look forward to this Sunday performance. Thanks to all involved.

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