It’s been a week since the 85-piece orchestra, that my Melodica and I were so lucky to be part of, performed in Under This Sky (UTS) on Aug 1 and 2 2015, out on the playing fields of Logan Brothers Rugby League Club.
I intended to review Under This Sky until I realised that I can’t write first hand about what I didn’t see! (I will eventually see the show because we’re all getting a DVD, produced by SBS! Yay! From the videos posted on Facebook, I have to say, we sounded fantastic!)
What I can write is what it meant to me to play Melodica up on that massive scaffolding in the orchestra-pit-in-the-sky, and to be involved in this huge, uniquely Logan-centric collaboration of the arts.
Being Logan-centric means celebrating the world community, since Logan is home to 200+ ethnic groups. UTS was the story of an entire day in Logan from Morning, Afternoon, Night and Dawn; all the works were written and performed by local residents.
Our Logan morning opened with Steve Francis’ lone bass clarinet and Taane Thomas’ Maori ode to dawn. Monash Lai’s wooden flute brought in the sound of early birds and Liam Madden’s percussion added trickling water and the chorus of waking insects.
As our actors played out a day in Logan, we in the orchestra were blowing, bowing and striking our little hearts out to 18 awesome original songs. The brass section had big, snappy harmonies going barp, barp barp! into the night sky! Heavy funk rhythms were lead by Sam Tuuga’s Bass 6 Samoan funk trio and Jay Turner as the All Star band, directed by hip-hop artist Music Director Morganics. He was also emcee and drove the whole show on flawlessly, using vivid hand gestures to bring in the house band, urge them on, and cut them out. They in turn, never missed a beat. The pros!
Morganics even sorted out a last-minute solo for my Melodica – in the reprise of This Generation. I learned to play the ‘skank’, chords on the offbeat in reggae music, in tandem with Sam Tuuga’s keyboard. It was short, and very sweet!
Waking Up The City, I Have A Dream, Get There From Here; this was glorious, uplifting music with a fabulous choir and a huge backing band. It was music to move crowds, and I could hear that it did!
My happiest moment was blowing my Melodica and watching for cues from conductor Shaun Dorney, as he bounced about grooving and singing and waving that baton. The sheer joy of it!
Children of the Universe had Choir Director Cath Mundy down in front of the stage directing the mass choir on the ground, and waving her arms in huge swirling motions, as she cued in and conducted the All Stars choir which was up in the scaffolding with us. The stage was filled with children and choirs from all over Logan, their words and harmonies resonated across those fields and gave me goosebumps of delight.
The National Anthem was a beautiful duet, sung in native Aborigine, entwined with a counter melody which translated back those Aboriginal words to English. How not to have heart and be proud, out there on the fields of Logan Brothers, listening to that, and to songs like Know Where We’re From.
Under This Sky celebrated all of us, and I (in all my British-Sabahan-Chinese-and-soon-to-be-Aussie-ness) was really moved by it.
In an SBS report, Artistic Director, or “He Who Needs No Title” James Morrison said:
“The real legacies that we’ve seen in the past that come from programs like this is that new connections are made in the community that weren’t there before that carry on and lead to more activity. That’s not just musically, but culturally, and it creates connections that can change how people feel about the place they live and that’s really important.”
There were 700+ participants in this programme and I didn’t know a single one of them when I responded to the orchestra call-out in March this year.
Glen Court played clarinet in our orchestra. Actually, I think he played many instruments. He teaches wind and brass instruments in several schools in the area. In the early rehearsals, I was finding it hard to take a breath through all the continuous playing in a Pachabel-like melody, and Glen told me to drop one note to take a breath and continue without breaking the metre of the music. It worked.
Glen was previously a classroom music teacher and now gives private lessons. He loves his work, talks proudly about the kids who keep him on his toes. A few of them were winding him up as we chatted! He spoke fondly about Shaun Dorney and what a huge contribution he’s made to the music community in Queensland. Then he mentioned his Bush band was getting back together. What’s a bush band? Glen said bush band music has Irish, Welsh and Scottish roots. My guess is it would have jigs and jaunty waltzes. My Australian music education continues.
On the second night after the show, James Morrison thanked everyone, but especially singled out QMF Producer Tara Hobbs for bringing the whole thing together. Creative Director Sean Mee said QMF made a space for the residents of Logan to fill with their creativity, and they did: with music, poetry, dance, and their testimonies. But, he added, what they put in was far greater than the sum of its parts, and the result of this collaboration will reverberate into the community like waves.
At the end of it all, lovely Isabel Hart, QMF Project Coordinator, gave me a hug, all teary-eyed.
“I’m so happy,” she sniffled.
Logan is both Australian and international, and we celebrated its cultural diversity Under This Sky, now forever in my heart. Thank you QMF!