Australia does children’s choral fests in big style. Music Australia’s own Music: Count Us In sees more than 650,000 students from over 3,000 schools all across the country simultaneously singing the same song on the appointed day, making it in fact Australia’s largest school initiative.
However, WA’s One Big Voice takes top honours for physically assembling the largest number of students at one time for a musical performance. Each August it brings together 4,000 Year 3-6 children from that State’s public and private schools for an evening of en masse choral singing.
Some 110 schools from around WA will participate this year, the 18th that this choral extravaganza has operated. Since its beginnings in 2000 as the Westcoast Songfest, which it involved six schools and 450 children, it has grown to become one of the biggest community and education events held anywhere in Australia.
Gail Kimpton, One Big Voice’s co-chairperson and secretary, says the event’s mission is “to have as many students as possible singing, positive life affirming songs as possible”.
It works by first sending out teacher resources to schools. These include CD vocal and instrumental tracks, music scores and lyrics selected by OBV’s Music Director Donna Marwick-O’Brien; she also writes or arranges many of the songs. The teachers participate in professional workshops and information sessions – this year over 100 teachers came to these – and work on the music with their kids in the weeks ahead.
Then it all happens on performance day. After a combined rehearsal there are two concerts: a matinee with 2,000 students and an evening concert with 4,000 students. The matinee performance is an innovation this year, simply to accommodate the ever-growing numbers involved.
One Big Voice consistently collects rapturous testimonials both from teachers and the kids themselves.
The event helps young people overcome their natural shyness and learn to express themselves confidently, says. Kimpton. “We are passionate about music with the positive aspects that flow on to schools from our program and approach to music.”
“Performing in OBV as soloist, compere or in a vocal group, provides an opportunity for students to develop self-confidence and feeling of self-worth”. The experience allows children to “work with others in a performance situation, help them to become a positive risk taker, and can contribute to their overall positive maturation.”
Teachers also gain by learning new skills, Kimpton adds. “OBV offers support and mentoring for teachers who may not be skilled music practitioners to deliver a comprehensive program in their school”.
Also new this year is OBV Singers, a teaching program that gives students opportunities to sing weekly after school and perform in special events, in addition to participating in One Big Voice Festival.
“This year the OBV Singers have had an opportunity to perform at the WA Day Concert at Elizabeth Quay,” says Kimpton. “They were excited to sing with Gina Williams, who was the WA Aboriginal Award winner in 2017. This will be a performance situation for them to remember. It will also be an opportunity to showcase the talent that they have and the work that we do to support, encourage and develop this in students.”
One Big Voice Festival is open to all and takes place on August 17 at the Perth Arena. Find out more here.
Meanwhile, this year’s Music: Count Us In happens on 1 November. Teachers and schools can register here.