Topping off NECOM’s fabulous year was the biennial choral project New England Sings! that promoted singing, composition and Australian music in schools across the region. It brought together 800+ school students and 40 teachers from over 30 schools, 80 instrumentalists and a galaxy of Australia’s most inspiring composers, poets and writers. It amassed two Primary School Choirs, a Secondary School Choir and the Armidale Youth Orchestra joined by members of the Armidale Symphony Orchestra, Brass and Pipe Bands to perform two standing-room-only concerts to a maximum audience of 1100.
Twelve months in the planning, New England Sings! was created by Program Manager Corinne Arter and AMTA (Armidale Music Teachers Association) with funding and support from the Armidale Decorative & Fine Arts Society, Greater Bank Armidale, Armidale North Rotary Club, Rotary Club of Central Armidale, John Hadfield piano tuning, Edwards Coaches and Armidale CWA . It premiered two new choral commissions from Australian composers Felix Riebl and Dan Walker.
The outstanding artistic success of the project was due to the six-month rehearsal schedule where a team of outstanding choral conductors and accompanists gave 20 regional workshops in Armidale, Glen Innes, Inverell, Gunnedah, Dorrigo, Tamworth and Walcha. It also included curriculum resources, composer workshops, professional development sessions and transport subsidies for remote schools.
Mr Bauer, who was given the honour of being MC for this year’s New England Sings!, said that nothing could have prepared him for the size and scale of the biennial event. “When you witness just how professional the end result is, you realise why 12 months of planning and six months of rehearsing is necessary. This was not just a standard concert, however; the learning experiences that were offered to the students were numerous, especially the workshops with the composers. The students who take part in New England Sings! are now able to draw on everything they’ve learned throughout the process. They’ll be better sight-readers, more confident singers, and they’ll have a greater appreciation for the high calibre of choral composers we have in this country”, Mr Bauer said.
In a region where the cost and time of long-distance travel is prohibitive and in a year crippled by serious drought, the support and participation of so many students, schools, teachers, families and community organisations is a testimony to the power of music education as a social catalyst and to NECOM’s leadership in community music making.