Love belting out a tune? Whether you’re a seasoned performer, or your only audience to date has been your shower walls or an empty car, a community choir could be for you.
The Ginninderry With One Voice Choir launched in 2020 and is part of Creativity Australia’s With One Voice network of community choirs. There are 22 of them located across Australia, bringing together people from all faiths, cultures, ages, abilities, backgrounds and socio-economic situations.
Whether or not you can hold a tune is irrelevant. The choir is all about relaxing and having a good time, meeting others and creating a supportive community environment.
And it may be a community choir, but the conductor up front has some serious musical prowess. Marie-Cecile Henderson joined as conductor of the Ginnninderry choir in September last year after moving to Canberra with her partner and son.
With two singers as parents, Marie-Cecile got into music early, and started a number of choirs while she was still at school. She then got a scholarship for the Sydney Conservatorium of Music at a young age, and has since gone on to sing, perform and teach all over the world.
She has an impressive record of professional solo performances, including solos for Handel’s Messiah in Sydney and performing for Pope John Paul II at the Beatification of St Mary Mackillop in 1995 for a worldwide audience. She’s even performed on London’s West End, playing the role of Eponine in a production of Les Miserables.
These days, Marie-Cecile runs her own business teaching music, and she’s passionate about teaching people from all different backgrounds and abilities.
“This choir and all the choirs I’ve worked with embrace diversity, and I work with all ages and all abilities, people that can’t sing, people that have sung for 20 years, and everything in between,” she said.
“And, basically, my philosophy is, as it’s One Voice, it’s my choir, it’s their choir, it’s our choir, so everyone is important no matter what background they’ve come from.”
All of the With One Voice Choirs are about building supportive communities and creating a sense of community and friendship. Even when in-person gatherings were put on hold during 2020, choir rehearsals headed online to Zoom, and Marie-Cecile said they played an important role for many people.
“What I found over that whole year last year was I did a lot of choirs on Zoom, which was a very different way of doing it. But the main thing people said to me is they kept singing and that sense of isolation went away because people were connecting, whether it be on Zoom, or an hour a week at choir later on in the year, it was still a means by which people could get together. And I think that was something really important during that year, because it was very isolating,” she said.
Despite the restrictions of 2020, and with only 3 months of rehearsing under their belt, the Ginninderry With One Voice Choir even managed some performances.
“We did a live-streamed concert from Hawker College for Christmas with the Canberra City Band, so that was amazing. And we got a much bigger audience – over 1,000 people joined in for that,” said Marie-Cecile.
“We also did a concert out in the open air at the opening of ‘Paddys Park’ at Ginninderry, and we performed at a nursing home as well – we sang outside and they opened all the doors so we were able to maintain social distancing. We’re hoping to do more performances this year.”
The Ginninderry With One Voice Choir is about to start up again for 2021, with rehearsals returning from February 2, and they’re keen for more people to come and join the chorus. The choir is open to anyone over the age of 18, with no audition or experience required.
They meet on Tuesday nights from 6-7pm at The Link building in Ginninderry, and sing a wide variety of genres, with Marie-Cecile always open to song requests from choir members.
“If you’re interested, you’re welcome to come along and try a session or two to see if you like it. Then if you want to join, you sign up for a term, and you only need to pay a small tax-deductible donation – it works out as a few dollars a week,” said Marie-Cecile.
“There’s much fun to be had and lots of wonderful musical genres and a great social aspect. We’re also hoping to do more social gatherings with dinner events in the future too.”
For more information or to join, visit creativityaustralia.org.au/choirs/ginninderry/.