Moorambilla Voices ring in the Christmas season


The sound of angelic voices singing Christmas carols soared across the city as Moorambilla Voices sang in the Christmas season at the Martin Place Christmas Tree Concert! We were joined on stage by Megan Washington, Taylor Henderson, Casey Donovan and MCs Mark Ferguson and Samantha Armytage from Channel Seven. A total of 53 children travelled from all over regional NSW to take part in the City of Sydney Concert, supported by Royal Far West in Manly.

Looking for Christmas stocking fillers? Buy a Moorambilla Calendar and Baseball Cap and support our program of creative opportunities for all talented children from the far west of NSW – not matter who they are!

We wish you a safe and happy Christmas and a prosperous new year!


Photography: Noni Carroll

AWO and Song Company in the house!

Welcome Australian World Orchestra members, as chamber ensemble in residence, who arrived into Baradine today from Stuttgart, Vienna, Berlin, Denmark, Paris, Manchester, London and Sydney! Together with the six members of the Song Company and pianist Ben Burton they lifted the roof of the Baradine Memorial Hall with Moorambilla Voices boys and girls regional choir. Straight into rehearsals of Elena Kats-Chernin’s Baime’s Ngunnhu, what incredible role models for the children to sing with! Photography Noni Carroll.

Dance is not just for girls!

Dance rehearsals for the MAXed OUT Company are intense this week in the Baradine Hall in the build up to the Moorambilla 2016 Gala Concert. All the high school students in the Company sing, dance and play taiko. From the remote central western mining town of Cobar comes Blake Toomey in year 12 and Laine Ellicott in year 9 at Cobar High School. Moorambilla regional dance intern Tainga Savage is also from Cobar. 

“Dance has the profound power to enrich and transform lives, connecting with people of all ages and backgrounds,” says Jacob Williams, Queensland Ballet’s Education Coordinator, on site at Moorambilla Voices in Baradine.

Dance is a unique language that has creative and educational benefits for children of all ages. And it makes you feel good! For young men dance develops physical coordination and strength. It has also been discovered to stimulate the release of a brain-derived protein that promotes the growth, maintenance, and plasticity of the neurons necessary for learning and memory! Add to that the promotion of wellbeing and helping to improve mood and concentration, it’s no wonder that dancing makes young men feel good!

Blake is studying music for his HSC, learning the bass guitar. Moorambilla’s MAXed OUT Company is the only chance he has to express himself with dance. “The atmosphere is amazing here,” says Blake. “It’s a place where you can just be you and enjoy the arts you like. It’s the most welcoming environment and if there is one place on earth that I get to dance, it’s here.”

“You have to work hard if you want to study in the arts out here. Because of our isolation in Cobar, I study my music classes through Distance Education in Dubbo.

“You can’t sit back. It takes three and a half hours to travel to Dubbo for my music classes, which means I also miss a whole day of school.”

Blake is planning to study education at university next year and is thinking about teaching as a career. “Moorambilla is the company that has taken me out of my shell. I’d like to give something back to this project and come back next year as a supervisor.”

Laine isn’t studying music at school, but takes dance classes at the Western Studio of Performing Arts in Cobar in hip hop, jazz and contemporary dance. “I really like the way that Tainga teaches us how to hear the music, like the beat and the rhythm. And I love making up moves when we get a chance to do some of our own choreography.

“I would say to any boys who are shy about dancing – go for it, you are not going to be judged for it. It’s fun!” says Blake.

“I would say to any boy, don’t be scared to dance,” says Laine. “It’s not just for girls!”

Text: Lliane Clarke
Photography: Noni Carroll.

Sensational Gala Concerts 2016



Moorambilla Voices performed two sensational 2016 Gala Concerts of new Australian music inspired by the landscape, heritage and traditional owners of Brewarrina and Mount Grenfell. Dubbo Regional Theatre was home to a powerful celebration of creativity, joy and new Australian music!

Led by Artistic Director Michelle Leonard, the impressive concerts involved nearly 300 children from primary and high schools all across the region. They included several world premieres of pieces commissioned for the children by established Australian composer Andrew Howes and emerging composers Josephine Gibson and William Yaxley.

The Australian World Orchestra and Song Company performed alongside the children to create moments of pure joy and inspiration. The concerts featured powerful and moving dance segments choreographed by Queensland Ballet Education Coordinator Jacob Williams, with regional dance intern Tai Savage performing a captivating solo. The high school group MAxed OUT finished with an awe-inspiring percussion piece written and performed with them by Taikoz artists.

Captured in full by photographer in residence Noni Carroll, the concert also included digital set designs by Noni and regional photographer Burra Mac. At the beginning of the concert, the stunning Elena Kats-Chernin piece Baime’s Ngunnuh, also included The Leichhardt Espresso Chorus. In Moorambilla tradition, the concert finale saw 350 on stage to sing Wide Open Sky dedicated to one of the program’s founders, Liz Markey.

Under the night sky stars, the concerts featured light sculptures of wedge-tailed eagles in the park by Lismore Lantern Parade artists Jyllie Jackson with Sara Tinning and a dramatic fire sculpture by Phil Relf that called back to the wedge-tailed eagles in paper.

Read the full program of the concert here
Listen to the concerts plus interviews by ABC Western Plains here
Check out all the talented artists, performers and designers here

Hands of red

Andrew Howes felt the earth singing when he went to Mount Grenfell. He also sensed the tribal ancestors that Ngyiampaa Elder Elaine Ohlsen describes when he saw the ancient art, hand stencils and hieroglyphics painted on the rock shelters. He describes the inspiration behind the creation of his Mount Grenfell Suite which features in the 2016 Moorambilla Gala Concert.

“I want the audience to hear this song from the earth’s perspective. It calls back to old times and connects the past and present through the land. It speaks of the land inviting you to be a part of its history.

Beneath the sky
Where ancient feet have stood
You’ll stand with me
Come find me there

At Mount Grenfell I felt the stretch of time, thousands of years passing in a flash! There is science showing that the rock art hand stencils have been layered over and over again across 40,000 years or more. We’re only seeing the forefront layer of repeated generations imprinting their mark.

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Place your hand upon the wall.
Touch my hand from long ago.
Through the ancient stone
Now I know that I am home.

We see rocks as solid, unmoving, eternal objects, but if you were to reduce 100,000 years into a minute, you would see the full truth: this, for all its dry and silent peace, is a place of intense natural violence.

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Rocks are the deep earth. They go on and down for thousands of kilometres, encompassing millennia. And yet they withstand rain and wind and the breaking of earth. If only we could witness that power!

Heavy, ancient stones.
Under earth, the land’s old bones,
Run through the undying land.
Hold my hand.

The musical structure of the Suite mirrors and reflects the earth’s own internal structure and life. While I was writing I thought hard about ways to draw different sound qualities from the MAXed OUT choir. But not canons! I wanted to avoid canons – they are too easy a solution. Michelle asked me to write something difficult! One of the ways I have done that is by creating some tricky part writing!

The feeling is very different across the two parts of the suite. There is a juxtaposition between the highly energetic and the absolutely serene. The first part ‘Hands of Red’ has a lot primal energy through it, a fast, rollicking beat and I have marked the tempo as ‘spirited’.

The second part ‘Mount Grenfell’, has a deep calm tone, and I have marked the tempo as ‘etherial, mysterical’. Even underneath the serenity of that piece is a constantly moving quintuplet pattern that propels the music forward.

Raise your head up to the sky.
Let the starlight touch your eyes.
Dig your feet in reddened sand.
Let the stars flow through your hand.

Now that we have the choir parts for MAXed OUT, and the incredible Song Company, the piece will be orchestrated for the Australian World Orchestra as chamber in residence, pianist Ben Burton and Taikoz Artistic Director Ian Cleworth.”

Andrew is about to commence a two-year Masters of Composition at the Manhattan School of Music in New York. Follow Andrew Howes on his website. 

Text: Lliane Clarke
Photography: Noni Carroll.

A conversation with the sky

Moorambilla Voices has commissioned William Yaxley to write music for the regional boys choir and the result is the breathtaking Kirralaa. What makes this composer tick?

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Will writes music in two very different genres – ethereal sacred music and musical theatre. “I love story telling and music that serves a theatrical purpose, like humorous theatre that mocks what’s happening in society. But I also come from a strong spiritual music background, and it equally has an influence on my writing” he says.

“That’s why I love writing choral music – using text and harmony to create an emotional impact for an audience. There’s something about beautifully tuned voices. It sends shivers up my spine,” he laughs.



158 Moorambilla Residency Camp, Aug, 2016_Noni Carroll

Will has been singing since he was eight and remembers feeling an incredible buzz on hearing his music performed at high school. “From there I was hooked,” he says. “Then it was big band competitions and study at the Sydney University Conservatorium of Music, majoring in composition with a minor in education.”

Working with Moorambilla, his favourite instrument has to be the voice. He counts among his influences a mix of composers, from contemporary Australian choral artists like Paul Stanhope, Peter Sculthorpe, Matthew Hindson and Stephen Leek, to Benjamin Britten and iconic music theatre composer Steven Sondheim.

“I also write about humorous things that happen to me like a possum running on the roof or a dripping tap,” he laughs.

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“Moorambilla Voices is such an inspiring environment for me. Composing for the boys choir means I can unleash my love of story-telling, and work with choreography and dance, visual art and lighting.”

Will has written Kirralaa for the boys, a lyrical piece inspired by the artistic and cultural immersion at the Mount Grenfell Historic Site. It tells the story of a star (kirralaa in Ngiyampaa language) and Will is orchestrating it for the eight strings of the Australian World Orchestra chamber ensemble, soprano saxophone, taiko percussion with Taikoz and the six voices of The Song Company.

“Moorambilla gives me an incredible opportunity to work with a huge number of kids. On top of that it’s exciting to work with someone as experienced as Michelle and to see her at work.”

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“I think anyone can be a composer and I really like to be part of this process with Michelle that allows children to see that opportunity. The kids who have never done it before can walk away and leave something written behind them. That’s pretty awesome.”

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William Yaxley’s residency at Moorambilla Voices is in partnership with Sydney University Conservatorium of Music.

Text: Lliane Clarke
Photography: Noni Carroll.