Ancient markings, red dirt and night sky legends. Welcome to 2016!

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Mt Grenfell-01023 April 22, 2016_

Moorambilla Voices has launched the creative inspiration driving its 2016 program with the Artistic and Cultural Immersion at historic Mount Grenfell, near Cobar, north-west NSW.

Facilitated in consultation with Ngiyampaa Indigenous and community leaders, the Immersion experience took place in April and will drive the artists’ source material.

“This incredibly beautiful landscape has an ancient history as a meeting place for the Ngiyampaa people, and is notable for its spectacular examples of ancient Ngiyampaa rock art,” explained Artistic Director Michelle Leonard. “When I first found out about it I knew that this place would form a strong foundation for our performances incorporating music, dance and visual art.”

“Combined with the rich local history and unique landscape, this year is shaping up to be quite a big one for Moorambilla Voices.”

The 2016 Program includes Sydney Tour, the Annual Residential Camps in Baradine and the Gala Concert in Dubbo and several Associated Performances and Tours.

More about the Artistic and Cultural Immersion and Mount Grenfell here…

More about the 2016 Program here…

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On a dry creek bed: The team of artists were grateful to be given this time to experience the energy of the landscape and  to appreciate the rich depth of cultural  knowledge shared by Ngiyampaa Elder, poet and powerhouse Elaine Ohlsen and elder Peter Harris, with members of the Co-management committee Rick Ohlsen, Lawrence Clarke and Philip Sullivan. Artists at the immersion this year were: Artistic Director Michelle Leonard, Composers in residence Andrew Howes, Josephine Gibson and William Yaxley, Taikoz Artist Tom Royce-Hampton, Choreographer Jacob Williams, Regional Dance Artist Tianga Savage, Lantern Artist Sara Tinning, Speaker Clive Birch, Photographer Noni Carroll and Regional Photographer Justin Welsh, supported by General Manager Dayle Murray.










Think big, dream wide!

If you are inspired by the Wide Open Sky film, please consider a donation to help us to continue to support fabulous children like those in the film. We rely on private donations, and some government support to continue and your donation will really make a difference.

Moorambilla Voices is continuing each year – just like in the film. This year in March our Artistic Director Michelle Leonard travelled across the region to deliver music and rhythm workshops in schools to over 2,000 children.

The towns participating in the 2016 program included: Dubbo, Narromine, Wellington, Gilgandra, Coonamble, Quambone, Gulargambone, Carinda, Walgett, Lightning Ridge, Goodooga, Collarenebri, Brewarrina, Bourke, Louth, Enngonia, Wanaaring, Cobar, Nyngan, Giralambone, Warren, Trangie, Coonabarabran, Binnaway, Pilliga, Gwabegar, Baradine, Dunedoo, Mendooran, Coolah, Guerie.


Tour Map and Dates

Moorambilla Voices 2016 Skills Workshop Tour

All the workshops were “open door” – we welcomed all primary and high school students who are at school, as well as teachers, educators and community members.

On the first week of the tour, Australia’s premiere vocal ensemble
The Song Company
 came with us as well!

Coonamble Public

What happened at the workshops?
The FREE Skills Development Workshops throughout the region are designed to inspire and motivate young people to explore music through innovative new approaches. The program encourages the development of music literacy. Students are challenged and encouraged to develop their knowledge in sol-fa, notational skills and part-singing, along with body percussion based on the Keith Terry (US leader in body percussion pedagogy) model, focusing on complex polyrhythmic structures.

By the end of the sessions students are empowered to sing simple melodies in small groups or as soloists and perform multi-layered rhythmic motifs that accompany the songs.


Click here to download or view the full program:
Moorambilla Skills Tour Schedule 2016

64 Moorambilla Concert 19 Sep 2015

For more information contact Moorambilla Voices General Manager Dayle Murray, or call: 0418 228 047.





Moorambilla Builds Leadership in our Region’s Young People

There is no doubt that early experiences in life have a huge impact on our leadership potential as adults.

It is well documented that communication, problem solving skills, organization, flexibility and creativity build self confidence in children. Moorambilla has a nine-year track record in building children’s capacity to become leaders. Here are three examples from the MAXed OUT Company.

Annabell Park

Annabelle Park.

Dylan Crockett

Dylan Crockett.

Domanic Lugli

Domanic Lugli.

For a start, encouraging children to pursue things that interest them means they develop a passion for it, feel comfortable and are more likely to take on a leadership role in the future.


Annabelle Park, from Coonabarabran High School, remembers the moment she left the stage at the end of her first Moorambilla Gala Concert last year, when she was in year 7. “I loved that performance so much, I remember feeling I was a different person. I realized I’d changed. The person that just performed in that concert was different to the person I had been just a few months before.”


Annabelle says she doesn’t need formal validation of her leadership skills – she knows that she has found something that she is very good at, feels at home with and wants to excel in. It gives her the confidence to say: “I know I’m good at this. It makes me a stronger and confident person. I don’t really need a leadership position to be given to me here, I just do what I do best and excel in that.”


Annabelle is proud to have been given a role in the concert – the company follows her lead she they fold their Japanese fans and they must look to her as she leads the bow at the end of the concert.

“Annabelle has developed so much in the two years she has been here,” says Education Consultant Margie Moore. “She knows the importance of giving her all, and the other children watch that and model it. Even though she is quite young, she has an incredible leadership ability.”

Education Consultant Margie Moore supports the students in their goals to achieve results

Education Consultant Margie Moore supports the students in their goals to achieve results both on the ground and behind the scenes.

Dyllan Crocket is the school captain of Binnaway Central School. A boy with self proclaimed shyness, who says he doesn’t like being in charge, at Moorambilla Dyllan will take initiative, take ownership of a situation and do his best to improve it – cleaning up, helping to organize meals, spotting when jobs need doing, responding whenever asked to by the Moorambilla Mum Dianne Holz.

Dylan Crockett with Moorambilla Mum Dianne Holz

Dylan Crockett with Moorambilla Mum Dianne Holz. Di comes from the region, understands the children’s environment and supports the children through the program.

Moorambilla Mum Dianne Holz from Lightning Ridge talks through potential problems with the children before their final rehearsals

Moorambilla Mum Dianne Holz from Lightning Ridge talks through potential problems with the children before their final rehearsals

“Moorambilla helps me to concentrate and keep on top of my shyness and nervousness,” says Dyllan. “Once in English the teacher asked me to read out the textbook and I had a panic attack. That has never happened at Moorambilla. What I learn here about focus has helped me in some ways to stay like that.”

When I first started in year 7 I was picked out as one of four to play the taiko – I was given an important job. I was nervous about that but then I realised that it’s no longer about me – it’s about the entire piece of music.

“Michelle told me to just go with it – make it look good. And that has really helped me. It stops me thinking about anxiety.”


Michelle Leonard rehearses professional musicians in preparation for the Gala Concert, at which the children will perform. A high calibre of performance shows to the children the cultural experience of excellence.

Dylan Crockett in rehearsal

Dylan Crockett in rehearsal.

“The other advantage of this program is that I’m not with these kids in the playground at school in Binnaway. There are only 50 people in our high school – so it’s a small playground. As I don’t really see the Moorambilla kids as often it gives me a sort of freedom to be whoever I am.

“You have to know how to pay attention here. Ability to see the bigger picture really helps. When you are putting a concert together, you learn bits and pieces of different dances and then it all comes together. When we get to the gala concert we need to see the bigger picture. And respect. That’s very important.


Domanic Lugli in rehearsal. As a long-standing member of the program, Domanic willingly takes responsibility for the participation of other members.

Domanic Lugli, from Coonabarabran High School, has grown up in Moorambilla, from a young timid and shy seven year old boy starting out in Moorambilla Voices, Dom has developed incredible focus on and off stage. Domanic is always demonstrating to the other students who are new into the project what is expected of their behavior, in rehearsal and on stage and behind the scenes at camp.

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“Moorambilla has made me push myself towards changing,” says Dom. “It’s made me more responsible for things, so I stop the other kids from talking, stuff like that, you know, to focus. Everyone in MAXed OUT helps everyone else because you need to have confidence to get up on stage and practice – you need persistence and you need to stick with it, not get angry and keep going.”


Domanic excels in his commitment to percussion, dance and music

The skills, experiences and teaching style at Moorambilla has turned many shy and unsure teenagers into leaders and achievers. They learn the ability to understand and deal with others, crucial for children from remote and regional areas. Their need for achievement, confidence and assertiveness are not only encouraged but nurtured in the rehearsals and performances.

Maxed Out taiko LR

The Gala Concert brings all the elements together in performance, but Moorambilla is about so much more than one night.

Annabelle Park in performance.

Annabelle Park in performance.

Annabelle Park in performance

Annabelle Park in performance

Text and photography: Lliane Clarke

Opportunity Knocks – Iyasa!

MAXed OUT Company is back in rehearsal on Dhinawan, the MAXed OUT segment of this year’s Gala Concert.  Very, very few high schools offer music to HSC level in this region – with ensemble experience rare and opportunities to perform few.


Some of the teenagers have been practicing their contemporary and taiko choreography at home, calling out Iyasa! as they do. Some have memorized their music, some have been in school musicals, some have had support at home, some have not. One thing is clear in Baradine Memorial Hall – all of the 51 teenagers are excited to be back, seeing friends they only see twice a year, and working hard together for the highest standard of performance they can deliver.

MAXed OUT signs in with Camp Manager Dot Thompson and Moorambilla Mum Dianne Holz

MAXed OUT signs in with Camp Manager Dot Thompson and Moorambilla Mum Dianne Holz



Coonabarabran High School produces a musical every two years. Annabel Park had a few parts in the show this year and has been hard at work at home memorising Andrew Batt-Rawden’s piece Earth, Sky, Bird written especially for MAXed OUT. She’s practised her taiko dance moves too, so she can step up alongside the professional musicians at Moorambilla.

Annabel Park and friends

Annabel Park (second from right) greets her friends in Baradine.

Abigail Irving only has one performance opportunity this year, and “Moorambilla is it for me!” says the Warren Central School student. “I’m so looking forward to the Gala Concert. I love Moorambilla Voices because it gives me this chance to perform – it’s why I’ve done it for two years.”

Abigail Irving: "this is my only performance opportunity."

Abigail Irving: “this is my only performance opportunity.”

Working alongside professionals who are at the top of their field, and Australian composers writing world premieres for the Company, fires up the young performers. Nathan Lenord from Lightning Ridge Central School is happy to be back, and while he sang in his school musical about opals last week, he loves working with professionals like Artistic Director Michelle Leonard and the TaikOz percussionists.

Ryuji Hameda from TaikOz rehearses the fan dance with MAXed OUT. Working with professionals is a hallmark of Moorambilla.

Ryuji Hameda from TaikOz rehearses the fan dance with MAXed OUT. Working with professionals is a hallmark of Moorambilla.

Hayden Priest from Gilgandra High School and Katie Colwell from Coonamble High have also been practising every day at home. Anton Lock from TaikOz gave the children stretching exercises, to maintain upper body strength for their impressive Japanese fan dance, as well as many rhythmic and vocal exercises to practice. “I’m so looking forward to our Moorambilla concert,” says Hayden. “I love Moorambilla.”

Hayden Priest and Katie Colwell take a break in rehearsal

Hayden Priest and Katie Colwell take a break in rehearsal

Learning their music in the break is paying off. “The Gala Concert is going to be amazing,” says Katie. “I know we’re going to nail it.”


Text and photography: Lliane Clarke

Dancing with Sensu – Japanese Fans

The drums of TaikOz are beating so hard you can hear them down the end of the main street of Baradine. “I knew we had a large group this year so we have planned something really special says TaikOz’s Anton Lock.


Anton has been working with the high school children for the last three days, incorporating dance, music and percussion into the plan for the Moorambilla Gala Concert. It’s his fourth year here.

“I want to challenge some of the kids rhythmically, so we’ve created a separate group for them. Last year I thought the dancing worked really well, so I wanted to push some of the kids in that area with dancing and drumming at the same time.

“I’ve always had an idea to use a Japanese dancing fan, or sensu, with these kids – it’s such a beautiful thing. A professional fan maker in Tokyo made them for us and even though they are normally elaborate designs and different colours, the white was so simple and matched beautifully with the incredible backdrop created this year, we had to use them.


Anton Lock demonstrates the traditional Japanese dance with the sensu fan.


MAXed OUT participants begin learning           hand movements.


Learning to hold strong lower body movements and delicate hand movements.

“The fan dance exposes a juxtaposition of strength and delicacy – the fan movements have a kind of feminine energy and I like that for guys as well as the girls to try and express,” says Anton. “The lower body is held strong and solid and the movement of the fan is soft – it becomes like a bird that is flying all by itself. It has a life of its own – your body is just moving with it – and you can really get enthralled by the fan itself.


“Fan dances are also traditionally performed by communities – there are local clubs in Japan that perform them and Anton is the only percussionist and dancer in Australia that can perform both these movements,” says TaikOz’s Sophie Unsen.

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“This year everyone will be dancing and also playing drums – that’s not so traditional in Japan,” says Sophie. “You tend to have to choose one form or another. Some kids favour one particular activity – like drumming – and they are not so keen on the dancing. That’s fine – everyone likes different things but here at Moorambilla we encourage everyone to everything to the best of their ability.”


Anton demonstrates the correct stance                    for taiko drumming.

The children are playing a piece written by Anton, inspired by the Emu in the Sky theme of this year’s Moorambilla Gala Concert. “What we do doesn’t have to literally represent the emu – but what we do will connect with the spirit of the emu.”

Overlaid with the taiko dance is another interpretation by Jacob Williams, the school program coordinator for Queensland Ballet.

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“Jacob and I came up with a common language,” says Anton. “While we were performing our movement with the fan, Jacob was interpreting it from a contemporary dance perspective. That was awesome. So the children get the same language throughout – they are doing interconnected dances.”

Jacob agrees. “Working with TaikOz is a lot of fun. I’ve been able to manipulate the fan dancing and slow it down and elongate all the shapes into a contemporary dance segment.”

“I have to also say that Moorambilla has been a fantastic professional development opportunity for me. I used to arrive with a set plan and work through that in order – but I am learning that it’s much more effective if artists sit down and work together. I have learnt to have faith in the artistic process – you don’t know what you are going to be doing in the first or second day. It’s amazing how fast it comes together.

“These kids are constantly surprising me with all the ideas that they are coming up with – it’s not me choreographing on them, it’s them choreographing themselves.

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“Working with these kids is different from working with other kids,” says Anton. “They have a different type of determination. When we are here they are so hungry for it and I love that. I love coming here and spending time with people in this area – staying on the farm and spending time in Baradine. When we blast the main street with drums they know we are back!”



Coonabarabran Calling

On the road the Warren - it's a wide open sky!

On the road the Warren – it’s a wide open sky!

 From the Artistic Director Michelle Leonard: “We’re on the last few days of the 2014 Skills Workshop Tour for Moorambilla Voices! We’ve been particularly focusing on our potential MAXed OUT students and there are lots of them! I’m so inspired by the energy of the kids here, many of whom just relish the chance to show me what they can do!

“We are on the last workshops now in Coonabarabran. Creativity is such a positive force in every young person’s life and its such a powerful thing especially for teenagers, who are often struggling with identity, issues at home and where they see themselves in the bigger picture. Our workshops offer them a chance to step aside and take a look at life from another angle – one that is intensely supportive, involves their peers who are all on the ‘same page’ and one that underpins their own sense of self.

St Ignatious Bourke


St Ig Bourke


“What have we been doing at the workshops? We do a lot! In fact we’ve been beat boxing and rapping – I know! I picked up some of the words from a favourite book of my own children – We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, and we’ve been using the rhythmic structure to create music – you know the one that says “we can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we got to go through it!” Our Moorambilla Mum Annie Berrell and I were laughing when we hit massive mud  on the way to her property Midgery in Walgett – we had to go through it!

Thick oozy Mud Walgett

Michelle Leonard and Justin Welsh at Bourke-Walgett School of Distance Education


“We also do call and response activities, simple part singing, body percussion and an introduction to notation and writing music. The kids are lapping it all up, and are fascinated by the language of music and the pillars that they can learn to write music for themselves. All the kids that we have seen on this tour learn to use their hands to remember how many lines and space are on the stave. It’s easy for them to remember the #SolFa hand signs and many of them have remembered this from last year!

Outstanding Year 5 boys at St Mary’s Warren.

St Mary's in Warren

This year’s tour has been incredibly successful and I am busting to get back to the Moorambilla office and work out ways to ensure that as many children as possible are offered a place in Moorambilla this year. While we have been away, our supporters at the Hidden Gardens Festival donated funds to our MAXed OUT students this year. Thank you!

Arriving in Nyngan after four hours on the raod - ready for another workshop!

Arriving in Nyngan after four hours on the road – ready for another workshop!

Look out for the ABC documentary screening on television in May or June made by Heiress Films about Moorambilla Voices, called Outback Choir. We’re really excited to have a chance to talk nationally about the incredible talent in this region that I love.

On we go to organising our August residential camps and tours where we can all get together again. For more information go to the website:

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Our Gala Concert stage in 2013 in Coonamble.




Beyond Bourke

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From Artistic Director Moorambilla Voices Michelle Leonard: “Heading out to Brewarrina and Bourke, we are overjoyed to be connecting with our friends and the wonderful children who are so keen to give Moorambilla Voices a go. I’ve been seeing children from stages 2 and 3 and into High School for this workshop skills tour – there is so much talent in this region.

“Justin Welsh is a great part of the team this year, and his ability to connect and encourage the young children, who can often be shy or reluctant to give it a go, is impressive. We used some fabulous African drums and beat boxing to get the kids to think about rhythm.

MIchelle:JW Walgett Music Stave

“Moorambilla is about providing positive shared experiences, building enduring relationships and promoting cultural awareness and understanding within this region – including the incredible Indigenous culture.

Coonamble Public

Workshop at Coonamble Primary School.

St Joseph Primary Walgett

Workshop at St Joseph’s Primary School in Walgett.

“The remoteness of the region has huge challenges for creative education, and most children rarely get access to music or creative opportunities. Just coming together to play music or experiment is a big change in their daily lives; they just don’t get to do that. You can see how quiet it is when we can even lie down on the road! We were excited to workshop with children from the Walgett Bourke School of Distance Education. I want to make sure everyone gets a chance to participate.

Bouket Walgett School of Distance Ed

Workshop via satellite at Walgett Bourke School of Distance Education.

“Many of the schools are struggling to build programs as the staff turnover out here is high – and that’s where the consistency of the Moorambilla program is so important – we’ve been coming here for nine years this year!

J Walgett

Orana Heights Primary Dubbo

Workshop at Orana Heights Primary in Dubbo.

“I love going to Brewarrina – where we headed out to a workshop at the fish traps on the Darling River – Baiame’s Ngunnhu. They are beautiful and inspired our Moorambilla composer Elena Kats-Chernin to write a stunning suite. Read more about them here:

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“We’re now on the way to Cobar, which is a centre for kids from all over this far and remote region. It’s been raining a lot and we watched some incredible storms roll into Bourke! Which is unusual for us as we are normally fighting the sun and dust!”

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Annie Berrell gets creative and takes these stunning shots of a storm brewing over the Bourke Riverside Motel.

Overall our Workshop Skills Tour will cover over 70 schools in 42 towns: Baradine, Bugaldie, Binnaway, Bourke Distance Education, Bourke, Brewarrina, Cassillis, Cobar, Collarenebri, Combara, Coolah, Coonabarabran, Coonamble, Dubbo, Dunedoo, Engonnia, Gilgandra, Girilambone, Goodooga, Gulargambone, Gwabegar, Leadville, Lightning Ridge, Mendooran, Narromine, Neilrex, Nevertire, Nymagee, Nyngan, Pambula, Quambone, Quirindi, Trangie, Walgett, Warren.



In 2014 MOORAMBILLA includes the Regional Residency Camps in Baradine in August and, special for 2014, in September a gala performance and tour across the region, culminating in a recording at the Eugene Goossens Hall at the ABC in Ultimo in Sydney.