01 December 2007

The Choir of Hard Knocks

The Choir of Hard Knocks
1 December 2007
Vodaphone Arena

The Choir of Hard Knocks recently performed to 2700 people at the Sydney Opera House. Over 5000 Melbournians lined up to see them last weekend at the less posh, but just as welcoming Vodaphone Arena. Jonathon Welch ended the evening with the hope that the night left us all “with a bucket load of hope and inspiration”. There’s no denying that seeing this choir perform is one of the most inspiring and humbling ways to spend an evening, but should the concert be reviewed on its musical merits?
It definitely should. The choir was formed in 2006 by Rec Link and consists of 50 homeless and disadvantaged men and women. There are some rough voices in the choir, but they sound amazing.

Under the very firm guidance of Welch, this choir produces a sound that is so emotionally real that an occasional flat tone is irrelevant. Welch’s arrangements allow for every voice to join in and be heard. It’s not about proving who sounds the best; it’s about making a diverse group of voices sound spectacular.

The first standing ovation and wiping away of tears came when a group of young women sang “Beautiful”. How many young women today are able to have their beauty and worth affirmed by a cheering crowd? Holly told the audience that she couldn’t believe she was standing there with her family watching. She has been in recovery for four years and told us,”I’m clean and sober today”.

If you watched the ABC television series - Hank and Allan were both 118 days sober. Simon’s going to spend Christmas with his father and brothers and Belinda was eight weeks clean. Belinda isn’t in the choir right now due to her recovery, but she came and sang “The Special Two”. She said it was the first time she had sung without anything mind altering in her system. She sang like an angel – a confident, strong angel who I hope we will be listening to for many years to come.

We also met some new members. Teenage Nettie is a pianist and recovering from a severe eating disorder and compulsions that left her hands so cracked from constant washing that she couldn’t play. She said she had to find something to work towards to begin to take control. The huge audience were thrilled that she is playing again. Gina Marie is also a new choir member. Her presence is immediately noticeable as she almost shines. 12 months ago she began to go blind, then she discovered she had a brain tumour. She sings with a joy that affirms her hope that she has many tomorrows ahead of her.

The choir were joined by a notable series of special guests including Karen Knowles, Judith Durham and the phenomenal Tim McCallum (who sang the best “Love Changes Everything” with the choir that I’ve heard). It is a joy to see these singers, but this choir doesn’t need the crutch of celebrities. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t want to hear Judith Durham sing “Georgie Girl”, because I wanted to hear more and more of The Choir of Hard Knocks.

This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

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