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Opera Qld gives outback kids a more cheerful note

By Chrissy Arthur, Friday September 13, 2013 - 12:34 EST
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Opera singers work with children at a school in outback Qld. - ABC

School children in outback Queensland have been learning to sing opera as part of a program taking opera to regional communities.

For the past fortnight, singers, a pianist and director have been working in small schools in Queensland's central-west, including Longreach, Barcaldine, Aramac and Jundah.

They have been sharing their passion for opera and singing arias with students, as well as working with adults in a community choir.



Opera Queensland spokesman Mark Taylor says it is also about exposing youth to arts and culture.

"Although it is an amazing place to live as a kid, there are obviously some things that you miss out on," he said.

'400-year-old art form'

Mr Taylor says opera is generally misunderstood by young people.

"Opera is a 400-year-old art form - it is an art form that is still very popular," he said.

"But it is an art form that isn't as well known to young people.

"They quite often have these stylised ideas of a female opera singer there with her horned helmet belting something out, and a lot of this comes from cartoons and this sort of idea.

"Opera is about people telling a story but doing it through song, and the stories are fabulous."

Opera builds young people's confidence

Opera Queensland says it is planning to do more work with communities and encourage adults as well to embrace the art form.

Artistic director Lindy Hume says singers, a musician and director have taught opera and performing skills to young people, and it has helped to build their confidence.

"We are Opera Queensland and not Opera Brisbane and this sort of program doesn't just take a show, put it on, and leave," she said.

"This kind of concept leaves skills behind and develops real relationships with communities.

"That is what we are really after - really changing our modus operandi to make sure that we don't just fly in and fly out"

Lily Bowden, 11, says she thought opera was boring.

"But now I know it's just about telling a story," she said.

Cheerful note in drought-stricken communities

After days of rehearsals, it is curtains up on a community concert in Longreach.

Gemma Thorpe is the principal of the Aramac State School, about 150 kilometres out of town.

"Families are faced with difficult times at the moment, so I guess it's really important as parents, educators and adults within the community, to try and lighten that load for children where we can," she said.

"By being involved in the arts, sporting activities, children are able to express themselves and still be children.

"Our children are certainly able to do that."

And in a landscape where drought is dominant, any cheerful note helps.


- ABC

© ABC 2013

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