On a cool but sunny Sunday morning, a group of 12 singers from the Chamber Choir were at the Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour, to provide some choral entertainment at the opening of a new section of the “Welcome Wall”. After setting up the keyboard, kindly loaned by alto Inta Heimanis, for our accompanist (Mikey Curtain), and some coffee to wake us all up, the soundcheck was completed and a few adjustments made to the microphones by the helpful sound crew. The foyer of Wharf 7 made a great location for some last-minute rehearsal amongst the wooden boats – it has a very forgiving acoustic! – and we waited for the roving performers on stilts to finish before starting our musical offering.
The audience of about 600 sat in the sunshine near the Pyrmont ferry wharf while we sang a selection of songs from our position looking out over the harbour: our first song, “Somewhere Out there”, was followed by “Love Changes Everything” from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Aspects of Love”. As well as conducting, Christopher Bowen introduced the songs, which continued with his own arrangement of an Australian Folksong “The Little Fish”, echoing the maritime theme of the occasion. Much to our Christopher’s disappointment, his namesake Chris Bowen, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship was unable to attend, despite originally being on the programme! The next song, “Lollipop” was also an arrangement by Christopher, and the audience was invited to “sing along, bop along, or whatever”! Moving to a more patriotic theme, the final 2 songs were “I Still call Australia Home” and the Bruce Woodley classic “We are One (I Am Australian)” which introduced the formal proceedings.
The ceremony to open the new section of the Wall included short speeches from 3 registrants. The first of these was Neil Morrison, a long-standing migrant, who arrived in 1934, and who, it turned out, is a former member of the Grads! 8-year old Lara Sawaya attracted the loudest applause of the day for her short speech and recital of a poem about her family’s history, and SBS presenter Peta-Jane Madam concluded the registrant speeches, before the Choir led the singing of “Advance Australia Fair”.
Finally, as the official party unveiled the new section of Welcome Wall, we sang a reprise of “I Am Australian” (after an interesting keyboard introduction, resembling the first few bars of “I Still call Australia Home”). And so we left, as the roving performers took over again, and the audience headed towards the wall to find their names there. This is the second time that the Chamber Choir has performed at a Welcome Wall ceremony, so maybe we will be back again next year!