Here’s a surefire way to put a smile on your face and a song in your heart … Rebekah Erga introduces us to The Village Singers – a community musical group which draws its members from all walks of life.
Hi Bekah – what’s your background as a musician/teacher?
I am proud to call myself Australadian: Canadian by birth, Australian by choice. Music is my passion, because my life is a song! I grew up in a musical family; we were always singing around the piano, harmonising together. We loved to jam with our instruments.
I have done a fair bit of solo work over the years and have sung alto, contralto, tenor and first and second soprano.
I began directing my first choir at the age of 14. I had 18 singers, doing 3 and 4 part harmonies. In the nearly 40 years since then, there have only been a handful of years where I have not sung in, or directed, a choir. I have conducted choirs at church and school for children and youth, both in Canada and here in Port Macquarie.
The Village Singers is my first adult choir. It gives me pleasure to conduct this group. No matter what kind of day it’s been, we come with smiles on our faces and leave with a song in our hearts.
We are so blessed to have the wonderfully talented Ann Burgess as our accompanist. Ann recently retired as a K-12 music teacher and moved from Newcastle to settle here in Port with her husband. She is looking to take on a few more piano students.
How did you first become associated with the Village Singers?
I actually inherited this choir! When the conductor moved away in 2009, I decided to try my hand at conducting, rather than see us disband. Eight of the original core group remain.
How many members are currently part of the choir, and what is the age range of the members?
We have 22 singers, 5 men and 17 women, ranging in age from 16 to 80(ish). We have room to double in size, and with our practices being held in the late afternoon, it’s a perfect time for high school students to come along if they’d like to consider another outlet for singing.
We would welcome anyone aged 13 and over who would like to sing with us. It’s not about perfection; it’s about the joy of singing songs from around the world that are easy to learn.
Where and when does the choir meet to practice?
We are fortunate to meet in the library at the Dahlsford Lifestyle Village. Thursdays, from 4 ’til 5:30, will find us lifting our voices in song. About half live in the village, the other half are ‘outsiders’. It’s a friendly, relaxed environment.
What are the requirements for potential new members wanting to join the group – do they need to be talented singers, or know how to read music?
We have a range of abilities. One of our ladies had not sung since primary school! Some of our singers have musical training; others do not read music at all. If you fancy yourself a shower singer, we may be the perfect outlet for you to expand your audience! There are no auditions.
Rusty voices are welcome. We will assist you to extend your vocal range and enhance your breathing. We will help you to discover your own voice and the joy of bringing it into harmony with others.
Though we are a community group, we tend to call ourselves a singing group, rather than a choir, as the latter can be intimidating to some. We really are a musical ‘family’. We care about one another.
What costs are associated with joining the group?
It’s very affordable; we charge $10 per term. Where else can you find that kind of entertainment value?
How varied is the repertoire the Village Singers generally work with?
We began with well-known songs such as Moon River, Blowing in the Wind and It’s A Wonderful World, to name a few. Now we have built up an amazing repertoire. We always try to have a few familiar songs, but now we’re able to challenge the group more.
Anne and I do some of the arranging of our numbers and write our own harmonies, as we are now learning to sing in 2 and 3 part harmony, as well as in unison.
This year we have some ABBA, Beatles and Disney songs. We enjoy singing pieces from a variety of genres, such as Pop, musicals and old favourites. We are doing a tribute to The Bee Gees and Whitney Houston, in memory of Robin Gibb and Ms. Houston.
What public performances do you have scheduled for the rest of this year?
We have a concert coming up at Dahlsford Village on Sunday November 4 at 2.30pm. Please come and listen; we hope you’ll decide to stay! Entry is by gold coin donation. Enjoy a chat and a cuppa afterwards. Colin And The Boys (David, Richard and Graham) will be providing instrumental music during the program as well, with flute, guitar, piano and organ.
Then, on 29 November, we’ll be doing a joint concert with the New Notes Band; this will also be at The Village. We are most looking forward to carol singing again on 6 December. It has become an annual tradition to carol around the village.
What do you see as being some of the benefits for people who sing as part of a community choir/singing group?
When I asked the group this question, there was a clamour of voices all wanting to share! Singing releases endorphins, which improve mood and well-being. Breathing from the diaphragm, as we instruct, strengthens stomach muscles and improves circulation and digestion. Singing will give you confidence in yourself. Besides … it’s just plain fun!
How can people join the singing group, or find out more information?
People can join at any time, not necessarily just at the beginning of a term. The commitment is relaxed, since many of our group members are retired and come and go with travelling. Anyone interested in joining The Village Singers can call Rebekah on 6582 4762 or Ann on 6583 4308 for more details.
Interview by Jo Atkins.