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Women’s welcomes hard knocks choir

A bittersweet symphony comes to college, writes Erin Rooney.

The Sydney Street Choir will perform at Women's College.

Homelessness is a very real problem in Sydney. The causes vary widely, and many different organisations are working to address the various issues that lead to this difficult situation. One such organisation is The Sydney Street Choir, started by Jonathon Welch (of the Choir of Hard Knocks) in 2001, a group that aims to help homeless or disadvantaged people through the power of song.

The Sydney Street Choir will perform at Women’s College.

The Sydney Street Choir is like any other choir: Rehearsals start with vocal warm-ups, they learn songs in part harmony and they want to improve their singing. They have recorded three CDs so far, that can be accessed on their website, and perform every couple of weeks. The choir also encourages members to share their personal experiences and achievements. Lunch is provided at their rehearsals every week in collaboration with Oz Harvest.

University of Sydney Women’s College resident Kate Riley has been active in organising an upcoming Sydney Street Choir performance at the Women’s College for the residents and general public. The event has been linked to her community project as part of a program run by personal development company Landmark Education.

Her experience with the choir has inspired her to help change some of the negative implications that homelessness carries with it, and she is confident that the concert will achieve this. “It’s just their quirkiness, and it’s definitely that the identities of the people in the choir are really visible, even if they’re really in a big group,” Ms Riley said.

Current director of the Sydney Street Choir, James Paul, is a musical therapist. He uses music as a therapeutic and social tool, encouraging people to express themselves and participate in a musical community.

“There are special moments all the time,” Mr Paul says. “Like when people are learning their first song, or make a personal break-through and share that with us, if they’ve gone through some hard times.”

Mr Paul believes that being in the choir has had a great impact on many of the members’ lives. He said that he has witnessed people moving from “very tough mental states” to “feelings of
positivity” through their involvement with the choir and the wider community.

The concert will take place on Sunday June 3 at 2pm in the Menzies Common Room at The Women’s College and is open to all members of the University community.