Photo credit: The Hamilton Spectator
We all need to find our voice. Some of us have lost it along the way; others are unsure whether they ever had one in the first place! Whether in the car, in the shower, in a group or on stage - singing feels good. A wise person once said, “speaking comes from the mind, singing comes from the soul.” And there are few choirs with as much soul as the Find Your Voice All Abilities Choir!
True to the groups’ ethos and tagline, the choir really is a celebration of human spirit. The Find Your Voice All Abilities Choir, the brainchild of Warrnambool singer/songwriter/guitarist, Tom Richardson was formed in collaboration and support of the Port Fairy Folk Festival and All Abilities Advocacy. Warrnambool Central Rotary has also been a huge supporter of the choir.
The choir comprises of individuals identifying with a disability, from all corners of south-west Victoria - Warrnambool, Hamilton, Portland and Terang. When harnessing the joy and vibration of using one’s voice, less emphasis is placed on the accuracy of the notes sung and more on the infectious energy created through collective song & movement. While there are some members who identify as non-verbal, they are often the first to lay down a percussion groove or instigate an impromptu dance party!
After first discussing the idea with PFFF in mid-2017, Tom partnered with old friend and All Abilities Advocacy facilitator (and superwoman!) Kylie Thulborn. What started as a small groundswell quickly turned into a tsunami! Following initial introductory meetings with All Abilities Advocacy Self Advocates and various disability agencies, by January 2018, the number of registered members and support crew had grown to over 100 members.
“The unfortunate norm or cliché is for most people to see a disability before they see the person” Tom explains. “The most beautiful thing with working with the All Abilities choir is the lack of inhibition or filtering. The moment I start a guitar groove or a recognisable song, the room erupts with 100 very prominent, joyful and shining personalities. The energy is so infectious and I’m sure the public performances will be incredibly memorable for both participants and audience!”
The Find Your Voice All Abilities Choir culminates with performances at the 2018 Port Fairy Folk Festival and a debut onstage appearance at the annual Rotary Concert for Peace, held at a sold-out Lighthouse Theatre in Warrnambool. Tom and Kylie both hope to find ways for the project to continue and are currently looking into ways to develop the sustainability of the choir.
The facilitators of the choir would like to thank the support of GenU (formerly Karingal), South-West TAFE, WellWays, Western District Employment Agency, Cooinda, Kyeema, Mulleraterong, Southern Way, Stay Residential Services, Rural Access and the Self Advocacy Resource Unit.
It’s time to remember that we all have a voice, and to give ourselves permission to sing from our soul!