Masses of children made their way to Perth Arena on 17 August for the spectacle known as One Big Voice. It is a festival like no other where primary school choirs fill the floor of the Arena and share their love of singing. As they lined up at the doors, you could sense their nervous excitement and their cheers were heard down Wellington Street.
The buzz created by One Big Voice is unique due to its sheer size and Australia’s largest children’s choir grew even bigger this year, with the number of schools participating swelling to 115 and number of students to around 6,000.
Musical Director, Donna Marwick O’Brien said, “We started as Westcoast Songfest in 2001 with 6 schools and 450 students. Three years ago, we moved to the Arena to accommodate the number of schools interested. This year, we outgrew a single evening show and added a matinee show.”
The popularity of One Big Voice continues to grow with schools and audiences. It is about celebrating the joy of singing and the songs are positive and life affirming. The children’s facial expressions along with their enthusiasm for the choreography show just how much the lyrics of the songs mean to them. The sound of the mass choir and their collective passion elicits shivers, smiles and tears from the audience and the beautifully choreographed movement is mesmerizing.
The festival provides a unique experience for the children to perform in the same venue where the likes of Celine Dion, Pink, Katy Perry and Bob Dylan have just weeks prior and in front of a huge audience of around 8,000 at the evening show.
Teacher Debra Whitely took around thirty Grade 3 to 6 students from Bindoon Primary School for the third year and said, “Our choir love to perform on a big stage to showcase their magnificent voices and One Big Voice at the Perth Arena offers that. It is a great vehicle to perform to a large audience, develop music skills, learn to sing in harmony, perform to friends and family, spread positive messages to the community about self-image and to meet and make new friends. The children just love to participate and remember the buzz for a life-time.”
For the second time, Debra was Conductor for a section of around 400 choir members and said of the experience, “I loved every minute of it. It’s a huge adrenaline rush. I love how every music teacher has their own unique style but the kids are so adaptable and prepared.”
Debra added, “The event offers music teachers the unique opportunity to enhance their conducting skills, gain confidence to publicly perform in front of thousands and network with each other in the process. I think the teachers have as much fun as the children! The children at Bindoon can’t wait until One Big Voice 2019”.
A new addition to the pre-show Young Talent stage line-up and mass choir was the OBV Singers group comprised of children who have moved onto high school, are at a non-participating school, or who just want more chances to sing with others.
Chittering local, Zane Houston, joined Singers when he moved on to high school this year. He had previously participated in One Big Voice with Bindoon Primary School for 2 years and in 2017, also had a Compere role.
Zane said, “I totally love One Big Voice. I’m lucky I have been able to continue to participate in the festival even though I’m now in Grade 7. OBV Singers also performed with Gina Williams at the WA Day Celebration at Elizabeth Quay in June. When singing, my heart is in the right place and it’s so much fun with OBV Singers on stage and with thousands of choir members on the floor of the Arena. I feel like I belong as I’m surrounded by people who also love to sing.”
Donna said, “We are thrilled to have so many children involved including a greater number from country areas and the OBV Singers. For the first time we’ve been able to support schools like Bindoon Primary because the State Government through Lotterywest have provided a grant that helps us cover their transport costs. Support from Healthway, Act-Belong-Commit and Murdoch University has also helped us to continue to grow bigger”.