Cultural Diversity in the Australian Chamber Choir
Australia has always been culturally diverse. In 1788, when the First Fleet arrived from Britain, our country was inhabited by at least 250 indigenous tribes, each of them with their own culture and language.
Australian Government policy towards indigenous people and other non-white races has not always been humane. Until 1969, Aboriginal children were customarily removed from their families to be educated and assimilated into white man’s culture. These people became known as “the stolen generations”. In 2010, following a public enquiry, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered an official “Apology to the Stolen Generations” on behalf of all Australian people. Immigration to Australia by non-Europeans was restricted under a series of acts known as the “white Australia policy”, the remnants of which were finally dismantled in 1973.
For the last 4 decades, Australia has maintained large scale multi-ethnic immigration. Foreign Minister, Bob Carr explained that there is no need for Australians “to fetishize multiculturalism or to give it a capital ‘M’, but simply to relax into our easygoing Australian ethnic and cultural diversity based on tolerance and respect”. The membership of the AUSTRALIAN CHAMBER CHOIR reflects this:
Since joining the choir as an alto in 2013, Hannah Spracklan-Holl has completed a Bachelor of Music. She now works as a freelance violinist: “My father was born in Scotland and my mum is third generation Australian. Mum’s great grandfather came from Denmark and the name was originally spelled Hølle. We have a photo of my great grandfather’s family, taken at their home in Queensland, and we think that my great grandmother was probably indigenous. We haven’t really done enough research to be certain”.
Amelia Jones (soprano) joined the choir in 2016:”My mum and dad are both Welsh, and so are all my ancestors in recorded history (according to my Aunty’s family tree). My dad was in the oil and gas industry, so it made sense for us to move to Western Australia when I was very young, as there was more opportunity for work over there. Mum can do anything she puts her mind to (previous endeavours include sailing around the Bermuda Triangle and being a flight attendant for Japan Airlines), and growing up in Perth she spent her time teaching piano. There was always music in my house, and mum would drive my brother and I to school with Handel’s Messiah playing in the car on the way there, and Led Zeppelin on the way home…or vice versa depending on our mood. When I was 14 we moved back to Wales where I spent 4 fun filled years before moving back to Perth when I was 18, and now I’m very happy living in Melbourne. I’m thankful for my heritage as there is no doubt it has instilled music in my veins.”
Ria Polo (alto and organist) joined the choir in 2016. “I was born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia. My parents came from the same province (West Java), Mom is a Sundanese and born in Bandung, and my father grew up in Indramayu. Indonesia is such a multicultural country (consisting of 34 provinces) and each province has its own traditional languages (that’s 300 languages). ” I came to Melbourne to further my studies in music at the University of Melbourne. I loved the winter season in Melbourne and was determined to live and work in this lovely city after I finished my studies. Fifteen years later, I am living and working here and proud to call myself a Melbournian!
Erika Tandiono (soprano) was born in Surabaya, Indonesia to Chinese parents: “When I was 9 years old in 1998, native Indonesians rioted, burning the homes and businesses of wealthier ethnic Chinese residents. The riots were triggered by economic problems, food shortages and mass unemployment, all of which eventually led to the resignation of President Suharto and the fall of the New Order government. Fearing further racial violence, my parents decided that it would be better for my sisters and me to be educated in Melbourne. Following my sisters’ arrival in 2003, I arrived here in 2006 and attended Taylor’s College and then the University of Melbourne. Mum and Dad hope to settle in Melbourne in the future”.
Grace Cordell (soprano) was born in Melbourne. “My mum is from Malaysia and my dad, who is second generation Australian is a descendant of English immigrants. Mum came to Melbourne from Kuala Lumpur to study Accounting when she was eighteen years old and settled in quickly. By the time she finished her degree, she had decided that she wanted to stay in Australia. We go back to Malaysia every couple of years to stay in touch with my mum’s family”.
Elizabeth Anderson (alto, harpsichordist) was born in London: “My parents met there at art school. My mum is from a Jewish background and my dad was born in Liverpool. My parents were pretty poor living in London on my dad’s salary as a high school teacher. My parents decided to emigrate to Australia as “ten pound Poms” in 1961, as it was the only way they would ever be able to afford to visit a foreign country. We arrived in Australia on the Fairsky. I don’t remember the 6-week trip, as I was only two years old. When we arrived in Launceston, Tasmania, the people were really friendly and welcoming and my parents soon decided to stay”.
Jerzy Kozlowski (bass, pictured, centre): “I was born in 1952 in England of a German/Polish mother and Polish father. At the beginning of World War II my father was in a Russian labour camp in Archangelsk. He escaped to Palestine and joined the Polish Free Army which fought its way through Italy and was eventually demobbed in England. My mother escaped from what was to become East Germany to England, meeting my father in Salisbury, Wiltshire. My parents had booked a sea passage to emigrate to Australia soon after I was born, but my father broke his leg two weeks before we were due to sail and the opportunity was missed! I finally made Australia my home in 1979″.
Pippa Andrew (soprano) was born in Newport, South Wales and grew up in Manchester, UK. She completed a Masters Degree in Composition at Leeds College of Music. “ I first came to Melbourne on a working holiday to busk but loved the city and it’s music scene so much I’m still here!”
Douglas Lawrence (director) pictured right: “At the time of my birth, my family had lived in Australia for four generations. My Great great grandfather, William Effingham Lawrence arrived in Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) in 1823 on his ship, the Lord Liverpool. His son, Robert William Lawrence was Tasmania’s first Botanist. By arrangement with the British Government, the family was granted land at Formosa on Lake River in Northern Tasmania, where members of my family still live. My grandchildren are 7th generation Australians, which puts them in the minority in this country”.
Jacob Lawrence (tenor): “My mum and dad are Douglas and Liz, so my story’s much the same as theirs! I went to my first choir practice when I was one week old. In those days it was the Choir of Ormond College. My dad held me up in front of the choir and evidently I wriggled and screwed up my face. But the taste for choral music caught on! I started singing in the Scots Church choir with my parents when I was 6 years old and that’s how I learned to read music. I joined the ACC in 2010 when I was 17 and for three years I was the youngest member.” Jacob moved to Switzerland in 2016 to undertake a Bachelor of Music at the Schola Cantorum in Basel. He will join the choir briefly during our European tour in July 2017.