Opera has students singing praise

Indigenous opers singer Deborah Cheetham performs with students from Tyalla school, Coffs Harbour.
Indigenous opers singer Deborah Cheetham performs with students from Tyalla school, Coffs Harbour. Bruce Thomas

OPERA is not normally something kids are interested in trying out, but Tyalla Primary School students spent a week putting their heart and soul into the genre.

“I had my doubts, I don’t mind saying so, but it’s been a great success,” school principal Stewart Copeland said.

When he first proposed the idea of singing opera to the students, the response was ‘oh, yuk’, but after a week of intensive lessons with two celebrity singers, this outcome was amazing.

“It’s the kids you would least expect it from, who have risen to the occasion,” he said.

Indigenous opera singer Deborah Cheetham was booked to perform at the Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery as part of the EMSLA Festival of events for the annual still life award. She asked the gallery staff to approach a local school with a high indigenous population to ask if the school would be interested in opera workshops.

The Yorta Yorta soprano created the first indigenous opera, Pecan Summer, last month, which she is seeking funding to tour nationwide.

Together with rising indigenous bass opera star Tiriki Onus, local soprano Michelle der Kinderen and pianist Toni Lalich, Ms Cheetham ran workshops with both the school choir and a choir formed by the indigenous students. Audience members were in tears at the quality of the performance produced by the students at the school.

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