On Sunday 24 October, our annual Remembrance Day gave bereaved families an opportunity to connect and remember their children. For a fourth year South of the River community choir, based in Stonnington, generously contributed to the day and you can view their beautiful piece below.
The 28-voice a cappella ensemble celebrates diversity and harmony through a shared passion for singing the music and rhythms of Africa, traditional African American gospel and original Australian compositions, rehearsing (in non-COVID-19 times) in the newly renovated Armadale Community Arts Hub. The choir has firmly established itself in the Melbourne Music scene, as regular festival performers and finalists in the ABC CLASSIC FM “Choir Of The Year” Awards. They also perform for City of Stonnington’s annual Carols By Candlelight at Central and Como Parks.
The choir connection with Very Special Kids began when Mary Ryder, one of our then Family Support Practitioners, who is also a choir member, suggested that some additional music at the ceremony might enhance the experience for bereaved families and staff. Mary felt her own participation in the choir and shared music supported her well-being and work with families, so she approached choir director, Annemarie Sharry, who has led the choir for 19 years.
Annemarie and the choir immediately responded with enthusiasm and in 2018 and 2019 the choir rehearsed hard and joined bereaved families and Very Special Kids staff at the town hall to sing on Remembrance Day. Feedback from families and staff was positive and the choir felt privileged and moved to share the occasion.
Unfortunately COVID-19 has meant Remembrance Day could not be held in person last year or this year. However, South of the River Choir has provided singing, additional music, and video for the online Heart and Hands Project. Each individual choir member has faced the challenge of recording both sound and video at home for the online event, but it has been a contribution the choir was keen to make.
Their choice of song this year – ‘The Gift ‘ (composer Lisa Young/ originally recorded by Coco’s Lunch) – was especially appropriate as the choir strongly wanted to give something to the Very Special Kids community of families and staff in these especially challenging times.
We very much hope that the choir connection will continue and maybe 2022 will be the year the choir can once again join Very Special Kids bereaved families in person. We are grateful and privileged to have an ongoing relationship with this talented group of singers.