The college initially chose to work with Cooinda Village, providing wonderful companionship for the residents, until 2021.
Then, of course, COVID intervened. Cooinda was “out of bounds”.
The college, buoyed by the successes of the earlier relationships and concerts, sought an alternative partnership to continue. Approaches were made to U3A, the membership of which is restricted to retirees, and to grandparents of the college students. I was qualified on either score, so enlisted for what was a fulfilling musical adventure.
In the next year, which was 2022, we had a group of 22 adults and 45 Year 7 students (FCJ was selective, and the students had to be volunteers!)
Rehearsals in the FCJ College hall were held over a period of 10-12 weeks, with the songs chosen by the students. Such titles as ‘Listen to me’, ‘Africa’, and ‘This is Me’ were popular with the schoolies. As you may imagine, these songs were not within my repertoire, so I was continuously relying upon the music sheets.
Over the period of the rehearsals, a considerable mingling between the students and the elderly occurred. The students had so obviously been primed to make conversation with us and I was regularly greeted with the question “How did you fill in your week?”
I found that I was familiar with the surnames of most children that I met, and each week the kids would seek me out.
In addition to the singing, I, as the oldest of the group of adults, was singled out for an interview, the result of which was also to be featured in the upcoming concert. I and my wife Bernadette were interviewed by a very impressive Year 10 student, whose ambition was to qualify in Medicine.
All of this culminated in a concert in BPACC on 23rd November 2022. There were approximately 300 people in attendance and the show was very well received.
When the topic ‘FCJ concert’ was again mentioned in early 2023 I was very responsive
This time, all year 7 students (more than 80 of them) were compulsorily enlisted, and there were 26 adults. We were well and truly outnumbered, and the background noise at rehearsals was unimaginable.
Nevertheless, the camaraderie, again, was outstanding and memorable. At each rehearsal I had “Eddie” and “Angus” seated either side of me and we became great friends. At the concerts’ end they both gave me a big hug.
Although we rehearsed for 12 weeks, “Suspicious minds”, ‘When I grow up” and “The Eye of the Tiger” were outside of my range. I continually had my eyes glued to the music sheets.
This year we held two concerts: one for the Year 7 students from schools at Euroa and Mansfield, and the main presentation for a local Benalla audience of parents and the community in general.
The venue for these concerts was not BPACC as last year, but FCJ’s own hall, where we had rehearsed. There were capacity crowds of over 300 people, and we received excellent reports.
Both years’ concerts were orchestrated by a very capable and engaging FCJ teacher, Catherine Burton, assisted by top music teacher Adam Toms. The accompaniment was a band entirely of FCJ students.
I look forward with anticipation to singing in the group again next time.
What a “WONDERFUL (MUSICAL) ADVENTURE”!