Wide Open Sky – a movie review by Roz Tarszisz

April 11, 2016 by Roz Tarszisz
Read on for article

Think big, dream wide is the maxim of Moorambilla Voices.  Michelle Leonard, founder and Artistic Director of the choir, is just the woman to bring dreams to life.

This documentary – a different version of the one screened on ABC in 2014 – charts the search by Leonard as she criss–crosses outback New South Wales, travelling more than 4000kms in three weeks  across the most remote and disadvantaged region of the state. She visits 30 towns, 55 schools and auditions 2000 primary school children for her Moorambilla Voices Regional Choir.

Growing up in remote communities where footy is king has its problems. Most children have not had much, if any, music education but are thrilled to be chosen.  While finding children who can sing is necessary, for the artistic director it’s more important to find the ones who have “a burning need to express themselves”.

The film follows Kyhnan, Mack, Opal and Taylah through auditions and music camp to the big concert performance in Coonamble with the Sydney Symphony Fellows in front of hundreds of people.

The camp participants come from far and wide to the small town of Baradine and are looked after by local women who rule with firm hands and kind hearts.

“That women would make a dead stick sing” says Nea as she prepares cakes for morning tea.

Leonard is a tough but caring teacher  –  the kids have to learn a demanding  contemporary, original repertoire in just three days but she is generous with praise and  encouragement. She doesn’t sugar­-coat her demands and camp is a marathon effort for everyone involved.

Alice Chance, is a talented young composer in residence who becomes an inspiration to the girls.

Driven by her own musical education at St. Bridget’s, Coonamble, Leonard understands what it means when someone says “you are good at that”.

“It’s not just a choir, we are saying that life is full of possibility, go, take it”.

The film won last year’s Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Sydney Film Festival and Leonard deserves an award for her dedication to fostering the arts in the outback, although I am sure she would dismiss the notion.

Director Lisa Nicols has captured the children’s innocence and enthusiasm and Leonard’s passion to inspire.  See it and be moved.

4/5 2015 Released April 14 Rated G

Written and directed by Lisa Nicols

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