Changing Tempo

Artistic director Michelle Leonard is a children’s musical educator and the conductor of the Leichhardt Espresso Chorus. Michelle is also the vocal leader of Moorambilla Voices. The mother of four was recently featured on the ABC documentary ‘Outback Choir’. 

Ciao caught Michelle just before afternoon rehearsals with over 70 eager choristers. We chatted about her work in remote NSW and the upcoming events of the Leichhardt Espresso Chorus.

Michelle is the founder of Leichhardt Espresso Chorus (LEC) which is based in the Inner West and made up of 80 local residents. She has directed several offspring projects such as community workshops and ‘Espresso Kids’ – a children’s choir. LEC is the winner of the Music in Communities award as well as the state runner up in the ABC Classic FM Choir of the Year competition. LEC also holds the Choir in Residence for the Moorambilla Festival.

Moorambilla Voices is another program that Michelle directs. During the ten years it has been running Michelle has seen over 13,000 school students from regional western NSW participate in the workshop program. The Moorambilla program helps develop the vocal and stage skills of children from remote areas of the state. Michelle uses the choir format to help children and adults build confidence and work as a cooperative.

This year, 176 children were selected from the workshops to partake in a residency program, 40% of whom were Indigenous children. The residency program takes the most talented and enthusiastic children on a singing and performing camp where they fine tune their skills and work towards a concert performance.

Under Michelle’s leadership Moorambilla Voices and the  Festival have won numerous awards, the most recent of which was the 2013 NSW State Award for Excellence in Music Education.

Michelle has made a great impact upon adults and children through her guidance in various projects.

“What makes my situation so unique is that I conduct groups of children, as well as groups of adults, whereas most conductors only specialise with one of either group,” Michelle told Ciao.

She works tirelessly to highlight the importance of choral music, a genre of music that is rarely publicised. Michelle hopes to show others the power of the human when used in a collective, and has helped further a medium in which people can use their voice to positively express themselves.

The Leichhardt Espresso Chorus will be performing at the Carols on Norton concert hosted by Leichhardt Council on December 21st from 7.30pm in Pioneers Park. They will be performing pieces overwhelmingly written by Australian composers. Come, and be blown away!