Petersham local and Leichhardt Espresso Chorus conductor Michelle Leonard, known for the annual musical feast she serves up at Carols on Norton, is the subject of a new documentary following her involvement with regional children’s choir Moorambilla Voices.
Wide Open Sky documents the culmination of Michelle’s work over a decade. With the help of teachers and musicians, Michelle has created two children’s choirs and a high school choir made up of children living throughout the North West region of NSW, the most disadvantaged third of the state.
“I grew up in Coonamble and had some exceptional musical opportunities there that allowed me to come to Sydney and go on to have opportunities internationally,” Michelle says. “As I got older and saw my friends having children out there, I realised they didn’t still have these kinds of opportunities.”
Michelle sought to ensure that children growing up regionally have equity of access to education in music.
“I am acting as a bridge between the opportunities in regional Australia and Sydney, as well as internationally. And people of both paths can walk over it, together we have created a very rich middle ground in the Australian music scene.”
Moorambilla Voices now collaborates with elite composers, choreographers and musicians, providing children with a rigorous and, as the documentary illustrates, transformative immersion in the creative arts.
Michelle’s adult choir based in Leichhardt, the Leichhardt Espresso Chorus, also frequently collaborates and tours with Moorambilla Voices.
“Working with these choirs together breaks down barriers between generations or race that make you put people in a box,” says Michelle. “You find the sense of community that happens through choral ensembles is a positive river of gold.”
Wide Open Sky, directed by Lisa Nicols won best documentary at Sydney Film Festival last year and is currently showing at Norton Street Palace and Newtown Dendy cinemas.
Leichhardt Espresso Chorus is performing Rossini’s Petite Messe at Hunter Baille Presbyterian Church in Annandale on May 1st. Book tickets at www.espressochorus.com.au