A Daring Plan: Making the Murray Mallee Sing

A Daring Plan …

It started as a bold plot to prove the naysayers wrong. 

They said it would never work in Swan Hill -- don't waste your time, try something else -- because a community choir was 'not the kind of thing this town does'.

 And so began the rapid strategy to stage an impromptu choir spectacular, as part of the rural city's annual Fairfax Youth Initiative.

 Organiser, Bryce Ives, recalls it as "an incredible whirlwind".

 "The Fairfax Youth Initiative has been running in Swan Hill since 1997 and has always been a perfect opportunity for schools to come together and showcase their artistic flair," Mr Ives said.

"But this year we wanted to create a better link between the event and the wider community -- we wanted people see the talent that we have in our schools but also to widen the demographic so that it's not just a festival for students but for anyone who loves the arts," he said. 

"We cooked up this idea to do a spontaneous community choir and when people said it wouldn't work we were only more determined to make sure it did."

Together with locals Bayden Clayton and Emma Kelly, Mr Ives went about a word of mouth campaign to strike a chord and make Swan Hill sing.

They set up a Facebook page to help generate interest but there was little knowing just what that interest would be until the night of the performance.

Schools from across the region jumped on board, including St Mary MacKillop College, Tooleybuc Central, Manangatang P-12, Tyrell College Sea Lake, and even representatives from Red Cliffs Secondary College made the journey down from the Northern Mallee.

"It turns out the 'bush telegraph' works well in the Mallee and, would you believe it, Swan Hill is the kind of town that will embrace something a bit different," Mr Ives said.

“The outcome speaks for itself -- we had more than 350 people turn up from all over the region to sing together in a mass choir, and we pulled the whole thing together in a matter of weeks," he said.

"We spent an hour learning the song and then an hour recording it for the film-clip and that's all the time we had, and once the filming was done there was an incredible feeling of pride and elation in the room."

Attention then turned to the film-clip itself, with about a week spent between organisers and participants, filming and editing the final cut.

Fast forward just a couple of weeks and the clip has been viewed online more than 16,000 times.

And there's plenty of enthusiasm for a similar concept to be staged at next year's Fairfax Youth Initiative.

"There have been many, many comments about how proud people are to see their community and their region taking part in something like this," Mr Ives said.

"The response has been so positive and so strong that it's probably unavoidable we will have to do it again -- I think they'd hunt me down otherwise."