By Caroline Smith
The Catholic Performing Arts Festival was recently provided with a good dose of Kimberley culture and language, from some of the students from Sacred Heart School, Beagle Bay.
A group of 12 students from the school, located on the Dampier Peninsula north of Broome, took part in the festival, with a performance of two songs, including one in the local Nyul Nyul language, on Wednesday 23 August.
Sacred Heart music teacher Gabrielle Mercer tutored the choir in the lead-up to the festival, and accompanied them on their journey to Perth. She said the inclusion of Aboriginal languages would be beneficial to such events.
“The choir’s key music items were a celebration of local Nyul Nyul language and culture: a song telling some local history in langwij, and a song about local bush tucker by Beagle Bay’s Kerrianne Cox,” she said.
“This is an important expression of the 2017 National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) theme ‘Our Languages Matter’, and possibly the only one of its kind in the festival. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were the only students from a remote community singing in their own language.”
She added that the process of selecting the music and preparing students for the festival had been an engaging and enriching one for the Beagle Bay community as well.
“It involved building a relationship with the wider Beagle Bay community so that we could get resources to sing with. I began that process at the beginning of the year, and we started work on the songs in May,” Ms Mercer said.
“Training for the choir performance has had a strong emphasis on team effort and interpersonal awareness, hopefully building skills for life in these young indigenous musicians.”
During their week in Perth, from Monday 21 to Friday 25 August, the choir visited a number of sites, including the Aquarium of Western Australia (AQWA) and discovery centre, Scitech.
Reflecting on their performance on the Wednesday, Ms Mercer said she was very proud of the students, especially considering the size of the choir compared to the others.
“They were one of the smallest groups performing, with only 12 compared to one choir with 80 members,” she said.
“I think the audience could see the strength and pride in their performance.”
The Catholic Performing Arts Festival ran from 19 July to the 1st September this year, with performances from 19,836 students overall, with 110 schools participating.