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Jonathon Welch gets local community choir zooming

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Residents of Moonee Valley have the opportunity to work with Australia’s most famous choirmaster – without leaving their own homes.

In the past, Dr Jonathon Welch AM has brought people together to sing in a women’s prison, on a cruise ship, in different countries, and most famously with the Choir of Hard Knocks.

Now he is leading the Voices of Moonee Valley community choir, a group of singers that meets online each Friday morning.

“We have had a fantastic response to this new choir,” Dr Welch said.

“I think people are looking for a sense of connection during this lockdown, and music is a great way to make that happen.”

Voices of Moonee Valley began on 7 August 2020 in response to COVID-19. So far 53 people have registered with the program.

The youngest singer registered is 23 and the oldest is 86, although Dr Welch has seen a few families joining in together.

“There is an extraordinary demographic range in this choir,” Dr Welch said. “I get quite emotional. You can see everyone there on screen, but we have never met in real life.

“We have a chat before and after rehearsal, and I take time to greet people by name as they join the Zoom. I’ve never created a choir like this.

“I am very grateful to Moonee Valley City Council for the opportunity. We were talking about starting a choir earlier this year, then the pandemic happened and this is the way we have to do it.

“At least we are still singing together.”

Essendon is the best-represented suburb, but choristers come from every corner of Moonee Valley. Dr Welch is now a local resident, and proud to be leading a choir in his home municipality.

“I’ve always wanted to live in this area, because it is very beautiful. We are very lucky that during lockdown we are able to go for walks by the beautiful Maribyrnong River,” he said.

The choir’s repertoire has been thoughtfully chosen. The Turtles classic ‘Happy Together’ is the signature song for a group of singers experiencing an unusual form of connectedness.

Each choir session finishes with another appropriate tune, the Seekers’ anthem ‘A World of Our Own’.

“We sing some 50s songs, some pop, we’ve been enjoying the song ‘This is Me’ which was a hit for Hugh Jackman in 2018, and we will soon be doing some gospel and African-American songs,” Dr Welch said.

“Music is a Tardis that can take us through periods of history, space and time.”

Although the choir is already up and running, new participants are warmly welcomed. All rehearsals are recorded, so singers can catch up at their own pace.

More information, and how to register, here or email pgill@mvcc.vic.gov.au