In July 2012 celebrated Aboriginal soprano, composer and educator Deborah Cheetham and her Short Black Opera Company (SBOC) undertook a six-day residency in Portland, Victoria.
Presented at Portland Arts Centre by Glenelg Shire Council in association with Musica Viva's CountryWide program, the residency consisted of a recital ofTil the Black Lady Sings in Company, Cheetham's autobiographical musical presented by SBOC; singing workshops with around 30 local Aboriginal children; a community choral workshop open to all local singers; presentations onPecan Summer and the Stolen Generation for secondary students; and a concert by the young workshop participants at the end of the week to which teachers, students, parents and friends were invited.
Diverse sectors of the community were involved in this project which was created to facilitate reconciliation and strengthen community relations through the power of music. The project has had a lasting impact for the students involved. Deborah Cheetham has maintained relationships formed in Portland and the company has since returned to undertake further workshops with the young singers, some of whom will be involved in projects with SBOC in Melbourne this year.
Building on the experience in Portland, SBOC and Musica Viva worked together again in 2013 to present equally successful week-long residencies in Wangaratta (Vic), Gunnedah and Grafton (NSW) in 2013.
The shared commitment to high quality education, classical music, engagement with regional communities and reconciliation has enabled Musica Viva and Short Black Opera to have a strong working relationship. Musica Viva's relationships with presenters in NSW and Victoria, and the funding available through the CountryWide program has increased opportunities for communities to engage with this unique project.