DR. JONATHON WELCH AM
Multi award winning singer, conductor, teacher, composer, director and recording artist, Jonathon Welch is one of Australia’s most unique and diverse artists with a career spanning four decades.
Jonathon has performed around the World alongside many of the finest singers, directors and conductors including Baz Lurhmann, John Farnham, Jimmy Barnes, kd Lang, Grace Bumbry, Frederica Von Stade and Dame Joan Sutherland in some of the world’s great Concert Halls and Opera Houses including Carnegie Hall, New York, Royal Albert Hall, London and Sydney Opera House.
In 2007, Jonathon’s work creating choirs for the homeless and disadvantaged in Australia was the subject of the internationally acclaimed ARIA, Logie and Helpmann award winning TV documentary ‘Choir of Hard Knocks’, also creating the ‘Jailbirds’ documentary in the Victorian Women’s Prisons in 2009, and was a Judge on the highly successful ‘Battle of the Choirs’ TV series for Channel 7.
Jonathon has been recognised for his outstanding commitment to the music industry, youth music education and his work with marginalised and homeless communities with the Victorian and Australian of the Year Local Hero 2008, ANZAC of the Year 2009, an Honorary Doctorate, an Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2009 and an Honorary Fellow of the Australian Council of Educational Leaders.
In 2009 Jonathon created and launched ‘Social Inclusion Week’ making Australia the only country in the world to celebrate Social Inclusion nationally, and in September 2012 launched his vision for the future of arts, cultural and wellbeing programs for those experiencing homelessness and disadvantage with the ‘School of Hard Knocks’.
In 2011 Jonathon produced and directed ‘Beyond Hard Knocks’ a followup documentary on the journey of the Choir of Hard Knocks member, and in 2012 and 2013 Jonathon returned from his charity work in Uganda, also directing and producing his latest documentary ‘Choir Man in Africa’ with the African’s Children Choir.
Jonathon conceived and co-wrote ‘Street Requiem’ a major choral work in memory of those who have died on the streets in June 2014. ’Street Requiem’ was premiered at the Melbourne International Singers Festival and was a Finalist in the prestigious American Prize in the USA and has been performed extensively throughout Australia, USA and will make it’s premiere in Ireland and the United Kingdom in 2018.
Other recent engagements on the world’s stages have included Rome, Milan and Royal Albert Hall, London in 2015 and a return to Sydney Opera House in 2016 to perform with the Choir of Hard Knocks for their 10th anniversary, and to reprieve his award winning roles in Deborah Cheetham’s ‘Pecan Summer’, Australia’s first Indigenous Opera.
Jonathon also made his New York debut at Carnegie Hall, conducting and singing in his award winning ‘Street Requiem’ in September 2016 with legendary mezzo soprano Frederica von Stade.
In 2017, Jonathon is still in great demand as a Keynote Speaker, MC and Guest Conductor and will act as Choral Director for Queensland Music Festival’s ‘You’re The Voice’ family violence project, along with his ongoing commitments as Founding Artistic Director for Melbourne International Singers Festival since 2010, Founding Artistic Director for the School of Hard Knocks and the Choir of Hard Knocks now celebrating their 10th Anniversary year.
DEBORAH CHEETHAM AO
Deborah Cheetham, Yorta Yorta woman, soprano, composer and educator has been a leader in the Australian arts landscape for more than 25 years.
In the 2014 Queen's Birthday Honours List, Deborah was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), for distinguished service to the performing arts as an opera singer, composer and artistic director, to the development of Indigenous artists, and to innovation in performance.
Short Black Opera Café, Death Scenes and Drama Queens and ‘Til The Black Lady Sings were early successes for Deborah Cheetham combining her talents as a writer, performer and entrepreneur. ‘Til the Black Lady Sings has toured to London, New York, Europe and around Australia for almost a decade.
In August 2000 Deborah Cheetham was commissioned to write and perform an original composition, Dali Mana Gamarada, which she would later perform as the welcome to country at the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Deborah later collaborated with Wicked Beats Sound System to record Dali Mana as the lead track for Festival Records 2001 CD Corroboration.
Commissioned to write and perform a one-woman play for the Olympic Arts Festival Wimmin’s Business series, Deborah Cheetham gave the premiere performance of her first major work at the Sydney Opera House in 1997. White Baptist Abba Fan was to dominate Deborah’s career the next five years and became the vehicle for her international debut.
In April 2007 Deborah Cheetham was awarded a prestigious two-year Fellowship from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Board of the Australia Council for the Arts. This fellowship has allowed Ms Cheetham to create her second major theatrical work Australia’s first Indigenous opera, Pecan Summer. In 2010 Ms Cheetham brought together Australia’s first classically trained Indigenous ensemble to present the world premiere of Pecan Summer.
The success of Pecan Summer has led Deborah to create Short Black Opera Pty Ltd, a national not-for-profit company for the development of Indigenous opera singers and has produced and three subsequent seasons in Melbourne 2011 (Arts Centre), Perth 2012 (State Theatre Centre WA) and Adelaide 2014 (Her Majesty’s Theatre). This landmark work is Australia’s first Indigenous opera and has been a vehicle for the development on a new generation of Indigenous opera singers. The 2016 Sydney Opera House production of Pecan Summer received a total of 9 Broadway World Awards.
Ms Cheetham was the recipient of the 2013 Vocational Service Award from the Rotary Club of Melbourne and in March 2015 was inducted onto the Victorian Honour Roll of Women.
In 2017 Ms Cheetham was invited to perform an excerpt from her latest work Eumeralla, a War Requiem for Peace in the ancient language of the Gunditjmara people, at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco for the opening of the Venice Biennale, before embarking on a recital tour including performances in London, Paris, Rome and Singapore.
Like her multi-award winning opera Pecan Summer, Eumeralla is set to advance the progress towards a meaningful reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-aboriginal Australians.
Ms Cheetham currently serves on the Board of Directors of the following organisations; NAISDA, The Kaiela Institute and The Worawa Aboriginal College Advisory Board.
THE CHOIR OF HARD KNOCKS
The Choir that inspired a Nation!
The Choir of Hard Knocks began rehearsing on September 13, 2006 under the inspiring musical leadership of award winning singer, conductor, composer and recording artist, Dr Jonathon Welch AM. Created initially as a television construct by Jason Stephens and Fremantle Media, ‘Choir of Hard Knocks’ was the subject of the international award winning ABC TV series.
Jonathon’s original inspiration came in 2000 when reading an article in the Canadian Reader’s Digest about the Montreal Homeless Men’s Choir whilst in Canada. He then returned to Australia and created Sydney Street Choir in 2001, the first choir of its kind in Australia specifically created for people experiencing homelessness and disadvantage.
Choir of Hard Knocks is credited with being the only artists in Australian music history to have been awarded the highest accolades in the same year. These include a Logie Award for the Most Outstanding Factual Documentary TV Series in 2007 (for the ABC’s ‘Choir of Hard Knocks’ documentary), an ARIA award for Best TV Soundtrack, Platinum ARIA award for their first CD “Songs from the TV Series” a Gold ARIA award for their second CD “Songs of Hope and Inspiration” and a coveted Helpmann Award for Most Outstanding Special Event for their sell out concerts at Sydney Opera House in 2007.
Now in their 10th anniversary year, the choir is still led by their dedicated Founding Artistic Director, Dr Jonathon Welch AM and rehearse weekly at Deakin Edge, Federation Square. Most importantly, the ongoing and regular contact the choir provides to the members has had a profound effect on their lives, leading many of the original 52 back to either part time or full time study or work. The choir has also given members the opportunity to find new purpose in life. Many had become socially excluded due to their socio- economic circumstances, and the choir has enabled them to acquire new skills and rebuild personal confidence and self esteem. It has also created long lasting and ongoing friendships and relationships, and a unique opportunity for the choir members to make a positive and enduring contribution back to the community and has inspired a world wide movement of ‘street choirs’.
The unique and inspiring story of Australia’s most unlikely musical phenomenon, Choir of Hard Knocks are the only artists in Australian music history to have been awarded an ARIA, Platinum and Gold records, a Logie and a Helpmann award. The Choir of Hard Knocks have performed in Australia’s most prestigious venues alongside the cream of Australian musical talent, and are still one of the most sort after and celebrated acts in Australia today.
From their earliest rehearsals and performances, it was obvious that the Choir members not only came from special backgrounds and circumstances, but also that their talents and unique and vibrant sound would lead them to many wonderful performance invitations.
From their first sell out public concerts at Melbourne Town Hall in March 2007, the Choir has performed extensively throughout Melbourne; At the Vodafone Arena with Judith Durham and Karen Knowles; Sydney Myer Music Bowl for Carols By Candlelight for Channel 9; Hamer Hall with Kate Cebrano and Carl Risely – for the Melbourne International Jazz Festival in “Let’s Do It” – a Billie Holiday Tribute; the Iwaki Auditorium, ABC Studios Southbank; at the MCG singing the National Anthem for the Dream Team AFL match in 2008; in Melbourne Zoo’s Twilight series, and at Crown Casino as well as many local and regional Performing Arts Centres.
Seen as an iconic part of Melbourne’s rich and diverse community, the Choir were invited to appear on the lead float for City of Melbourne’s 60th anniversary Moomba Parade. The Choir has also undertaken dozens of performances for government and welfare agencies, community groups, and for corporate entertainment. The Choir has also performed to sell out audiences at the Sydney Opera House in 2007, and at Parliament House, Canberra by special invitation of the then Prime Minister The Hon Kevin Rudd; also and the launch of St Vincent’s Door Knock Appeal at Theatre Royal, Canberra in 2008. TV credits include ABC, Sixty Minutes, Mornings with Kerrie-Anne, 9am for Channel Ten, Carols By Candlelight and the Women’s Weekly 2014 Christmas special for Channel 9.
The Choir is thrilled to have had the chance to perform and record with many of Australia’s finest musicians and performers including choir Patrons, Jimmy Barnes David Hobson, and Deborah Cheetham, Judith Durham, Karen Knowles, Tim Mc Callum, John Swann, Bob Downe, Mahalia Barnes, Kate Cebrano, Carl Risely, Damien Leith, John Foreman, Grace Knight, Mark Holden, Danielle Matthews and Eddie Perfect.
SHORT BLACK OPERA: DHUNGALA CHILDREN'S CHOIR
Dhungala Children’s Choir is an award-winning ensemble for Indigenous children between the ages of 9 and 17.
For thousands of years the Yorta Yorta people have passed down their traditions, language, dreaming and culture through song. Dhungala Children’s Choir (DCC) is a continuation of this tradition.
Established in 2009 by Yorta Yorta Soprano, Composer and Educator Deborah Cheetham AO, DCC gave its debut performance in the SheppARTon festival performance RiverSong and has since become a strong presence in Shepparton, Geelong and throughout Victoria.
Dhungala Children’s Choir now consists of members from around Australia coming together regularly for high profile performances and the annual Dhungala Choral Connection program.
Members of Dhungala Children’s Choir have appeared with Short Black Opera, Australia’s national Indigenous Opera Company in Mooroopna, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide and most recently at the Sydney Opera House.
In 2017 Dhungala Children’s Choir won the award for Outstanding Performance by a Children’s Choir in the prestigious Broadway World Awards, for their performance in the Sydney Opera House production of Deborah Cheetham’s Pecan Summer.
Created and directed by Dr Jonathon Welch AM, THECHO!R is now in their 10th year of fantastic performances
and has over 130 current singing members aged between 18 - 89.
One of Melbourne’s most exciting, dynamic and largest non-auditioned community adult choirs, THECHO!R has
performed extensively throughout Victoria and Australia. THECHO!R aspires to the highest choral standards whilst
supporting community based activities in raising thousands of dollars, including the African Children's Choir,
Choir of Hard Knocks, School of Hard Knocks and St Vincent's Hospital "Sing for a Cure".
THECHO!R has a diverse repertoire spanning all genres from contemporary, jazz and swing to opera, music theatre
and rock and is open to all interested singers, experienced or budding, from 18 years and over.
For more information about THECHO!R, please visit www.thechoir.com.au
THECHO!R's next performance is at the Festival of 1000 Voices in Yarrawonga Town Hall on Saturday, 10th March.
Concert time : 7:30 pm. Tickets available Ph: (03) 5744 1989 or last-minute tickets from 7:00 pm at the Door.
THECHO!R in Concert with Jonathon at the helm