Songs of Hope and Healing: More Than a Band-Aid

Walking into the Graceland concert at Brisbane Entertainment Centre years ago, I said how excited I was to be seeing Paul Simon live! An African friend questioned me in his sonic-boom voice, ‘Who is Paul Simon? I’m coming to see Miriam Makeba’.
There could have been similar confusion about the billing on Friday 28 August 2015 walking to the Songs of Hope and Healing benefit concert at QPAC. There were rusted-on Lior fans filing in side-by -side local support teams for The Galiipoli Choir and The Boxties to fill the Concert Hall. Musical tastes were certainly diverse. Yet the over-whelming sense I had was of an audience dedicated to the broader issue of the night—relief from distress for refugee adolescents.

There were moments when this commitment was palpable: like the audible hush when The Honourable Quentin Bryce talked about her experience of meeting children and their mothers in the dust of the African desert; the spontaneous applause when Adele Rice announced that Germany would not turn away refugees from Syria; and the appreciation of a personal testament shared by MC Botswana -born community leader, Sharon Orapleng. The audience could not help but be spell-bound by both the music and the stories of the night.

All praise should be heaped on QPAC, in particular CEO John Kotzas, for presenting this night of musical excellence. Songs of hope and healing were heard from the QPAC Choir, Christchurch Youth Choir, MDA Diversity Choir, Stuartholme Choir, The Gallipoli Choir under the experienced baton of Tim Sherlock with Brisbane schools St Joseph’s College Gregory Terrace and All Hallows, Aurora Guitar Ensemble, The Boxties, Queensland Conservatorium Brass, and musicians from the Queensland Youth Orchestra. The performances by acclaimed classical pianist Shan Deng and her father Dr Wei Dang on his pipa (a Chinese four-stringed lute) were thrilling. Knowing that Ms Deng is a past student of Milpera made her appearance even more potent.
All proceeds raised by the generosity of presenting artists and ticket buyers will support Friends of HEAL to continue their work providing relief from distress and education and cultural integration for refugee adolescents. It began at Milpera State High School and has been nurtured by the CEO of FHEAL Jane Griffin and Board Chair, Adele Rice AM. Both express their overwhelming gratitude for what they hope will be the first of such benefit concerts.
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REVIEW by Belinda Macartney
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