A sense of journey
Lyn Williams is Artistic Director and Founder of Gondwana Choirs and has watched Marliya evolve into a critically acclaimed touring ensemble with two albums under its belt and a third on the way.
“I work with a lot of children’s choirs, but Marliya is really something special,” Williams says. “They have a different sound – a richness and emotional strength. You feel they have a very strong need to communicate.”
Spinifex Gum became a much more theatrical show as a result, adds Williams. “There’s a strong visual element and choreography but there’s also a dramatic arc, a sense of journey, and the girls really express themselves on stage.”
Some of the original Marliya ensemble have moved on over the years, with younger singers taking their places. Another unique aspect of the group is the way that continuity and community is self-managed, says Williams.
“One of the beautiful things about Marliya is that the older girls teach the new ones all the choreography and the nuances of the songs. The youngsters hang on every word and they work so hard. I’m so impressed by the way the knowledge of the show and the intricacies of the performance are passed down.”
They are enormous fun to tour with, too, Williams adds. “There’s no drama, no fuss, they know what they are here to do. No-one wants to be a pop star. It’s all about the collective.”
Ung says she was drawn to the choir by the opportunity to make music but has stayed for the sense of sisterhood and the lessons she learns from being part of a touring company of singers.
“I’ve grown up in Marliya and I’ve gained a lot of confidence,” she says. “I’ve also learned that sometimes there have to be moments where I need to be quiet and do as I’m told!
“But the main thing I’ve learned is that to find your voice, you first have to find out who you are. Then you can express the things you care about.
“Take the thing you are passionate about – which, for me, is music – put something important behind it and convey it to your audience. Then it can hit them like a freight train.”
She adds: “I hope the audience really feels that roller-coaster of emotion; I hope they learn something.
“So much of what we’re singing about is important and relevant. But even with the happy songs, I hope they feel the bond that we share with each other on stage and off stage. That’s who we are as people, that’s who we are.”