A bundle of letters from another generation. A tale of a community, tightly knit in the face of a fractured history. The story of Yarrabah! The Musical followed a fictional family, but it was a story that every Yarrabah resident recognised. It was their own.
Last night, the unique musical event won the Coates Hire Best Community Event at the Australian Event Awards, an apt recognition of a project of great importance to the Far North Queensland community and the Opera Australia Community Partnerships Team.
“Yarrabah the Musical! was Opera Australia’s first venture into major collaborations with indigenous communities,” said Lyndon Terracini, Opera Australia’s Artistic Director.
“It’s one we are very proud of, having made some very real connections with the people of a community that’s strong and creative, with an important set of stories to tell.”
In August 2012, hundreds of Yarrabah locals and people from surrounding communities gathered in Bishop Malcolm Park in front of a temporary stage. When the first notes of the musical rang out over the crowd, it was the culmination of seven weeks intensive work: led by writer and director Rhoda Roberts together with Opera Australia production staff. Local legend Troy Brady, Australian Idol finalist Casey Donovan and Nick Backstrom joined a cast of local children and adults to tell the story of Yarrabah’s history in song.
The result was a project the community could be proud of: a professional production that touched the hearts of everyone who saw it. Even fifteen months on, Terracini believes it is a project to be proud of.
“In forging connections like this, and creating new opportunities for people across Australia to have a first-hand experience of singing and storytelling – the bedrock of opera – we are growing our relationship with people not just as audiences, but also as participants,” he said.
“And along the way, we are creating new work out of the stories that exist within our shores. I’d like to congratulate the community of Yarrabah, and all the Opera Australia people who have made this an award-winning success.”