Our Spectacular delivers inclusive approach to 20th anniversary performance

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday
Our Spectacular Concert at Sydney Opera House celebrates it's 20th anniversary on Thursday, 21st September, 2023. Photo shows the AUSLAN Choir performing. Picture: Anna Warr

The creativity of 1400 students from schools across south-west Sydney was showcased at the Sydney Opera House last night when the sold-out Our Spectacular musical and dance event marked its 20th anniversary.

More than 26,500 students from the Auburn, Bankstown, Chullora, Girraween, Parramatta, and Strathfield school networks have performed at the iconic in Our Spectacular since 2001.

Auslan choir makes spectacular debut Opera House performance

In an Our Spectacular first, the Victoria Avenue Public School Auslan Choir joined the Combined Primary and Secondary Choir, conducted by Kipi Fifita for the hit song Million Dreams from the hit movie The Greatest Showman.

The unique choir began in 2016 with a few students and has been in its current form – with nine members (representing three percent of the school’s student population) – since early 2022, Auslan choir coordinator and Victoria Avenue Public School teacher of the deaf, Sophie Mohr, told The Bursar.

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Preparing for the big moment on stage last night has been a lengthy commitment for everyone involved, says Ms Mohr, with weekly rehearsals for the last three months.

“For the last two weeks, we’ve been rehearsing twice a week,” she says.

Conducting a choir for students whose language is Auslan comes with specific challenges.

“When translating a song from English to Auslan, you really need to check that you’re using the right content for a particular phrase or song; it’s not as simple as saying there’s one English word to an Auslan equivalent sign,” she told The Bursar.

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As the big day approached, Ms Mohr said the significance of the moment was not lost.

“This is huge,” she told The Bursar in the lead-up to the night. “This is so exciting and so important. I’m so excited for the students and their parents.”

A proud history of supporting equitable access to performing arts

The event – originally known as the Granville District Schools Spectacular – was originally founded by the Granville Primary Principals’ Association. Today, Our Spectacular Director and Conductor Kipi Fifita says the annual event continues to create an equitable opportunity for students to foster and explore their passion for music and dance – no matter their socio-economic status or background.

Our Spectacular provides an opportunity for children to explore and perform in the creative arts and be proud to share this with the community,” Mr Fifita said.

“The large number of our students are not in a position to learn dance or singing outside of school, so Our Spectacular has always been a platform to allow students to explore their talents and provide equity opportunities for the students.”

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550 south-west Sydney students made up a combined Primary and Secondary Choir that performed five of the evening’s 30 performances.

The Symphonia Jubilate orchestra, which is made up of students predominantly from primary and secondary schools in the Strathfield region, also took to the stage.

The theme of the evening was Story Time, and focused on the importance of being yourself, developing positive friendships, building resilience, resolving differences, and taking pride in your cultural background, as well as caring for and appreciating the natural environment.

“These are vital values that public education reinforces in students every day at school in so many different ways,” Our Spectacular director and conductor Mr Fifita said.

Granville South Creative and Performing Arts High School relieving principal Joumana Youssef said the event was often the first time students and their families had ever been inside the Sydney Opera House.

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“Giving the students from south-west Sydney the opportunity to be exposed to something as grand as the Opera House truly builds a sense of belonging,” she said.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]brandx.live