Making a difference with music

Making a difference with music
Rebecca Smith

Inside an unassuming church on McCracken St, something magic is happening.

Guitarist Jeff Mifsud gives an Acknowledgement of Country and leads the audience in singing a few rounds of Joe Geia’s Yil Lull.  A boy sits at the piano and plays two numbers that have the audience tapping their feet. He finishes to loud applause and returns to his seat grinning.

Accomplished musicians Sally Banks and Judith Moore perform a Brahms piece on violin and piano, followed by a young harp player sending pure notes to every corner of the space.

These are members of the Kensington Chamber Players – an ever evolving group of musicians devoted to making a difference with music.

For more than two decades, the Kensington Chamber Players have been holding quarterly concerts at Christ Church Kensington to uplift spirits and raise funds for asylum seeker and refugee causes.

Each concert lasts exactly an hour and is followed by a communal supper. Funds raised go to various community groups and programs.

“We initially started the concerts because many of us are music therapists and we wanted a chance to play together. We were raising funds to pay for a piano,” Sally Banks said.

“Then one year we invited local folk singer Suzette Herft and she said she would only perform if the funds raised went to benefit asylum seekers. We thought that was a great idea.”

The rest, as they say, is history.

Over the years, the Kensington Chamber Player concerts have supported multiple programs here at Kensington Neighbourhood House. This year, they are contributing to our Sew & Grow Program – a training course for migrant and refugee women that focuses on sewing skills and the language, literacy and numeracy skills needed to work in the textile sector.

We schedule Sew & Grow at the same time as our community playgroup so that mothers can participate while their children are looked after on site. This wraparound support is essential to allow women to engage with learning.

We also support students to plan and run regular events (building teamwork skills) and organise excursions to visit organisations in the textiles sector, assisting with networking and pathway planning.

Of the 39 women who participated in Sew & Grow last year, five have obtained paid employment, seven enrolled in further pre-accredited training, two moved into TAFE courses and eight have taken up volunteer roles. All gained confidence, skills and community connections.

Donations from the last Kensington Chamber Players concert are going towards a “sewing machine library”. Our goal is to establish a lending library of Janome sewing machines – the same model that students use in class. Students who attend for 10 weeks will be able to borrow a machine to work with at home for the duration of their enrolment.

We are very lucky to have a group of talented musicians putting their music to such a good cause. The Kensington Chamber Players are yet another example of the grassroots community action that makes our suburb special.

The next concert will take place on Saturday, October 19 at 5pm, Christ Church Kensington, 75 McCracken St. •

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