2011 was a very good year for the Boite.
Our faith in the artists we work with is always rewarded with excellent artistic results. The overall financial success of the Boite depends heavily on the Melboure Millennium Chorus. This year Freedom Road attracted a big choir and a full house at Melbourne Town Hall. Thus the organisation is in good financial shape to face the artistic challenges of the new year.
The year started exceptionally well with the 21st Boite Singers’ Festival at Daylesford. Torrential downpours and flooding throughout Victoria, cutting off some road access to Daylesford and discouraging many from leaving their homes, did not diminish the total number attending or their enthusiasm, though it did force a few program changes.
The Boite World Music Cafe presented 55 intimate concerts in venues in North Fitzroy, Box Hill and Eltham. Three larger concerts featuring international touring artists were held in partnership with Nexus Arts at Fed Square featuring Beyond the Pale, with Melbourne Scottish Fiddle Club at MLC Theatrette in Kew featuring Chris Stout and Catriona McKay, and at Scott’s Church Assembly Hall in Collins Street, Melbourne, featuring Alisdair Fraser and Natalie Haas.
The World Music Cafe also contributed street performances to the Gertrude Street Projection Festival in Fitzroy in July.
Our firm belief in the importance of small acoustic venues in nurturing talent, building audiences for and sustaining professional performers was again demonstrated when we worked with members of the Eltham community to ensure their well established Eltham World Harmonies series of monthly concerts continued on after its organisers retired following 9 years of distinguished work. We are also working with musicians to establish a World Music Cafe program in Ballarat.
Stella Savvy and Dani Fry excelled themselves as directors of the Melbourne Millennium Chorus and Boite Schools Chorus (MMC and BSC). Freedom Road explored the migration of music with the slave trade from West Africa to the southern states of the New World and its evolution into gospel and soul which now influences music in every pat of the world. It was a powerful story well told through stories and song, receiving high praise from the choir, the audience and the Age.
This was the 14th MMC concert series and it was encouraging to see that the choir, which is built up from scratch each year, filled earlier than ever and the audience was the largest for the past 6 years. Rehearsals were held in 10 centres across Victoria in partnership with local choirs.
The MMC collaborated with the City of Yarra in its December launch of Victoria Park as a public space, after over a century as the headquarters of the Collingwood Football Club, singing “Are you Ready for a Miracle” an eminently suitable song for a football occasion, and also a cross cultural football medly composed for the occasion by Biddy Connor.
The challenge for the BSC is to present a project which engages students both musically and academically, fits well with the school curriculum and program, and is supported by parents and teachers. 90% of the income required to run this project comes from student participation fees and audience ticket income. To make the project accessible to the broadest possible school community, we need to keep these prices as low as possible, and attract full capacity audiences. Two successful experiments were conducted this year. One was to present an evening concert midweek at BMW Edge, Fed Square. This was well attended, though the small size of the theatre limits the potential. The second was a concert with both students and adults sharing the stage at Wendouree Centre for the Performing Arts near Ballarat, in collaboration wit Dani Fry and Stella Savvy. This theatre holds nearly 900. We had a full house for the concert and the mix of adults and students achieved a good balance of sound. The presence of adult singers was welcomed by students. With 200 singers on stage, it was the biggest concert the venue has ever presented and is a model we hope to replicate elsewhere.
The Boite continues to promote its events and those of colleagues in the multicultural (for want of a better term) music sector through a quarterly printed newsletter, a fortnightly eNews, a comprehensive web site, four facebook pages, numerous youtube clips, weekly two hour broadcasts on 3CR and regular media campaigns. The Boite website, with over 50,000 visits each year, is being redesigned and will be relaunched early in 2012.
The Boite moved to a new office, becoming a tenant of 3ZZZ in George Street, Fitzroy after 21 years as tenants of the Fitzroy Uniting Church in Napier Street Fitzroy. We came close to realising our long term dream of having offices and a performance and workshop space under the one roof. Alas, we will have to look further. Being a tenant of 3ZZZ has already led to interesting contacts with their presenters and ideas for future broadcasting projects.
Steadfast funding from Arts Victoria, the Australia Council for the Arts, the City of Melbourne and the City of Yarra, together with venue support from City of Whitehorse, the City of Nillumbik and Fed Square Management makes it possible to present these events which support so many musicians and offer audiences an exceptional musical experience at very reasonable ticket prices.
The Boite is extremely well served by its office team of four, Therese Virtue, Roger King, Katrina Wilson and Leah Healy, assisted by accountant David Windlow. We have a very experienced board of 7 members, Angela Nesci, Alannah Sheridan, Deidre Egan, Mardi Stow, Peter Clarke, Steph Payne and Therese Virtue.
Director, The Boite