Sisongke is a joyous dynamic community choir based in Hobart, Tasmania. We are open to everyone, regardless of singing ability. The name "Sisongke" means "together" in Zulu, which reflects our origins as an "African" choir, 25 years ago. But now we sing all sorts of World Music, including music from the Pacific Islands, Aboriginal music, Italian, European Folk Music, etc.

We are an "a capella" choir, which means that (most of the time) we sing without any instruments.

We are very inclusive and keen for anyone to join without feeling scared, embarassed or criticised. We even offer zoom participation for those who can't get to rehearsals.

Our musical director, Oliver Gathercole, is a professional pianist and music educator, with a delightful sense of fun!

Our co-ordinator, Carol Robey, was recently interviewed by Amanda Sims on the World Music Show (ABC Hobart FM). For an entertaining account of our philosophy and origins, have a listen here.

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History

Sisongke Choir started in 1994 after trade unionists from South Africa held a series of workshops teaching songs of protest from South Africa.

The workshops were a huge success and a small group decided to start a choir to sing the songs they had learnt. They received a grant from Arts Tasmania to help with the initial set-up costs. A copy of our constitution is here.

Michael McCarthy, a lecturer in a Capella singing and conducting, got us started as our musical director. Michael stayed with the choir for 4 years, culminating with the production of a CD.

One of the principal organisers was Victoria Rigney and the choir benefitted from her energy and dedication for many years. Over the years, many other people have devoted their time and energy to the choir and we owe them a vote of thanks.

Sisongke has had several music directors since that time, including Isobel, Adele, Greg, Adrian Reader, Lyndall Edwards and now Oliver Gathercole. The music we learn and sing varies depending on the taste and interest of the current music director and the current members of the choir, but the common theme remains songs of peace and justice from around the world sung a Capella.

In 2004 Sisongke put on a 10 year anniversary concert at Hobart Town Hall and many of the golden oldies were sung during that year. It was a very special night of celebration.

Another precious memory involves singing at Hastings Cave in the dark. They hadn’t set up lights, so all the choir could see was the light of Adrian’s mobile phone as he conducted holding the phone in his hand. We came up into the daylight after the first break to be told by Adrian, “Smile – they can hear that you aren’t smiling!”

The committee tries to organise special events for the choir and over the years we have sung at peace rallies, travelled to Zeehan and Queenstown, Burnie and Ulverstone and sung at Launceston markets and at the Gorge (magnificent).

The music had travelled all over the world, from Africa to South America, from USA to Europe and from the Middle East to the Far East – we love variety!



Philosophy

Sisongke Choir has a social justice platform. We also believe that everyone should have the opportunity to experience the pleasure of singing. One of the aims of the choir is to provide people who have never sung before an opportunity to sing and perform. Therefore, there are no auditions, and membership fees are kept as low as possible. We encourage anyone to join regardless of their musical knowledge, skill or experience. We only ask for a willingness to learn!We enthusiastically want everyone to experience being part of the process that results in beautiful music and wonderful harmonies. And we want to share the joy of performance with as many people as possible.

Songs are selected using various criteria, mainly whether they fit our social justice platform and avoid discrimination against any person, ideology, country, religious beliefs, family circumstances or sexual orientation. Then we make sure that the Music Director likes the song. Then we check whether the choir likes the song. Then we learn it!! We especially like songs that are inspiring and fun.

Songs are in many languages so they are taught phonetically. Songs are taught to us by the Music Director who teaches notes and words to each voice group and then gradually gets us all singing our parts together – and, hey presto, there is harmony! The meaning of the song is explained during the learning process. We do not require members to be able to read music.

On the basis that singing is “better than therapy” as one choir member put it, we try to ensure that rehearsals are fun and relaxed, but stimulating and challenging enough to keep members interested.