It was with great anticipation that we commenced our rhythm program at Ltyentye Apurte Catholic School again this year. This time our program was integrated into the curriculum of term 2 as we taught all of the kids for two full days per week for 11 weeks. After four weeks we had a select group ready to perform at the Wide Open Spaces Festival 2011. Given that many of these kids’ families originate from this eastern Arrente region, it was an honour to offer their opening performance as a ‘welcome to country’ and how warmly received this welcome was to a memorable festival weekend for many.
Returning the following week to the high spirits of the success of that gig (and excursion, almost a 400km return journey), we focused our next goal, for four weeks later, on performing in the 2011 Centralian Eistedfodd at the Araluen Theatre. This was to be a new experience for us all, never before having attended, let alone entered an inter-school performance ‘competition’. We seriously took on the challenge, determined to knock peoples’ socks off with the power of the Ltyentye Apurte Drummers’ sound!
The kids worked hard every class, every week, during and after school, and dedicated themselves to the goal of performing their pieces unassisted, with Shon’s ‘lead drummer’ role handed over to the group to execute themselves, as she took up conducting and Svet took a back seat in the shakers & bells section. We had two entries: one in the under 12 percussion section and the other in the open percussion section, although all 18 band members were between the ages of 10-12. The atmosphere was very formal and unfamiliar however, the kids respectfully observed the protocol and went on to deliver their performances with confidence and style. The judges happily awarded the group first prize in the open section and commended them on their strong sense of beat and entertaining presentation. They judges also expressed their appreciation for the appearance of more ‘exotic’ percussion ensembles in the Eistedfodd!
The restraint shown in the auditorium was relaxed in the back-stage dressing rooms with the glamorous festooned mirror lighting dazzling and exciting the kids. They could play at being stars, which in our eyes and in those of their teachers, parents and community, they really were. Many of the drummers will perform in the dance category at the same venue next week, affording us another opportunity to get the Ltyentye Apurte Drummers out for a couple more public performances in Alice Springs, while we’re still hot!
Every week when we drive back to Alice from Santa Teresa, we are thoroughly exhilarated and exhausted from the passion and intensity of the kids’ enjoyment of ensemble drumming with us. They have all come so far in their understanding of playing these African instruments well and are able to enjoy playing well
together. We are so grateful for having this opportunity to develop these skills in these young people and to receive so much wonderful testimony from the teachers on what positive changes they have been able to observe in them along the way.
Many great possibilities exist as to where to go next. We still dream of taking the Ltyentye Apurte Drummers to The Dreaming Festival however, they were severely affected by the QLD floods earlier this year and have had to forgo their planned festival for 2011. Other sights are set on securing festival appearances in Darwin, Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney.. anywhere! To get there however, will take funding and support, and that’s what we will be looking at generating in the meantime.