Student songwriters hit the right note

Harmony Day songwriting awardees (2)

St Patrick’s College Sutherland student Monique Gough’s winning Harmony Day song lyrics reflected on the refugee crisis and other world problems. Photo: Gene Ramirez

Students from Catholic schools in Sydney’s south drew inspiration from the theme ‘Stop, think and consider others’ to win three of four categories in the 2016 Harmony Day poster and song writing competitions.

Two gifted music students hit the right notes, and tone, to place first in the songwriting arm of the competition.  Mia Francis, in Year 4 at St Jerome’s Catholic Primary Punchbowl, was joint winner of the NSW competition’s junior song writing award, while St Patrick’s College Sutherland Year 10 student Monique Gough won the senior song writing award.

The competitions are held each year by Moving Forward Together, a social initiative to promote harmony in the community regardless of cultural or religious differences, driven by community groups.

Music teacher at St Patrick’s College Sutherland Louise Kelly said judges looked at the quality of lyrics, narrative, and chord progression to determine awards for the original songs. Her daughter Mia was the competition’s junior winner. Both girls played their own instruments, including piano, on their tracks. Monique’s was titled Can we harmonise?, Mia’s Now or never.

Mia played piano for her Harmony Day award winning song 'Now or never'. Photo: Gene Ramirez

Mia played piano for her Harmony Day award winning song ‘Now or never’. Photo: Gene Ramirez

“It’s a great way to express your feelings and thoughts,” Ms Kelly said. “It can be a bit like poetry but a song often reaches people, it touches people, and is a great way for kids to channel and thoughts or concerns about the world and the things that are important to them.

“It’s a really fun exercise to put this to music, and such a buzz when they’ve finished recording a song.”

We are one earth, we are one family so respect each other, help those in need.

– Mia Francis

Upon winning Sydney Catholic Schools Creative and Performing Arts (CaSPA) re-recorded Monique’s song, originally done with the Garage Band app, in their studio for a professional sound.

“Monique has the whole package with her clever musical knowledge and passion for words,” Ms Kelly said.

Monique, 15, is modest about the win, though she faced fierce competition from students from performing arts high schools including the Conservatorium of Music.

“I wrote the lyrics and then decided to write the music on piano,” she said

“I brought forward the idea that there are a lot of problems going on in the world and we need to stop and consider and find a solution,” she said. “I started of each verse with the line ‘Is this World War Three?’ then brought up the problem of racism and refugees.

“I think it has become more significant – not just Harmony Day, but the idea of harmony.”

Monique is part of her school’s Newman gifted stream for English and has played piano for eight years, since being intrigued hearing her conservatorium-trained uncle play the instrument. Jazz is a favourite.

“I love the freedom of Jazz,” she said. “Learning how to write poetry really helped me to write the lyrics of the song, and one of the criteria was imagery which I’ve learnt in English.

“I really get nervous performing and I’m not a great singer, but being able to perform in front of the Governor of NSW and all of these politicians at the awards ceremony was a great experience.

“People are more engaged listening to something different instead of the same old words, so being able to write words that are interesting and that people maybe want to hear is the best part for me.”

Mia wrote her first song at age 3, and often makes up silly or rhyming lyrics on car trips to entertain her pre-school aged sister. Did this make the competition song easy to write?

“No, not really,” she said. “I put down every single word that was similar to the Harmony Day theme and did a mind map. We used piano, strings, the drums and we also used lots of bass guitar. It did take a couple of days.”

Her lyrics struck a chord with the audience, the song opening with:  “There are times the world just isn’t great, there are times the world is full of hate, but we are one earth , we are one family so respect each other, help those in need.”

Mia and her peers at St Jerome’s celebrated Harmony Day this year by wearing orange and with activities including Indian and Lebanese dancing,  cooking, and soccer in the park.

Monique and Mia were presented with certificates at a Harmony Day state awards ceremony at Sydney’s Parliament House on June 2.

  •  Read about Holy Family Catholic Primary Menai student Shania Colomo’s poster competition entry here.

 

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