Sunday, June 16, 2013

Eric Conway: Members of Morgan State University Choir on Day 5 in Australia

Dr. Eric Conway of Morgan State University reports on Day 5 of the tour of Australia by selected members of the Morgan State University Choir:

Today was a day to see additional sites in Canberra, Australia's capital city, and to present a concert at The Australian National Univeristy, in Canberra.

We left the hotel early not to return until after 8PM in the evening. For most Americans, kangaroos are the most exotic animals in Australia.  Although kangaroos are certainy very well-known in the states, very few Americans have seen an actual kangaroo! We are all quite taken on the tour in Canberra, where one can drive down the road in a coach bus, look out the window and see kangaroos just hopping around. See photos taken this morning where our bus driver allowed us to get out of the bus, walk over to some kangaroos and take their picture, if they allowed.  They are quite accommodating, knowing that they are best captured on film from the side profile view.  See attached photos from this morning.  

Australia's capital city and DC share many similarities.  They were of course both completely planned cities. Consequently, they both boast notorious circles, seemingly inconveniently placed around the city.  Our first true site this morning was a visit to Australia's embassy row. Although many photos were taken of virtually every embassy, please see a few photos of foreign embassies captured.  As true in the US, the Embassies were a cornucopia of different architecture.  The US Embassy was the oldest and the largest as we have been allies with Australia for quite some time.  I am sure that the shared language is one reason for this occurrence.  

After leaving the area of foreign Embassies, we visited the former site of Australian Parliament.  In front of this site, tents from Aborigines protesting their land taken from them were will staked out in front of the former Parliament building.  These tents have been allowed to remain since the 1970's.  You will notice in attached photos the tents, and a building made of wood representing the indigenous people - Aborigine -  self-made Embassy.  We took some photos in front of their Embassy. Especially significant was a flame, that has not been allowed to go out since original protest.  You will see a photo of the flame, and an aboriginal person tending the fire.

We then proceeded to the new Parliament Building which was quite impressive.  We took a formal tour of their Parliament building (like our Capitol building in DC).  We learned much of their government and process.  You will notice a green room in the photos.  This room is where their house of representatives convene.  You will notice a pink room in another photo.  This is where their Senate convenes. You AKA's would be proud!  These colors represent colors naturally found in Australia's most prevalent tree - the Eucalyptus tree - green for the leaves and pink for the buds and flowers found on these trees. As we rode down the countryside we saw tens of thousands of these trees on the way to Canberra.  Symbolism appears to be very important to Australia.  You will notice several photos of their coat of arms which contains a kangaroo and an emu.  One photo in the Senate chambers has the kangaroo and emu turned towards the parliament, looking over the proceedings.  One important distinction to me from the United States are seats set aside for the public to view the proceedings. At the end of every session, the public may ask questions about proposed laws.  This Q & A session is televised.  Australia's citizens appear to be much more connected with their government.  All Australian citizens must vote.  Although some may not like this policy, this requirement ultimately makes every citizen more involved in the politics of their land and their representatives more accountable. As I spoke with US officials from the American Embassy, they said that they believed the major advantage of this policy is that politicians do not have to spend any money on getting people to vote, but can concentrate on policy.  As I could share much more about this tour, time constraints will not allow.

After the tour of the new Parliament building, which you will notice several photos of interior and exterior, I then traveled to the Australian Univeristy ahead of the group to give a Choral Masterclass with a local choir - the Strange Weather Gospel Choir.  I will send a short clip of their performance later on.  

Shortly thereafter, the Morgan choir joined me in a rehearsal with the choir who would join us in concert, the Woden Valley Youth Choir and members and staff of the Australian National University.  You will notice that the hall was spectacular. Wonderful acoustics!  Beautiful decor!  The hall had 1200 seats.  The concert was set to begin at 3PM.

The concert was well attended, approximately 700 persons in attendance per the usher.  The Woden Valley Youth Choir was exceptionally prepared and truly complemented our portion of the program. I will again try to send a clip of their performance.  Once again, we brought the Australian audience to their feet.  We were told afterwards that this rarely occurs.  We were also told that the complete concert was probably the best ever held for the University in their Llewyn Hall. 

After our concert we planned go to Pot Luck Dinner with the Woden Youth choir, however, the US ambassador to Australia wanted to see us before dinner. We met him in an Australian Pub.  He was quite pleased to see that we were in Australia.  In the pub, the choir sang one piece for him, which somehow quieted the noisy Pub.

After the pub, we when to a Presbyterian Church to break bread with the Australian Youth.  We had great conversation and delicious local food.  Again, what a great exchange for our students.

More to come.. . . 

Dr. Eric Conway

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