11 September 2019

"Not just another choir concert" - Timor-Leste fundraiser bridges cultures

| Elka Wood
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The Bega Valley Belun-Malu Choir, headed by David Francis, is pictured performing at the 2019 Cobargo Folk Festival. Photo: Supplied.

The Bega Valley Advocates for Timor-Leste will hold a fundraiser show, “One Night in Timor-Leste” on Friday (29 March) at Mumbulla School Hall, building on the $10,000 they have raised so far. Their goal is $65,000 to bring a Timorese choir to Australia in 2020.

The evening will include a performance by the Bega-based Belun-Malu Choir, the latest incarnation of a friendship group between the Bega Valley and Timor-Leste that has been building since 2004.

Belun-Malu translates as ‘friendship’ and that is at the heart of the Belun-Malu Choirs Project – to foster the ongoing friendship between Australia and Timor-Leste through the joy of singing and playing music together.

The Choir has been in rehearsal since May 2018 under the guidance of choirmaster David Francis, Executive Director of Four Winds at Bermagui.

Former ABC presenter, Tim Holt is one of the 23 choir members headed to Timor in July this year, following a trip in 2017 with his fellow project leader, Dave Crowden.

“Timor-Leste is our closest neighbour and has a fraught history, having been occupied first by the Portuguese and then the Indonesians, finally gaining independence in 2002,” Tim says, adding that despite this, Timor-Leste is a vibrant and beautiful country with “wonderfully friendly” occupants.

During the Japenese invasion in World War One, the Timorese helped Australian soldiers, feeding them and carrying their equipment so “we owe them a few favours,” Tim says.

Dave Crowden teaching and learning in Timor Leste. Source BVATL

Dave Crowden teaching and learning in Timor Leste. Photo: BVATL

The Choir follows on from the success of past efforts by the Bega Valley Advocates for Timor-Leste, who aim to provide real and ongoing support in education, women’s projects, health, and music for the sub-district of Barique-Natarbora.

Their previous projects include restoring the local agricultural college, the supply of building and farming materials and the implementation of water and sewerage infrastructure.

“Before Timor-Leste gained independence, the Indonesians had destroyed about 90 per cent of the electricity grid,” Tim explains, “so getting infrastructure back in place is a priority. As is education.”

“This is a country which is bursting for education and a lot of our work has been in funding scholarships, so people can go and train to be teachers.”

In 2010, Bega Valley Advocate Dave Crowden initiated the ‘Instruments for Timor’ program which saw over 150 instruments gifted to the youth of Natarbora.

Supplies at local schools are few and far between, Tim says.

“You go to visit the schools and they proudly show you their library, which is a smattering of textbooks, no computers. The disparity really strikes you.”

Choirs – needing no equipment, are a common ground for the meeting of cultures.

Ego Legos will be part of the Timorese choir to travel to Australia in 2020, supported by fundraising by the Bega Valley Advocates for Timor-Leste. Photo: Facebook.

The 15 members of the Timorese choir will travel to Australia in 2020 and will be led by Ego Lemos, “The Paul Kelly of Timor-Leste,” according to Tim, and Choir Master Paolo Pereria.

While in Australia, the choir will perform at several festivals including Port Fairy, Yackandandah, and Cobargo Folk Festivals and the Four Winds Festival.

Tickets for the fundraising dinner at Mumbulla School on Friday, March 29 are $20 – $30 and include dinner with an authentic Timor-Leste menu.

Bookings are essential via TryBooking, dinner is at 6:30 pm, entertainment from 7:30 pm.

Not suitable for under 12’s.

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I’d love to join this choir 🧡🧡🧡
What an Exciting project, INDEED!!!!

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