An uplifting start to the National Rural Health Conference in Adelaide, April 2013

Melissa Sweet

The impressive opening ceremony of the 12th National Rural Health Conference in Adelaide yesterday showcased the importance of creativity, community, inclusion and equal opportunities, reports Marge Overs.

With one voice

“Tutti means everyone, and in yesterday’s inspiring launch to the National Rural Health Conference, the Tutti Community Choir won over everyone in the audience.

A standing ovation, an encore, audience tears and cheers – Tutti Community Choir’s performance to launch the 12th National Rural Health Conference in Adelaide was like no other I have seen at a health conference.

Open to disabled and non-disabled singers of any age, Tutti Choir is renowned for its uplifting performances, and it did so in spades at Adelaide Convention Centre yesterday.

Founded by Tutti Artistic Director, Pat Rix in 1997 and led yesterday by conductor Laura Ellis, the choir had us on the edge of our seats from the first note of Hakuna Matata to Goanna’s anthem, Solid Rock.

In introducing the group, Pat Rix told us the choir was redefining the limits that society places on people with learning disabilities. Tutti’s philosophy is that the education of both disadvantaged people and the wider community is essential to successful social inclusion.

The Tutti Choir regularly performs in Adelaide, around South Australia and interstate. Some members have also performed overseas. The choir is part of the Tutti arts program, which was established in 2004, and offers professional-level training in a range of artistic performance for people with a wide range of disabilities.

Tutti offers the opportunity for artists to earn income through performances and sales of artwork.

What a fitting start to the National Rural Health Conference, which like Tutti, champions the importance of community, inclusion and equal opportunities in rural and remote Australia. With the National Disability Insurance Scheme a key topic at the conference, and the Arts and Health Stream again a major focus, the Tutti choir was singing proof of the power of arts and inclusion.

In a film made to make the 20th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act, one of the soloists from yesterday’s performance, Aimee Crathern, describes how she feels on stage: “I feel amazing on stage. I light up .. I feel free and happy, like nothing is going to go wrong when I’m on that stage.”

In the film, musical director Michael Ross may well have been describing the audience reaction at the conference yesterday:

“You can see people crying, you can see people shocked – and it’s in those moments that I look over and think it is an absolute honour to be on the stage with these world changers.”

* Tutti is inviting filmmakers to submit entries for Australia’s first disability-led film competition to be held next year called ‘Sit Down Shutup and Watch Film & New Media Festival’.

Tweets from the opening:

Dave Townsend ‏@futuregp

Refused to tweet while Tutti were performing, they were too amazing to interrupt with my irrelevant tweets. InspirationalSian Draffin ‏@rural_speechie

#ruralhealthconf there is only one word to describe the Tutti Community Choir: beautiful! What a privilege to be listening to them!

Tim Kelly ‏@Eptitude  check it out, leadership in action#ruralhealthconf

Robbo ‏@BiteTheDust

seeing the joy on the Tutti choir members faces at the end of their set – wonderful #ruralhealthconf

‘The Magic Flute’ September, 2011

Tutti Ensemble, State Opera et al
Opera Studio
Until 2 Oct 2011

Review by Tony Busch
Supporting live theatre in South Australia

“The Magic Flute” was written in the year of Mozart’s death, but not for a highbrow opera house. Rather, it was written for Emanuel Schikaneder’s (he also supplied the libretto) theatre which catered for a far more down to earth audience. It was real entertainment for real people and Mozart, I’m sure, would be delighted with this ingenious take on his masterpiece, adapted to accommodate a wide variety of talents.

The action takes place in the Circus of the Sevenfold Seal of the Sun where singers, Tutti performers and cirkidz Live Wirez Troupe keep the action and entertainment coming thick and fast. The characters have been adapted with a generous helping of creativity and wit. Tamino (Robert Macfarlane) is a reluctant Audience Volunteer. Pamina (Naomi Hede) is the Hoop Girl whose poster he falls in love with. The Three Ladies become one Three-headed Lady (Deborah Caddy) in a marvellous piece of puppetry. The Queen of the Night (Joanna McWaters) is the deposed Head of the Circus bent on reclaiming power. Sarastro undergoes gender reassignment to become Zarastra (Jayne Hewetson) the bearded Lady and current Head of the Circus. Monostatos (Alistai Brasted) is a Knife Thrower, while Papagano (Andrew Turner) is a Clown and Papagena (Kaye Wyatt) an Acrobat.

The abridged score contains all the highlights and the new libretto by Richard Chew and Cheryl Pickering is hilarious while deftly communicating themes of acceptance, inclusion, courage and self-belief. Bravo to the band, Richard Chew on piano, Lyndon Gray on double bass and Jarrad Payne on percussion, who manage to do the impossible and adapt the score while retaining its soul. Design by Bec Francis and lighting by Nic Mollison are also first-rate.
There are highlights aplenty in all performances, musical and circus, and the portrayal of Tamino’s test to win the hand of Pamino is inspired. Director Cheryl Pickering has achieved an amazing balancing act and delivered a genuinely entertaining show that should put a smile on anyone’s face.


ONE Review

Happy Together Concert, Adelaide, September, 2010

Read Barry Lenny’s review in Glam Adelaide.

Ten Ways to Love, Adelaide, August, 2010

Read Barry Lenny’s review in Glam Adelaide.

Northern Lights, Southern Cross, Minneapolis, November, 2009

Read the American Theatre Magazine article about the show.

Other reviews may be accessed at the following links. Star Tribune Review and The Daily Planet.

Between The Worlds

Tutti and Interact Collaboration, Minneapolis, November / December 2007

‘You’ll walk off into the night feeling inordinately optimistic, and more than a little enlightened.’ Quinton Skinner, City Pages, Minneapolis/St Paul. Read the full review.

Tutti Tenth Anniversary Concert

Adelaide Town Hall – Advertiser August 21st 2007

How do you get your birthday celebrations broadcast live on the ABC with Peter Goers as compere? It helps if you have a track record a decade long for innovative and inclusive performances. The Minda based Tutti Ensemble, a mixed ability choir founded and conducted by Pat Rix is probably unique in the world, and a crowded Town Hall had a great time celebrating their existence.

The music, drawn from their many concerts and theatre works, showed off the musical imagination of their founder and the immense commitment of all the singers; among the highlights were items from ‘My Life My Love‘ the 2002 Festival production with the original soloists Brian Gilbertson and Jennifer Kneale, and songs from their latest success ‘Northern Lights, Southern Cross‘.

Part of the joy of Tutti is the way in which soloists emerge from the choir. Aimee Crathern, Annika Hooper, Michelle Thredgold, Emma Taylor and Jason Crowhurst all had a chance to show off their well developed performing skills, and guest artists included the wonderful Jane Hewetson with Heaven Knows, Tin Cat Alley and The Beggars. The packed program, and late start to the concert meant a very long evening, but the choir and the audience maintained their rapport all the way through.

Pat Rix’s fall from the stage was the most dramatic moment of the night, but as she said getting back to the podium ‘Tutti people are made of strong stuff’, and when they sing that strength is readily apparent.

Ewart Shaw

From Maggie Beer October, 2007 – Northern Lights, Southern Cross

I just wanted to put pen to paper to tell you what an extraordinary experience it was last Saturday night in the Bundaleer Forest where your amazing Tutti Ensemble performed Northern Lights, Southern Cross.

Like all the audience, I was spell bound by the whole performance; moved to tears at times and left with the most amazing feeling of hope for all. It was such a privilege to be there.

The evening couldn’t have been more perfect with two such world class performances in such a beautiful setting.

I wonder if you could let me know when your ensemble gather as I would love to know more about your group.

With my very best wishes and hugest thanks for such a special happening.

Proof that Anything is Possible

The Advertiser, Monday 4th September 2006

There were two standing ovations at Football Park on Saturday, one before the game, the other afterwards. And although each was spontaneously awarded for essentially different reasons and performances – and before audiences of vastly different sizes – they were both intrinsically and revealingly linked to the essential ethos and purpose of the Adelaide Football Club.

The first evolved before the faithful and friends at the club’s final sponsor luncheon of the season, some 90 minutes before the Crows ran onto AAMI Stadium. There the marvellous Tutti Ensemble Choir, led by a young lady with a range Peggy Lee might have envied, delivered with total enthusiasm and panache, a three-song medley which instantly pulled the likes of the great Ron Barassi to his feet in rapt admiration.

Tutti, you see, is unique in Australia and the first choir of its kind in the world. As a formal partner of Minda Inc., almost all of its members and musicians identify with a disability and evolve from a wide diversity of age, cultural background and artistic training. Created and sustained just six years after the Crows themselves by the vision of SA playwright and composer Pat Rix, Tutti is about integrity, courage, spirit and originality. And, as was starkly apparent on Saturday, about joyfully delivering a superior performance to its audience.

Perhaps that’s why, in the midst of one of the most harrowing weeks of its existence, the Adelaide FC administration’s decision to invite the group to perform evolved as a subtle means of emphasising that disability of whatever kind is no bar to achieving your goals and dreams. Perhaps not.

Whatever the reason, or the timing, the result was warmly and immensely gratifying for those privileged to witness it. As was what would follow on the stadium’s flawless turf. There, the Crows would rousingly rediscover their own integrity, purpose and spontaneity with a performance against Melbourne which not only restored respect and admiration but advanced genuine hope that the AFL championship trophy may again return to West Lakes this month.

For that to happen every player and their partners, coach, official trainer, studder, medico, sponsor and yes, supporter, will need to sustain the intense and wholehearted manner in which they confronted their own adversarial circumstances last week. Humiliated by Port, decimated by injury, taunted by opportunistic critics and written off by the football world at large, Adelaide responded magnificently as a club and, ultimately, in the only arena that counted.

Above all else, even the ironclad discipline and unflagging intend, Saturday’s Crows’ concerto rang with pride and character. From the ageing (ageless?) Matty Clarke to the callow kid, little Dicky Douglas, every player summoned something special for more than two hours in draining heat and against a fiercely determined opponent. So, too did Neil Craig and his panel constantly ring the rotations and changes needed to sustain energy and momentum. To such an extent that Adelaide was finally able to again finish the job with murderous efficiency.

Now, of course, comes a far sterner Saturday final against a Dockers detail vastly different form those who have so often performed like drunken sailors in the past. Somewhere along the line, possibly via the acquisition of former Crows coach Robert Shaw and the uncompromising Mark Harvey, Freo has added steel, system and an intense sense of team to the individual brilliance it has long owned but often wasted. Nowhere more apparent than in the transformation of Jeff Farmer from chronic loose cannon to consummate key contributor. Clearly, the Crows will have to summon every ounce of their skill and desire to advance to a home preliminary final and the additional reward of a precious week’s recuperation.

But have no doubt they will now go in armed not just with renewed self-belief but with the Tutti Ensemble’s motto – Anything is Possible – ringing in their minds.
Geoff Roach

In Review: The Tutti Ensemble’s ‘Mouth Music’

By David Jobling

Over the weekend, Tutti Ensemble presented the first look at a major work-in-progress they’re developing with participants from the Ensemble. Mouth Music sets about telling the story of a young man confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak. The story is laced with irony given that he is isolated and alone while surrounded by people. Many ancient storytelling techniques are employed to deliver the story – a Greek Chorus, beatboxing and the subversive art of throat singing, while three local poets infuse the material with achingly evocative imagery.

For me, the insight into this developing production presented some curious moments. The production relies heavily on music, dance and imagery and is a radical departure from the Western tradition of storytelling, although during the forum at the end there seemed to be a desire on the part of some audience members to tell the story in a more traditional way. This contradiction was curious when the work had such momentum and wonderful moments of pure delight. Such a moment was when part of the Chorus mentioned that “having faith in Christianity (when one is intellectually and or physically ‘disabled’) is good, because it helps one keep ones mind off of sex”. This was truly surprising and I’d vote to tease out that concept a little further, thanks.

Even as work in progress Mouth Music was a joyously emotional musical and theatrical journey despite wrangling with some very difficult concepts, including gender and sexuality, faith, fear and death.
Look out for the fully developed version in the future, I suspect it will become a “must see” theatrical work

Between The Worlds

Graham Strahle, Visiting Research Fellow, University of Adelaide
Music critic, The Australian, The Adelaide Review, 21 December 2005

In November I had the distinct pleasure of witnessing Tutti’s repeat performance of their newest work, Between the Worlds, written by Pat Rix with Jeanne Calvit. As with Circles in the 2004 High Beam Festival, Rix takes universal themes and accords them a vital, raw intensity by placing them in the context of disability culture. Transferring the story of Romeo and Juliet into the context of disability culture provides unique opportunities to relate issues of insider-outsider, individual choice and the full panoply of human emotions. Her new work moved me greatly and indicated that Tutti is at the artistic forefront in contemporary music theatre.

Between the Worlds moves Tutti in a new direction by placing the theatrical and musical focus on the contribution of individual performers, as distinct from the ensemble work Tutti has done in the past. The risks involved were not small, as none of the performers (apart from supporting musicians Zoë Barry and Philip Griffin) possess professional training. Yet it was a stunning success. I think one can put the reason down to the journey of self-discovery the members of Tutti make in the process: finding their own voice on stage and giving voice to their own self expression. In the hands of a skilled writer and with strong direction this has made for powerful theatre which deals with the gristle of human emotion. As such Between the Worlds leaves an indelible mark.

I was particularly impressed with Rix’s integration of theatrical and musical elements. There is ample strength in both sides, in the direct power of her script and the inspirational qualities of her music. A genuine union is achieved between the two elements. The work is powerfully paced and has excellent flow and succinctness. I truly hope it can be presented again, to further demonstrate to audiences what can be done with disabled artists and such limited resources. Besides Rix there are few writers or composers whom I am aware of that are producing work like this. To have collaborated in this new work with Jeanne Calvit of Interact Theater, Minneapolis, makes it even more innovatory. Tutti’s work is groundbreaking and thoroughly deserves the support of continued grant funding.

From: Donald Horne
To: Pat Rix
Sent: Monday, March 11. 2002 5:35 PM

Dear Pat
We are delighted that we were invited to My Life, My Love. It was a definite highlight of our stay in Adelaide.
For the show itself- with its cohesion and vivacity and emotional push (and successful bringing together of so many elements ). It is a resonant story told powerfully through music and song.
And for its community impact – it seemed to bring together so many ideals we had for community cultural development on the Australia Council when I was chairing it.
It is a great show – and many many thanks for putting it on.
Best wishes from both of us
Yours – Donald

Selected quotes about My Life, My Love – Adelaide Festival, March 2002

My Life My Love, one of only (3) three sold out productions in the Festival. Standing ovations and emotional responses. The show was a major success and impacted across many cross sections of the community who were lucky enough to see it.

Festival Director Peter Sellars attended the last performance of My Life My Love. Of Brian Gilbertson’s performance he said, “Amazing presence and an amazingly beautiful and clear voice.”

Some My Life My Love crits are:
“of all the strands of community theatre so far presented at the Festival this shows the greatest power. It includes intellectually disabled participants.. it has transcended its community theatre origins to create something of particular artistic significance. It had many of the audience in tears by the end.”
Tim Lloyd, The Advertiser 5/3/02

“..a shining bubble of nostalgic pleasure not to be missed… a must see for music lovers”
Russell Starke, Messenger 6/3/02

The Festival production My Life My Love performed its dress rehearsal before a full house on 26th February. It was received with a spontaneous standing ovation. Six of the 8 scheduled performances have sold out. They are becoming the sought after tickets for the Festival.

The Festival production My Life My Love is in full rehearsal under the direction of Rosalbe Clemente. A very exciting project. Word of mouth is spreading about this groundbreaking theatre work embracing straight theatre, operatic performers and the Tutti Ensemble Choir which has many intellectually and physically disabled singers. With a full month to go it is becoming increasingly difficult to get seats of choice. This will be a sell out. Jennifer Kneale and Brian Gilbertson play Young Pearl and the Pilot in this new work by Pat Rix.