Archived News Item

Spirit of the Streets Choir delights Mercedes College

“The Mercedes College Advent liturgy is always a moving end of year event. This year it was an unforgettable, life-changing occasion”, writes Lyn Barker, Community Relations Officer at Mercedes College in Perth, WA.

Photo: The Spirit of the Streets Choir sings during the Mercedes College Advent Liturgy.

The Mercedes College Advent liturgy is always a moving end of year event. This year it was an unforgettable, life-changing occasion.

Catholic schools work hard to be inclusive and as we are an inner city girls’ high school our girls are aware of some of the problems faced by the more marginalised members of society.

On Friday December 5, with the welcoming of the Spirit of the Streets Choir to our celebration, the girls not only heard some wonderful singing from the choir, there was also a real exchange of affection and understanding.

Songs were personally introduced by choir members who matter-of-factly shared their stories of addiction, childhood abandonment, and homelessness. This sounds heavy, but somehow on a very human level, there was a connection, and it was mutual.

Some choir members were moved to tears by the standing ovation, the cheering, the singing and clapping along and the respectful enthusiasm of the girls. Afterwards the girls came to chat and be photographed with choir members. Girls and staff were given the opportunity to buy The Big Issue from choir members, who then joined staff for a special morning tea with homemade food.

The choir is made up from those people who struggle for acceptance and a place in our society. As their bio says:

“The Spirit of the Streets Choir was originally The Big Issue Choir, however, the name changed to make it more inclusive for other people who were homeless, long-term unemployed, socially excluded, suffering from substance abuse or with a history of mental illness. The choir is essentially for the people who do not get a seat at the table of conventional society, the people who are excluded and vulnerable and who require the non judgmental social interaction which is embodied in the choir.”

This theme of searching for acceptance was interspersed throughout the liturgy, where the enactment of the Christmas story of Joseph and the very pregnant Mary searching for shelter emphasised to the girls that displaced or poor people need a hand up, not a hand out.

Photo: Mercedes students with members of the choir.

This point was made by Rebecca Callaghan, of the St Vincent de Paul Society, who was there to thank the girls for their efforts in the Christmas Appeal. Rebecca read a letter from a family expressing gratitude for a gift Christmas hamper. The mother stressed it was not just the food but also the sharing of love and hope from strangers that gave her strength to carry on.

Principal Sheena Barber spoke to the girls about the need for acceptance and that they walked in the footsteps of Catherine McAuley and the Sisters of Mercy, telling them to “Cherish peace, goodwill and mercy because if Christmas is not in our hearts, we won’t find it under a tree.”

Our girls did more than accept the choir, they were moved by the sincerity, skill, joy and love the choir members brought to our school.

Later in the staff room, one choir member, Sally, played her ukulele and sang a song about beauty, a spontaneous act of happiness and she later said: “We enjoyed doing this today, because the girls were so beautiful.”

Her friend Eve added, “You have such really nice girls; the whole atmosphere was so heartening.” Colleen, another choir member noted, “I was really impressed with the liturgy and the prayers and the values expressed. You can see the girls have taken these on board. They came up to speak to us afterwards, they are lovely.”

Choir leader Bernard said, “It was the most touching gig the choir has done. It was a gorgeous, uplifting thing to do.”

It was special, too good to have just once, so choirmaster Bernard has spoken to Rosa Speranza, Student Mission Leader and Music Co-ordinator Claire Gamlin, and they organised to have the choir back next year at the House Choir Festival on April 7.

From: Lyn Barker, Community Relations Officer, Mercedes College Perth WA