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Everything you need to know about Newcastle Conservatorium Breast Cancer Choir

The Newcastle Conservatorium Breast Cancer Choir is a community music initiative between the Conservatorium and the Hunter Breast Cancer Foundation.

Known colloquially as “Choir of Hard Knockers’, the choir aims to raise awareness of breast cancer and support those whose lives have been affected by it, with the simple mission statement of ‘music, fun and friendship’.

Based in Newcastle, the choir was founded in January 2013 by UON Community Music teacher Lauren O’Brien, known to many by her alter ego, the cabaret star Denise Gold.

According to Lauren, the choir is made up of “breast cancer survivors, daughters of women who have had or are currently dealing with breast cancer, a physiotherapist who works specifically with breast cancer patients, a nutritionist, a doctor, retirees, women who row, academic women, nurses, a cochlear implant specialist, nurses, businesswomen, women who have raised families, quiet women, extroverts, women who have always wanted to sing and never had an opportunity.”

The choir began with 12 women and now averages 30 – numbers come and go due to treatments, health, and other ‘life interferences’ so Lauren says it is a very organic model. To accommodate the unpredictability of breast cancer, the University generously waived fees for its choir members.

“We need $80,000 to help us hit the road next year to cover accommodation and a coach,” said Ms O’Brien. “I’m going to run workshops everywhere we go in the hope that someone will be inspired to start their own choir. Singing can make a difference, especially if you are struggling with treatment and feel isolated.”

The Choir of Hard Knockers is preparing for a fund-raising concert on Sunday 18 October that will feature Central Coast Brass (2015 NSW State Champions), the inimitable Ukastle Ukestra, children’s entertainment at intermission, stellar solo acts and of course, the ‘Choir of Hard Knockers’ themselves. Funds raised from the concert will allow the choir to continue to contribute to breast centres in local communities throughout regional and coastal NSW by performing and holding vocal workshops.

The choir is also supported by a local businesses and individuals; Hamilton IGA grocers have provided tea and coffee supplied every week since the choir began. Sound engineer Mark Tinson is assisting with a CD and will travel with the choir on a tour being organised by EAO in 2016. The Girl Guides’ Garden Suburb unit is helping with the fund-raising concert. Garth Hudson Music is helping with the arrangement for True Survivor. Maxim Accounting provides business advice.  Capree Gaul, Charissa Ferguson, Sandra Joyce and Tracy Lynch support the choir with coordination, percussion and counselling.

Women affected by breast cancer are warmly invited to join the Newcastle chapter. Absolutely no experience required apart from ‘buckets of enthusiasm’. To join the choir, contact the Conservatorium on 4921 8900 or contact laurenobrien@westnet.com.au

The choir meets every Saturday from 12 – 2pm in the theatrette at University House, in Auckland Street, Newcastle.

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Choir of Hard Knockers Community Gala Concert

2pm – 4pm
Sunday 18 October 2015

Harold Lobb Concert Hall
Newcastle Conservatorium
Auckland St, Newcastle

Secure your tickets at www.eventbrite.com.au

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