Queensland Music Festival series: Katie Noonan has one of Australia's most iconic voices, and implores each of us to use our voice for those who have been silenced
Is there a more iconic voice in Australia's living memory than that of Katie Noonan? The voice that transcends genres, tells countless stories, honours the art, poetry and music of those who have gone before her, and encourages those who come after her. Katie Noonan has won four ARIA Awards and sold countless albums. She has traversed the Australian music landscape doing everything from performing with esteemed orchestras, musicians, and ensembles, to gracing the airwaves of independent and commercial radio stations, performing everywhere from breakfast TV to great halls and arenas, to regional festivals, and intimate lounges. Beyond performing music, Katie has been invited to be a panellist on ABC's QandA program, and has also been appointed to be the Artistic Director of the Queensland Music Festival. It is here that she is doing perhaps her most important work: fostering the art and music of Queensland, of which she says is redefining itself in the national arts landscape. In this interview with Music Love, Katie talks about her request for voices and choirs everywhere to come together and sing John Farnham's iconic hit You're The Voice, in order to shine a light on domestic violence. Katie has has no doubt mastered the art of writing original works and interpreting the works of others in the freshest of ways, and now wants to use her voice, and ours, to amplify the voices of those who have been silenced. What a treasure.
What does music mean to you?
Music is an intrinsic part of my life. I honestly feel that a life without music is not a life worth living!
It’s welcoming, evocative and beautiful but more than that, I see it as a vehicle for change, as something with the power to transform lives, to inspire and to educate. Every time I write a song, or embark on a new musical project, I hope that it will have a positive impact on the world.
What has been the most exciting aspect of being artistic director of the Queensland Music Festival?
Queensland Music Festival has played a big role in my musical journey and so to have the honour of being the first Queensland woman to take the helm as Artistic Director has been extraordinary.
It’s been such a privilege to engage with Queensland communities and individuals across the State and to connect with them, encouraging them to find their voice and tell their unique and important stories.
I am also extremely excited about the launch of You’re The Voice, a pioneering choral project, encouraging Australians to unite their voices and turn the tide on domestic violence. Domestic and family violence is not an easy subject of course, but a pertinent one that cannot be ignored, and as a woman in the music industry I think it’s time we united our voices in a call for positive change.
Tell us about You’re The Voice
You’re The Voice is an exciting choral revolution as part of the 2017 Queensland Music Festival. The project encourages Australians to unite their voices and turn the tide on domestic violence.
We will sing together for those whose voices have been silenced by fear and use the power of music to educate, empower and create change.
The concert will bring together a choir of more than 2,000 people, plus thousands more joining us in person or via live stream to sing together in a monumental musical event which will culminate in a moving mass rendition of John Farnham’s powerful anthem. Joining us via a live stream through the QMF website and social media channels, will be a cast of thousands - men, women, boys and girls from every corner of Australia who want their voice to be heard on this issue - to sing in unison with those at the big finale event.
It’s a huge event backed by the former Governor General, the Queensland Premier and many more influential people and groups, and it’s sure to make a huge impact. But how did this idea first come about?
It was inspired by the Not Now, Not Ever report that our event patron Dame Quentin Bryce chaired. As Artistic Director of the State’s music festival I ruminated upon how we could tackle this pertinent issue in a way that was inclusive and empowering.
Rather than observing silence for the victims I thought it would be wonderful to make noise; and make it beautiful noise all together! I also am a huge believer in the power of community singing and believe it is missing in our modern life. Nothing feels better than singing in a big group making a big powerful sound!
Can anyone be involved?
Definitely! I believe that if you can talk, you can sing. Whether as part of a choir, part of a community or on your own, we’re calling on all Australians to join us at 5pm on Saturday 29 July to raise their voices and sing for change.
Music is a powerful force of healing. It is a safe place to make sound with people you can trust. The thing about domestic violence is that whether you have been affected directly or indirectly, itis an issue that sadly affects every single Australian.
Katie Noonan at the 2016 ARIAs. Image via Music Love - check out our gallery here
The School of Hard Knocks women’s choir program in Melbourne No Excuses will be involved. Can you tell us how singing has empowered these women?
Music is a powerful force of healing. It is a safe place to make sound with people you can trust. The thing about domestic violence is that whether you have been affected directly or indirectly, it is an issue that sadly affects every single Australian. I personally can not speak for the women in this choir but I imagine it has been a safe space for them to share their stories and to use their voice surrounded by love.
The power of many voices singing together is truly remarkable. What was the most moving choir or choral performance you’ve ever witnessed, or been a part of yourself?
I distinctly remember singing Benjamin Britten’s Ceremony of Carols when I was a child and being completely in awe of the sound that I was a small part of! I have also been lucky enough to sing in the chorus of Carmina Burana at the Sydney Opera Concert Hall when I was 16 and that was a truly incredible experience! I also love nothing more than sitting around the lounge room with my girlfriends singing together - it is a special and profound thing.
Have you ever personally covered the song You’re The Voice?
I have - what a song!!! 30 years later it is better than ever, a sign of a truly great song! I was also lucky enough to tour with John Farnham a few years ago as the opening act and every night the tears and goosebumps came as he sang that particular song!
What are your favourite lyrics from this iconic song?
Lyrics like "this time we all can stand together, with the power to be powerful, believing we can make it better" are incredibly apt. We can all stand together and commit to caring for each other and every single one of us has the power to be powerful. I think we have forgotten that WE have the power to make change - WE have the power to make our voices heard, WE have the power to sing out for change.
What’s the best thing about living in Queensland?
Definitely the people. Queenslanders have an incredible spirit. We are resilient and are always looking out for each other, even during hard times, like the recent severe weather resulting from Cyclone Debbie.
The Sunshine State is also home to an incredible wealth of artistic talent. Queensland has really redefined its position in the national arts landscape and I could not be more proud to be a Queenslander.
First published 27 April, 2017