Saturday, October 25, 2014
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MSU Choir Australian Tour Blog – Day 5

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The Morgan State University Choir is touring through Australia. Choir Director Dr. Eric Conway is blogging about the choir’s travels and experiences throughout the trip.

Today was a day to see additional sites in Canberra, Australia’s capital city, and to present a concert at The Australian National University, in Canberra.

We left the hotel early not to return until after 8PM in the evening. For most Americans, kangaroos are the most exotic animals in Australia. Although kangaroos are certainy very well-know in the states, very few Americans have seen an actual kangaroo! We are all quite taken on the tour in Canberra, where one can drive down the road in a coach bus, look out the window and see kangaroos just hopping around.

Australia’s capital city and DC share many similarities. They were of course both completely planned cities. Consequently, they both boast notorious circles, seemingly inconveniently placed around the city. Our first true site this morning was a visit to Australia’s embassy row. As true in the US, the Embassies were a cornucopia of different architecture. The US Embassy was the oldest and the largest as we have been allies with Australia for quite some time. I am sure that the shared language is one reason for this occurrence.

After leaving the area of foreign Embassies, we visited the former site of Australian Parliament. In front of this site, tents from Aborigines protesting their land taken from them were will staked out in front of the former Parliament building. These tents have been allowed to remain since the 1970′s.

We then proceeded to the new Parliament Building which was quite impressive. We took a formal tour of their Parliament building (like our Capitol building in DC). We learned much of their government and process. As we rode down the countryside we saw tens of thousands of these trees on the way to Canberra.

One important distinction to me from the United States are seats set aside for the public to view the proceedings. At the end of every session, the public may ask questions about proposed laws. This Q & A session is televised. Australia’s citizens appear to be much more connected with their government. All Australian citizens must vote. Although some may not like this policy, this requirement ultimately makes every citizen more involved in the politics of their land and their representatives more accountable. As I spoke with US officials from the American Embassy, they said that they believed the major advantage of this policy is that politicians do not have to spend any money on getting people to vote, but can concentrate on policy. As I could share much more about this tour, time constraints will not allow.

Shortly thereafter, the Morgan choir joined me in a rehearsal with the choir who would join us in concert, the Woden Valley Youth Choir and members and staff of the Australian National Univeristy. Wonderful acoustics! Beautiful decor! The hall had 1200 seats. The concert was set to begin at 3PM.

The concert was well attended, approximately 700 persons in attendance per the usher. The Woden Valley Youth Choir was exceptionally prepared and truly complemented our portion of the program. Once again, we brought the Australian audience to their feet. We were told afterwards that this rarely occurs. We were also told that the complete concert was probably the best ever held for the University in their Llewyn Hall.

After our concert we planned go to Pot Luck Dinner with the Woden Youth choir, however, the US ambassador to Australia wanted to see us before dinner. We met him in an Australian Pub. He was quite pleased to see that we were in Australia. In the pub, the choir sang one piece for him, which somehow quieted the noisy Pub.

After the pub, we when to a Presbyterian Church to break bread with the Australian Youth. We had great conversation and delicious local food. Again, what a great exchange for our students.

More to come.. . .