A voyage of voices

Kavisha Mazzella and the Coro Oceana choir are helping open the Perth Festival in Fremantle.

A 100-VOICE choir led by Freo folk icon Kavisha Mazzella will be one of the highlights as the port city hosts a huge opening for this year’s Perth Festival on February 11 and 12.

Based around the theme Escape, the opening will see the city’s quays, docks, warehouse and beachfront transformed with music, light installations, dance, food, ceremonies and a “parade of all nations” to celebrate the Indian Ocean and the voyages and cultures that now define Western Australia.

Mazzella said she’d be directing Coro Oceana, which has been pulled together from 13 different local choirs and will sing five songs including sea shanties, a 17th century fisherman’s lament and a Noongar song. 

Their performance will be outside D Shed on Victoria Quay, not far from where the Welcome Walls document her own family’s arrival as immigrants in January 1962. 

Although her father was Italian by birth and her mother Burmese, the family departed from England and she laughs they qualified as “10-pound Poms” once they’d done the obligatory two years to earn their passage.

“This performance celebrates the immigrants coming to Australia and their connection to the coast and and all the stories that came here,” Mazzella said.

She’s particularly looking forward to Coro Oceana performing her own composition Nigra Sum about the Black Madonna which sits largely unknown in St Patrick’s Basilica in Fremantle. It was commissioned by local fisherman in the ‘90s who wanted to recreate the traditions surrounding her from their hometowns back in Sicily.

“I wrote that song for the last Deckchair show I was going to be in but then that got scuttled when they lost their funding.

“It was going to be my 13th show and I really wanted people to know about this Black Madonna that sits in the cathedral at St Pat’s,” she said.

It all goes ahead for the double vaccinated, starting with the nations parade at Bathers Beach at 7.30pm on February 11.


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