• The Logan community performs the musical Under This Sky. (SBS Radio)
South-East Queensland's Logan City made history by presenting its largest ever community musical to the public over the weekend. The Queensland Music Festival production celebrated Logan's cultural diversity of 215 cultures with original music written and composed by the performers. Amy Chien-Yu Wang takes us behind the stage and among the audience to discover the story of Under this Sky
By
Amy Chien-Yu Wang

Source:
SBS Radio
12 Nov 2015 - 10:54 AM  UPDATED 13 Nov 2015 - 4:27 PM

It's the night before the opening of Logan's community musical Under this Sky.  There is a quiet excitement as the show's newest addition, 70 school children, arrive for their one and only complete rehearsal.  The show's creative director Sean Mee holds his breath as he watches the show in its entirety for the first time.

"Sometimes communities have limited capacity to be able to come to rehearsals for a whole lot of reasons, geographic, money, a whole set of things, so you got to build it with that in mind."

Technical director Bernd Neumann is testing stunts on the 100 metre wide performance area of the football field as the orchestra and core choir rehearse on raised scaffolding with trees and the full moon as the backdrop.

"We wanted to perform in the natural habitat of football field and what is surrounding the football field."
After a restless night of final adjustments to the set, the first performance is about to start in two hours time.

Principal flautist Monash Lal arrives at the venue with fellow orchestra members.

"I had to teach this morning so I've been going, 'how long till we come here and play?' So I'm pumped to perform and see how everything comes together."

Violinist Katrina Jin is excited about performing for the first time.

"In China, we only have music, and music, and music. Not like everyone can join even the old or from the school students can join in, so it can have more people and more friends to do that things, so it'll be good. I think China must learn something about this."

Her proud parents are due to fly in from Shanghai to watch the final show tomorrow.  

"Unfortunately, one hour before they just told me can't go because the plane in Shanghai got some trouble because maybe the weather or something so they need late. So they will miss my concert. It's no good but yeah, still I have my friend. They will take video for us but I will try to show my parents because it's still the first time concert for me. "

It's now one hour before the show. Backstage, house band leader Sam Tuuga is making final preparations before his big moment.  

"As soon as I got up this morning all I could see and hear in my head was music for tonight. We've just rehearsed and fixed up a few mistakes last night and it's all sorted now so everyone's feeling more confident about tonight's performance."

It means a lot for Sam to perform  with members of his own band which include his brother Lole, nephew Sebastian, three children Sam, Lanita and Jeremy, as well as best friend Fred.  

"This is a way bigger scale. We've done community gigs in the past but not at this scale, so that's why this is way special than any community gigs that I've done in the past. So we're looking forward to it. And the cool thing about it we have professional people for lighting and sound and that makes it even more exciting."

Sam's family opens the show. 

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is the moment we've all been waiting for. It's show time! Queensland Music Festival and Logan city council proudly present, Under This Sky."

The musical depicts a day in the life of Logan, celebrating its ordinariness, quirkiness, diversity, inclusiveness and community spirit.  

Personal stories told by Logan's residents are imbedded throughout the show.

"Logan is good. In my view, I really think we are doing okay. Although sometimes it might seem like we have nothing much in common, we do."

Creative director Sean Mee says the show is about reflecting Logan's multicultural identity.

"What the world is for indigenous people and what presence they have in this community and all the cultures that have actually arrived here in the last 50, 60 years and how they've weaved around each other and found some, a lot of great common ground and a sense of identity."

The national anthem is translated into Yugambeh, the local Aboriginal language.  Yugambeh elder Aunty Robyn Williams says Australia has come a long way in recognising the traditional owners of the land.

"This is just unbelievable. Because growing up in the past being an Aboriginal, we never ever got any recognition of who we were."

She says Under this Sky has an important message to share after a brawl between two families of Aboriginal and Pacific Island backgrounds in Woodridge tainted the city's reputation as being fuelled by racial tensions.

"So hopefully something good will come out of this concert. And to prove that yes, Aboriginal, Polynesian, Muslims, everyone can all get on and we can all live together under the one sky.  

In a video game fight scene, rapper Peter Irankunda defeats zombies with what he does best - beatboxing. Congolese-born Juliana Igwabi is intrigued to see African performers like Peter shine on stage.

"It's amazing. I felt like I was wanted. They were appreciating my culture and I really liked it. I felt at home." It's not everyday you see a lawnmower, go karts, a fire-spitting vehicle and a fire engine roaming on stage but the wide performance area on the football field makes it possible.

The audience is impressed.

"The music was great. Lots of comedy, dancing, even some stunt work with the go karts. The whole thing was just great."

"It was incredible. I was so impressed with the music and the lights, the story. I had no idea this was going to be such a big production. So I've really enjoyed it."

"It was amazing. I thought it was brilliant. It was really multicultural which is great because Logan is multicultural. It's good to see it represented through music it was really cool."

The show has come to an end but the excitement flows on as the audience dance to the finale.  Among them is Mayor Pam Parker who couldn't be prouder.

"It is absolutely brilliant to see 700 young people and people from all ages coming together, sharing their experiences, dancing, singing, it was just wonderful experience." It's time for the performers to pack up after delivering two shows to over 10,000 people. 

Sam Tuuga is still overwhelmed from the experience. 

"Everything comes to an end so you know I think it's a matter of looking at future projects in Logan area especially after this huge success last two nights, so hopefully that will inspire,  I know its inspired me in a big way and a lot of people that were here both nights."

Violinist Katrina Jin says she now feels like a true 'Loganite.'  

"I'm proud of my, I mean, I joined Logan the big family because not really feeling like I'm alone now. I can join all the people, I can do everything for them."

As for principal flautist Monash Lal, it's time to relax after months of tireless rehearsal.

"I'm hoping something like this happens again, maybe not as big but more continuous maybe even a yearly thing a performance why not. I think it's come to a nice close."

His mother Niti is thankful to the organisers for providing a platform for up and coming musicians like Monash.

"Happy he's pursing his dream, what he wants to do and he's getting that opportunity with this music festival getting, known with other people to see his potential and where he can go. He has lived in Logan, went to school here as well so, I think  he would be really proud to play in the place where he's grown up."

It's a weekend Conductor Shaun Dorney will never forget.  He says the musical is life changing for himself and the cast of Under this Sky.  

"We're already here now. Just sit up now and look at ourselves Logan. We're actually a wonderful community. We've got all these wonderful different communities and different cultures. Let's combine them together and make our life wonderful and enriched and they're enriching us, we're enriching them. It's all part of the one thing. It's such a special thing and I'm just so excited about being a member of the Logan community."

Queensland Music Festival's artistic director James Morrison says there is a feeling of great satisfaction.

"I think the thing most of all is they felt like it was their show. Sure we had the director there, we had the producer and everything, but they did the show. There's very much a feeling of that of everyone feeling proud of what they've done."

Under the starry night of the Yugambeh land, the performers have left, and the set dismantled, but the legacy lives on in the hearts of those involved in creating Under this Sky.