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Rehearsals for Logan’s community musical Under this Sky are gearing up. Over 700 performers of various cultural backgrounds, professions and ages are coming together to celebrate the city’s unity and musical talents.
Amy Chien-Yu Wang

31 Jul 2015 - 4:10 PM  UPDATED 16 Nov 2015 - 10:39 AM

Playing alongside an 86-piece orchestra, house band and a choir is a new experience for 16 year-old Chinese international student Katrina Jin. She is rehearsing her role as a violinist in Under this Sky. Upon signing up, she was surprised at the size of the hundreds-strong production.

“They just too many people come, actually. Like in China, like even with the Shanghai Music Festival but no student can join. Here, school student send the form and every student can have a chance to try it.”

Under this Sky incorporates an array of musical genres. Classically trained from a young age, Katrina says this production constantly challenges her musical abilities. 

“In China, we just play, just classical one, very very slow because I’m good for slow one but in here, like jazz or some happy things, but not really I’m not good for fast play. I need to study more or maybe practise more.”

The musical aims to show a different side of the city, after a 2013 street fight put Logan under the national spotlight. Stories portrayed the area as troubled by violence and racial tension. Katrina is unaware of the incident, saying she’s never felt scared living in Logan.

"No, never, because in China there are too many people. The news is which building is on fire or someone’s been hurt but in here, it’s good because no one I can see on the street.”

Under This Sky’s Principal flautist is Monash Lal, a third year university student born and raised in Logan. He is excited to be involved in the community’s biggest ever production.

“I love playing music any chance I get I’ll join, especially a group like this. Ninety per cent of the orchestra I’ve never met before. The other ten per cent I either know or have seen before from afar. So it’s really fun to come and meet lots of new people especially a lot of flute players because I play flute. People who are just relatively local.”

Monash is of Fijian-Indian descent and says he feels proud to be a member of Logan’s multicultural community.

“It's a reflection of Australia. That's what we have. We have lots and lots of different people and that’s what we are. We have lots and lots of different cultures coming together everywhere you go. It’s never ‘oh this city’s gonna be full of this sort of background people.’  No, it’s different people everywhere.”

He says being raised in a migrant family means his music is regarded as a hobby rather than a career choice. Keen to become a musician, he’s had to work hard to prove to his parents he has what it takes.

“I studied accounting for two years after school and in those two years I practised my butt off. I kept going, I kept playing and playing. Then I auditioned for the con. When I got in, they realised, hang on, he can probably do it. Then it took those two years for them to relax and go, actually it's a feasible career option, it’s something he could do, it’s not just something on the side that you can do for fun, it's a real life choice.”

Being selected as the principal flautist of this major Queensland Music Festival musical is a significant milestone for this young performer.

“It’s something I can say to people, say, ‘look, I’m proud to be in this.’ Look who else have been in this? Not that many other people if you look at it. None of my uni friends are in this so that's one thing, in that way it’s almost segregating. I can say, ‘look, I was in this, I’m proud of being in this big event.’”

Monash and Katrina are rehearsing with the orchestra and the house band. New Zealand-born Samoan Sam Tuuga leads the band while playing the keyboard. His role also involves nurturing less experienced musicians.

“It’s all ages and you know, with ages comes different levels as in talent and that’s something I find challenging as well, because having to inspire everyone and to encourage them that they’re capable to play or do whatever better than what they’re doing now. Because I believe as long as we have strong leaders, when you have strong leaders, you’ll be able to pull off a great performance, it’s as simple as that.”

Orchestra director Shaun Dorney says the cast’s camaraderie is the perfect example of Logan’s community spirit.

“Some people aren’t getting the rhythms right so therefore others will help them. They’ll say ‘try this.’ ‘Oh yeah, that’s right.’ So it's been a great exercise in fellowship of humanity basically because that’s what Logan is. It’s a great big pool of, we’ve got 204 languages spoken, home languages spoken  in the city apart from English which sort of says where people are from all over the place and yet we’re getting idea of homogenous lot and we’re working towards the one cause.”

The songs are developed by the cast over a series of workshops with the help of professional musicians and jazz legend James Morrison. Sam Tuuga’s musical talents have also added new twists to songs like “I have a dream.”

 “’Wouldn't that be great if everyone could be the very best that they could be and that was their destiny    So that’s what we’re trying to do. As Logan, that’s what we want to do. We don’t want to just sit back and let people poo poo us. We’re going to get up there and we’re going to say look we’re great look how good we are.”

As the show approaches, the core cast present a sneak preview to locals at a local shopping centre. Sam Tuuga is playing “Know where we’re from” – a song he wrote with his family and friends. Promoting the show on stage is like a family event for Sam.

His brother Lole is on the bass, nephew Sebastian on the drums and his three children, Jeremy, Sam and Lanita sing in the choir.  He says working with the community is an incredible learning opportunity.

“Loving it. The fact that my kids have always been working with me and a friend of mine that's been helping out with the kids but actually working with other people, I think it’s opened up their eyes to see that is more than just myself and my kids.”

Hip-hop artist Morganics is Under This Sky’s music director. He says the multicultural cast has impressed him with an openness to embrace differences.

“It's a lot about different literacies. So it’s musical literacies, cultural literacies, literally literacies in different languages. Very passionate that we have different languages represented in the songs. You know from Swahili to Vietnamese toSamoan, all different languages. The national anthem in Yugambeh the local aboriginal language that’s intrinsic so intrinsically there’s gotta be a sense of respect for difference and then people can meet.”

Meeting people of different backgrounds and going on a musical journey with them has given Sam Tuuga a boost of confidence as a musician.

Sam says one day he’d like to become a professional performer.

“Yes, yes. I’m still working with people with disabilities and mental health but I’d love to do this more often but you know it’s reality hahahah.”

It’s a cold night in Logan with the temperature just over ten degrees Celsius, but the audience seem unfazed as they dance to the music.

Choral director Cath Mundy is confident Under this Sky will have a successful turnout.

“It felt fun really fun and fantastic because it was very uplifting and you can see people just getting into clapping along singing along dancing so I think they’re getting an idea this show is all about positive things about Logan and they’ll want to come and see it because it’s  about them!”

And Sam Tuuga hopes the musical will inspire other Logan residents to follow their dreams.

“And hopefully that will inspire our people within the Logan city to maybe get up and do something. That’s something I’d really like to deliver on the day not just myself as individual but our whole crew of 700.”

Under this Sky is on August the first and second at the Logan Brothers Football Field.