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On Cats and Choirs

Belinda Parsons and the Jazz Choir at this year's St Kilda Road Music Festival at Hamer Hall

For her keen young choir protégés, it seems Head of Voice and Choirs at St Kilda Road campus, Belinda Parsons, is very much the cat’s whiskers. The description fits her well as prior to becoming a teacher, Ms Parsons spent seven years playing Bombalurina and other feline characters in Australasian and world tours of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats.

Playing in a big international show for that long must feel a bit like needing nine lives, performing eight shows a week for months on end? ‘Cats is not the easiest show to physically get through, so our bodies certainly felt it by the eighth show on a Sunday night!’ says Belinda. ‘The Jellicle Ball alone is a 20-minute dance routine at the end of Act 1 that tested our stamina… but I did love it.’

‘I think having the ability to really get into a character you are playing is a huge benefit of long tours, refining and honing skills over that time. Performing more than 2000 shows certainly solidifies the show into your muscle memory!’

These performance skills are now being passed on to the next generation through her work with the vocal ensembles at St Kilda Road Campus, and their successes are impressive.

This year, the Jazz Choir took out first place at the Victorian All-State Jazz Championships and second place at the Generations in Jazz competition. The seven member CAWAYA ensemble took out second and first place respectively in the same competitions.

'There is a lot of love, dedication and resilience from the students in the choirs that I teach,’ she says. ‘They strive for excellence and they genuinely care about each other. I can honestly say the students in the choirs at Wesley fill my heart with pure joy.’

That sense of admiration is clearly returned by students in the choirs as well.

‘Ms Parsons is incredibly supportive, understanding and passionate,’ says Jazz Choir and CAWAYA member Marlo Stephenson from Year 11. ‘She always provides a fun and hardworking environment. We find a lot of moments to laugh and amuse ourselves, but we also work hard on improving our collective sound. Without her, we would absolutely not be the Number One Jazz Choir in the state.’

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