Working with the community

Today I had the rather fun task of volunteering my time to be the MC for the Mt Martha House Christmas Morning Tea Concert (and what a mouthful that was!), to an audience of Local Councillors, the Mayor, community groups and other interested parties – an audience of about 100 all told.

The idea behind this annual event is to showcase the various Performing Arts professionals who use Mt Martha House to teach classes on the Mornington Peninsula.

A bit about the venue, just so you can get the picture …

Mount Martha House is a Heritage-listed Building (Heritage Victoria), built in a picturesque Federation Queen Anne style in 1889-90 as a hotel in association with the proposed Mount Martha Estate subdivision of 1889.It’s a huge venue, with a range of spaces available, overlooking Port Phillip Bay.It’s been a community house for about thirty years and plays host to over 50 community groups from all around the area.It’s a truly beautiful venue and a joy to work in.

For those who’d like to visit – it’s located on the Mornington Peninsula (an hour out of Melbourne), Victoria, Melway map reference: 144, H 12.

As I teach acting classes there, it was decided that it was best for me to host the annual concert, rather than do a Shakespearian soliloquy – for which I was rather grateful, to be honest!!As I’d also taken a year off from teaching and had only just returned, I didn’t have any students available to take part … but I intend to remedy that next year!

It was an interesting line up – we had a couple of ballet numbers and some contemporary dance from the Mt Martha School of Ballet (who have some very talented students who range from 5 years old to VCE) – one of whom has just been accepted into the Australian Ballet training scheme and a few more who’ve achieved an “A+” in their VCE ballet exams – one of whom got three “A+” and is in the top 3% in the country!), a couple of numbers from a very talented up-and-coming young singer – Nicho Falcone – who is being taught by Monique Brunnel (a highly respected international Opera singer who teaches singing at Mt Martha House), a very cute couple of Christmas carols from the Under 5’s from Child Care (which, of course, brought out the “Ahhhh” factor from all the grandparents in the audience!) and then a couple of numbers from the multi-talented and well known Australian harmonica player/percussionist, Justin Brady (from “Things of Stone and Wood”), who has been taking harmonica classes at Mt Martha House in 2006.

While I don’t want to pick out any one act above the others, Justin really stood out for me (most likely the Scots and Irish blood in my veins, but I love a good bit of harmonica playing!).It was really no surprise, considering he’s performed with Phil Manning, Richard Pleasance, Damon Davies (Best Australian Blues Artist) and Kavisha Mazella – a very talented folk arist.He’s also appeared on albums for John Farnham, The Black Sorrows, James Reyne, Shane Howard and James Blundell.In fact, he’d made the trip down from Melbourne to do his five-minute segment, only to turn around and head back to Tullamarine to catch a flight to Sydney for a gig that evening!Now, that’s dedication!

It’s interesting to note that over the past couple of years, Mt Martha House is becoming a center for excellence in the standard of teaching in the Performing Arts.

We have the Mt Martha School of Dance, run by VCA Graduate, Vicki Bugg, with a consistently high standard of students, Monique’s singing lessons, that produce some really beautiful singers, my drama classes called “Acting Up @ the House”, which, I am delighted to say, attract some really dedicated and talented actors that are a joy to teach and Justin Brady’s harmonica school.

We also have the related activities of Tai Chi, Yoga and Pilates, as well as the Aussie Scots Country Dancing and Line Dancing!And the little ones aren’t left out, with Rock Pool Music (an instrumental group for primary age kids), Hey Dee Hoo Music for Tinies (rhythm, instrumental and movement for babies to 3 year olds), Musical Angels (modern dance for the Under 5’s) and Music on the Move (movement and dance – particularly disco – for the Under 5’s).Mt Martha Community Contact Inc. also run their courses out of the house, which include various visual arts disciplines such as Oils and Acrylics.

I know this is reading as one long ad for the venue – and I guess it is.I’m so proud to be a member of such a diverse group of artists and students working under the one roof, who are all dedicated to a high standard of excellence.It’s something that Mt Martha House is getting known for, both locally and beyond, and I’m very happy to be a part of it.

Due to the historical value of the property, there are also tours of the House, conducted by the Coordinator between 9am to 2pm Monday to Thursday, which provide a fascinating insight into this historical property.It’s also rumoured to be haunted (I have to say, I’ve had a couple of weird encounters there at 11 o’clock at night that are yet to be explained, and when filming in the house we and other filmmakers have had a strange time of it – one day maybe I’ll write about all that!), so the tour also includes anecdotes about the colourful former residents (who may still be there, for all we know!).

If you’re interested in knowing more about the courses being offered at Mt Martha House or the tours, thencall their office on (03) 5974 2297 or visit them on the web at http://www.salmac.com/mtmarthahouse/.

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