How singing brought together a community
For the passionate, vivacious Cath Mundy, community choirs are about much more than singing ability.
In fact, the founder of Freedom Train choir, which is celebrating 15 years this year, says that’s one of the least important things about it.
‘What community choirs are really about is joy, and the connection you feel singing with other people,’ she says.
‘One of the things I hear most is “oh that’s great but I can’t sing”. I believe everyone has a human right to sing; it’s one of the most joyful things we can do together. The magic of a community choir is that these diverse voices come together to make this beautiful collective sound. It’s so good for us and it’s serious fun.’
Brisbane-born Cath and husband Jay Turner started Freedom Train in July 2008 after moving back to Australia from the UK. Touring as professional musicians for years, they relocated to Logan after the birth of their son and Cath knew it was the perfect time to make her longtime dream of running a choir a reality.
Freedom Train started with about 25 members rehearsing every week in the couple’s living room before they secured a permanent venue at a hall in Waterford.
Since then, Freedom Train has continued to evolve, with the joyful, welcoming and inclusive nature of the choir remaining over the years. Currently there are 37 members, many of whom have been singing in Freedom Train for more than a decade.
“The magic of a community choir is that these diverse voices come together to make this beautiful collective sound. It’s so good for us and it’s serious fun”— Cath Mundy
One of Cath’s favourite choir memories was in 2017, when Freedom Train was part of the Queensland Music Festival’s You’re The Voice choral concert to support domestic violence victims – and John Farnham showed up to sing with the choir as a surprise.
‘There was one piano, 2,000 voices, and John Farnham. It was a peak experience that we will remember forever, and it was for such an important cause,’ she says.
‘The concert was supported by the Rosie Batty Foundation and Allison Baden-Clay’s daughters were singing in the choir too. It was extremely powerful.’
Singing has the power to rally large groups but also to improve personal health and wellbeing.
‘There are individual mental and physical health benefits, such as increasing lung capacity, the release of feel-good hormones like oxytocin, and the mindfulness aspect of singing which can help reduce anxiety and depression,’ Cath says.
‘Then there is the connection with others, which also increases our wellbeing. The creation of these supportive groups makes us, and our communities, healthier and happier. Choir is so much about friendship and connection.’
Freedom Train celebrated their 15-year milestone with a concert at Kingston Butter Factory Cultural Precinct where the group performed in vibrant multi-part harmonies, drawing from the choir’s 2021 album ISO (produced during COVID), as well as new songs, older classics and proudly singing in the traditional local Yugambeh language.
Until a year ago, Cath also conducted Beenleigh’s Mixed Beans multicultural choir and With One Voice Brisbane choir. She stepped back from those two after discovering she had a benign brain tumour in mid-2022.
During this difficult time, while Cath underwent surgery and radiotherapy, the choir members rallied, supporting both Cath & Jay throughout.
‘The support we had from our choir members was phenomenal,’ she says.
‘They even organised their own casual singalongs so I could rest and recover. I am so grateful to my beautiful choir members. We are family.’
For the coming months, Cath, Jay and Freedom Train are busy preparing for the carols season.
‘We love carol events. They are everything we stand for: joy, connection, and a celebration of the diversity of the Logan community,’ Cath says.
You can follow the Freedom Train choir here: http://facebook.com/freedomtrainchoir