Amongst the treasures held in the archives at Lake Macquarie Library, a box containing folders, images and recordings, donated by Mavis Charman, holds the riches of a body of women who formed life-long friendships knitted together by their love of singing and charitable works.
A women's choir began as a small contingent from the Order of the Eastern Star in 1950, the idea of choirmistress, Dulcie Beth Callinan. In 1961 Dulcie opened up membership to the wider community and the Babaneek Choir was born. Dulcie chose the name 'babaneek' from the local Awabakal language, meaning 'mother or motherly', to reflect the character of the choir. The choir's aim was 'to bring cheer and comfort to its listeners, to provide joyful fellowship for all who love to sing and music for church services, civic occasions, charity functions and other areas where entertainment is needed.' The fifty plus members originally aged between 20 and 77, paid their own way and performed free of charge all year round, except for a six week duration over the Christmas/New Year and school holiday period. Rather than identical outfits, the ladies wore the colour blue with a distinct detatchable gold collar, which was later replaced with a single yellow ribbon, as an acknowledgement that women come in all different shapes and sizes and one outfit does not suit all. Rehearsals were each Monday from 10am to 2pm, with a break for lunch and fellowship, at Boolaroo Methodist Church Hall (later the Uniting Church").
The choir regularly entertained audiences with choral items, soloists and duets and musical items, interspersed with humorous elocutionist pieces in the local Hunter Region and as far afield as Port Macquarie and Sydney. Their repertoire included a wide and flexible range including church hymns of praise, wedding songs, negro spirituals and lighter comedy items. Choral items were in four part harmony; 1st and 2nd sopranos and 1st and 2nd altos, and were mainly a capella (voices only). One of the songs they performed, "The Vesper Hymn" was composed by local resident, Mr Sidney Paddison, from Martinsville.The two folders, which journal the choir's engagements from 1967, also contain a plethora of thank you cards and letters, newspaper clippings and photographs, and were maintained and preserved by the Honorary Secretary Mavis Charman (1969-1982) until she donated them to Lake Macquarie Library.
Mavis records that the choir was filmed by the local television station, Channel 3 (now NBN) on Monday 10 August, 1970 at the church hall, during one of their practice sessions for a locally produced show, Roving Eye. It aired on Tuesday 8 September, 1970.
The inaugral corroboree was held on Monday 24 October 1973 at the Music Shell in Freeman's Waterhole. This was an annual event up until the choir's disbanding in 1982. Mavis records they were "lucky to have a fine day" and that the event was "a great success". Along with the musical items, the corroboree served as a place for the ladies of the choir to showcase their other talents. From displaying handicrafts to essay submissions, the talent proved impressive. Many of the handicrafts were generously donated to charities and greatly appreciated, as attested by the numerous letters of thanks. Dulcie set the ladies a theme each year for the essay writing, which ranged from a short prose to a piece of poetry, which was judged by Pastor Arthur Dyason, minister of the Methodist Church where the choir met. The 1973 theme was "I Remember" with Ist prize awarded to Grace Saviage.
We meet every glad Monday morning,
Forgetting the cares of the day;
To gain fresh courage and blessing
To help us along life's way.
We have fellowship. one with another
Which enriches our lives more than wealth;
Imparting to others true friendship,
Which helps to bring peace and good health.
Our thoughts are turned to "Our Father"
And o'er paths where our Saviour once trod;
And learn, with head high, to "walk through a storm"
Drawing nearer, each day, to our God.
In lighter mood, at times we sing
Of pussy deep down in the well
And the doggy who hungered because of no bone
And the black cat that sat on a wall.
Still, still with thee in the morning,
Awake - awaken and sing
Then come to the fair down in the glen
So the valley with laughter will ring.
O, Holy One, be Thou with us
when, at last, the long day is done
Knowing surely, The Lord is My Shepherd
Tenderly watching till set of the sun.
In the secret of His Presence;
All in an April Eve
We come to the end of a Perfect Day
With a challenge, much more to achieve.
written by Grace Savige
In 1979 choirmistress, Dulcie Beth Callinan was awarded the Order of the British Empire Medal. for her services to music. On 8 October a bus load of choir members accompanied Dulcie and her husband Cec to Government House for the presentation of Dulcie's medal by the Governor General, Sir Roden Cutler. In August 1983, almost a year after the choir disbanded, Duclie's medal was stolen in a house burglary. Fortunately, the medal was recovered and the perpetrator convicted.
The final corroboree was held on Mon 27 September 1982, at the Boolaroo Uniting Church, with Mavis indicating it was a very sad occasion. The photo to the left is the final photo of the choir, taken two weeks prior to the corroboree.A small group from the choir met over the years, the last recorded in the journals was in 1993. Mavis meticulously recorded the comings and goings of the members over the years, some moved away, moved on and some passed away. Choirmistress, Dulcie Beth Callinan passed away October 12 1991. Recordings of the choir welcomed mourners to the service and former compere for the choir, Marge Mears gave the eulogy.
The collection of memorabilia holds an abundance of material that tell of the great love and friendship that this group of women enjoyed over the years, and for some it was 32+ years. Letters written post the disbanding, testify that this group of women were more than just a choir. They were thought of as family.
If you can help us identify choir members in our collection of photos, please respond via the feedback form.
This work by Lake Macquarie City Library is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License