Clarence Valley Independent

Home is where the heart is

(l-r) Madeleine Short, Troy Castle, Michelle Ryan, Connor Willmore and Emma Short will perform two opera concerts in the Lower Clarence, accompanied by Sister Anne Gallagher and Gwen Berman. Image: contributed

Geoff Helisma |

What are the chances of five opera singers emerging from a small place such as the Lower Clarence; all within a relatively short period of time?

Apparently quite good when there are dedicated tutors who are able to help young people nurture their nascent careers.

As they were growing up, Michelle Ryan, Troy Castle, Connor Willmore, Emma Short and Madeleine Short did much of their music training at the Maclean Music Academy with Sister Anne Gallagher, Gwen Berman and Connie De Dassel – on Saturday July 6 the five singers will perform a concert at the Maclean Civic Hall; on Sunday July 7 they perform at the Yamba Bowling Club.

Madeline says they all grew up learning music “from the incredible teachers who will be accompanying us”.

“And now that we’ve all had further opera training at university, it’s wonderful to come back home and share that with everyone.

“There’s a wonderful feeling about being supported by a community that has seen you grow up and develop as a singer.”

Emma says “home is by far my favourite place to perform”.

“The musical community in this area is incredible and holds a very special place in my heart.

“The fact that many of us have pursued music as a career says a lot about how meaningful our musical education was to us all as students of the academy.”

Connor says “performing back home is one of the best feelings a musician can have”.

“To have the chance to perform in front of the people that helped us become the people we are today is just a kind gesture of thanks.”

While Troy, Emma, Madeleine and Connor are all currently studying at the University of Queensland, Michelle is a ‘young artist’ with Pacific Opera in Sydney, which has provided her with many opportunities, including singing with Willoughby Symphony Orchestra and performing at Chairman Dinner recitals for the Governor General. She also performs with Cantillation, a group of vocalists engaged to sing with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and BachAkademie Australia – she has also studied in Germany.

Reflecting on what the act of singing brings to his being, Connor says, “This feeling is even better when you can share it with this amazing bunch of singers and, of course, our outstanding accompanists.”

Tickets can be purchased online at They will also be on sale at the door from 1pm at each concert. Adults $20, concession $15.

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