Australia Day Honours for Ignite Choir

Artistic Director Harmony Woollett

We are immensely proud of Harmony Woollett, our Artistic Director and Conductor who received 2020 Australia Day Honours for Art and Culture.

To help explain the wonderful efforts that Harmony has devoted to Ignite Choir and community music in Brisbane, we are sharing our nomination submission. This nomination was compiled by choir member, Irene Francisco who pulled the nomination together in less than 24 hours with the will and energy that Irene is renowned for. 

Brisbane Lord Mayor's Australia Day Award submission

Harmony Woollett created Ignite Choir Inc. in 2004, an inclusive community choir that invites people from all walks of life to come together and sing. This came as a result of her work with Ignations Musical Society which provided Harmony with opportunities to develop her skills as a musical director. For fifteen years, Harmony has volunteered tirelessly in creating community opportunities for music.


Ignite Choir Inc. is a not-for-profit organisation supporting an unauditioned choir, so all are accepted. Harmony adapts her direction to meet the needs of the group, which has grown to 110 members through her creative talents and endeavours. Ignite Choir performs 3-5 concerts and events each year, including children's concerts, cabaret concerts, Showstoppers performances and Christmas events. Harmony connects with other local musicians, performers and artists to bring a unique and polished performance that really entertains patrons.


Harmony starts each choir term outlining the purpose of Ignite Choir - to bring people together to enjoy singing, whether you're a shower singer, car singer, or professional singer. If you've been told that you can't sing, you are welcome to Ignite Choir. If you can't read music, you are welcome. If you have never sung with a group of people, you are welcome. People in the Ignite Choir have formed life-long friendships, and talk about their 'Ignite Family'. The choir has adults of all ages, including students, teachers, retirees, health professionals, gardeners, retail workers, volunteers, and so many more. For many Ignite performers, their first concert with the choir is the first time they’ve performed on stage. The thrill, excitement and energy that is involved in performing with a group of people brings a connection like no other, and audiences frequently provide feedback on the quality of the performances. Ignite Choir has groups of followers across Brisbane who regularly enjoy the choir’s events, under Harmony’s artistic direction.


Harmony's love of music and connection pervades each and every rehearsal. She brings a fun-filled environment that is welcoming and engaging. In rehearsals and performances, Harmony conducts with energy and encouragement to ensure a positive experience for everyone on stage - and in the audience. Ignite rehearses weekly at Sherwood State School, and also performs at this venue. The connection with the school has been very valuable in connecting with community. The choir performs annually at school fetes, and the Sherwood Community Fair, Ashgrove Rotary Carols, and other community events across Brisbane. Events aim to be affordable and family-friendly.


Harmony has effectively made connections across a range of artistic groups in many collaborative performances, including Brisbane Bells, Good Vibrations band, Jindalee Jazz Orchestra, Queensland Wind and Brass, Ipswich Big Band and The Ukelele group. Her collaboration with Brisbane conductor David Law for orchestral performances has created a range of dynamic events. For many Ignite members, the opportunity to sing with a full orchestra, or with a band, is something that can feel like a dream come true. Cultural events and performance can feel unattainable for many people in Brisbane who have not had musical training; however Harmony has created accessible, attainable and inclusive opportunities for people to sing with professional musicians, which is a memorable experience.


Harmony’s dynamic and inclusive approach has seen other community cultural groups approach her to collaborate, including Brisbane Community Youth Orchestra and Ipswich Big Band. Ignite Choir joined ABC radio with Rebecca Livingstone in 2017 to promote community choirs. The choir joined with Brisbane Sings in 2018 to perform at QPAC. Harmony’s vision has seen the choir reach for the stars and apply to perform with Hugh Jackman on his 2019 tour… and while this was unsuccessful, the social media that the choir generated promoted other unexpected opportunities. This included being filmed performing in the Moreton Bay wetlands for the locally-produced documentary “MUD” by Brodie Poole and Marilena Hewitt. This was another delightful community experience, an exchange of cultural media, and a chance to connect with both our wider community and nature. People see Harmony at work, and her inspiring talent attracts connections.


Harmony’s community focus means support is key. Support is provided for members who struggle financially. The Choir has regularly donated funds raised to charities. Choir members have collected funds and donations for other members who have experienced hardship. People visit eachother in hospital, join in support around grief and loss. It is a true community.


In essence, Harmony puts her heart and soul into building a community of everyday musicians – people who come together and sing to sound amazing, but also to feel amazing and to connect with eachother. Hours of effort goes into her volunteering, including planning (even years in advance!), writing musical arrangements, preparing rehearsal and home practice materials, reviewing performances and providing feedback and mentoring. Her leadership and mentoring means that the community connections go beyond the music – the Ignite Choir Inc. committee members draw on Harmony’s vision and direction, and bring forth the talent and resources of all the choir. Skills such as staging, decoration, construction, sound and lighting, craft, design, artwork, set-up, catering, costuming – these are drawn from the choir members, almost like magic at times, as we are inspired to reach her vision. Harmony’s delight in creation, in making an event, is so strongly valued; her praise and encouragement makes everyone strive for more.


The most recent performance ‘Epiphanies’ was to a sold-out audience at the Old Museum – with an 100-strong choir and 50 musicians.