Barbara Prestia and Angela Smith have been performing for a long time. Angela for 28 years and Barbara for at least 20. They’re classical singers, sopranos to be exact, and they’re passionate about bringing classical music to a bigger, more contemporary audience.
They had the same singing teacher when Angela was a young girl, and despite the seven-year age difference, became fast friends.
“We talked back then, about getting together and doing something,” Angela said.
“I thought Barbara was the most beautiful lady I’d ever seen.”
Fast forward to 2014 and the ladies became study buddies for their Grade 8 singing exams. Soon after, Project Puccini with Opera Queensland inspired them to start Aria Aurora.
“We’ve had a few concerts at Helensvale Cultural Centre, have supported Rize Up – the domestic violence group,” Angela said. “And we do voicing, sound bowls and meditation sessions too.”
But the most interesting performances by Aria Aurora – who have just renamed themselves Aluna Dreaming – are public rehearsals. They literally just lob into a public place and start singing. Saves with having to find rehearsal rooms, I guess.
“They love it, they absolutely love it,” Angela said, when I asked about people’s response. “People come up and say ‘I’m too embarrassed to say this in front of my friends, can I have your card, I want to come and see you guys.’ People say it just makes their day.”
“There’s a lot of ugly out there in that world – wars and killing,” Barbara said. “And Aluna Dreaming is a little bit about getting people to escape just for a little moment out of their own head space and listen to something beautiful.”
The pair have taken well-known classical songs and put a contemporary twist on them. The very famous Flower Duet is one.
“That duet is famous,” they tell me. “And every two sopranos will sing it everywhere in the world. Well we’ve put a Didgeridoo under it… and have the contrasting high notes with the lower tones.”
The didgeridoo player in question is Russell Smith – originally from Melbourne and now living on the Gold Coast – and currently touring with Archie Roach.
They’re also collaborating with Leeton Lee – a Tamborine-based visual artist. His wife designs dresses and they’re hoping to combine his designs with their performance outfits. Margaret Hunt has also been acting as Creative Director for the project.
“We’re like a trio – she just doesn’t sing,” Angela said.
It’s obvious Angela and Barbara are passionate about collaboration and about multicultural engagement which explains their involvement in a new organisation called Creative Music Collective Gold Coast. The group aims to work across genres while promoting classical music.
“Too long has classical music sat alone and expected people to come to it,” Angela said. “We need to bring it to the people – that’s what they do in Europe.”
The group is still in its formative phase but with a strong focus on collaboration and cross-genre events, it’s likely to gain legs quickly.
The ladies are also behind a spring concert which will bring together some of the City’s classical talent and feature canapés by Salt Meat Cheese where they regularly perform their public rehearsals.
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Spring Broadwater Concert, 18 September 2.00pm (north of the pool) will feature Aluna Dreaming, Leeton Lee, Josh Budgen (violin) and Yuko Yoshioka (piano). Tickets $25 at trybooking.com/MQHN. Follow Aluna Dreaming at fb.com/ariaauroragc.