Singing survivors’ praises


Born to Sing musical director Martin Meader helped write a Hollywood film about the Vyner Brooke tragedy while Robert Gray’s grandmother was interned in the same camp as the Australian Army nurses. Picture: Matt Jelonek        www.communitypix.com.au   d449383
Born to Sing musical director Martin Meader helped write a Hollywood film about the Vyner Brooke tragedy while Robert Gray’s grandmother was interned in the same camp as the Australian Army nurses. Picture: Matt Jelonek        www.communitypix.com.au d449383

Not only does he direct the Born to Sing choirs, which have performed at the February 14 commemoration ceremony since 2013, he also co-wrote Paradise Road, a Hollywood feature film starring Glenn Close that focused on the surviving nurses’ time in the Japanese internment camp.

In an attempt to alleviate the brutality and hardship of their captivity, the nurses, together with civilian prisoners, created a vocal orchestra and performed music from the likes of Beethoven, Chopin and Debussy.

“I’m from London originally but went to Swinburne University in Melbourne to study film and television,” Meader said.

“In 1990, I saw an article by a Perth journalist about an event commemorating the music that came out of this camp and became really intrigued by the story.”

Through interviews with British survivors Margaret Dryburgh and Norah Chambers, Meader unravelled the inspiring tale that would eventually lead to his work on Paradise Road.

“There is incredible mythology around these women and I don’t think they get remembered the way they should,” he said.

“Singing in the camp helped them to survive and when you listen to the music that they made, it is incredibly uplifting.”

Robert Gray, a member of the Melville Born to Sing choir, also has a special tie to the story of the nurses and attended the original memorial tree planting ceremony at Point Walter in May 1999.

“My grandmother Ruth Gray was a captive in the same camps as the Army nurses and my grandfather was in the separate men’s camp,” Mr Gray said.

“In 2012, I joined the Born to Sing choir and I learnt that the choir’s musical director Martin Meader was involved in the research and script writing for the movie Paradise Road.”

Gray suggested that the choir perform at the following year’s memorial service and it has done this ever since.

Vyner Brooke commemorated in Bicton here