The Choir of Hard Knocks

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The Choir of Hard Knocks is a choir consisting of homeless and disadvantaged people formed in Melbourne, Australia. It came to prominence as the subject of a five-part Australian Broadcasting Corporation documentary television series broadcast in 2007.[1]


Jason Stephens and FremantleMedia Australia were the creators behind the ABC documentary series the Choir of Hard Knocks coming up with the original idea to form the choir in Melbourne.[2]

After Googling for ideas about how to put a choir at the centre of a television series, Jason Stephens happened upon Montreal's homeless choir and came up with the show's concept. Stephens convinced Jonathon Welch - who had started a similar choir in Sydney (the "Sydney Street Choir" in 2001[3] - to establish a choir of homeless people for a television project.[4]

Recruiting was by word of mouth and through community organisations. As at May 2007, it had about 50 members.[5]

The name is a reference to the School of Hard Knocks, i.e. learning by experiencing life, not through classrooms.

The founding organisation behind The Choir was managed by Reclink, a not for profit community organisation that provides sport and arts opportunities to those experiencing social and economic disadvantage. Reclink has expanded its Choir program Nationally and now supports eight similar choirs around Australia including the Transformers, Choir of High Hopes Hobart, Sydney Street Choir and the Rocky Road Choir.

Following a split between Reclink and Jonathon Welch in March 2009, Welch formed a new not-for-profit entity, the Melbourne Street Choir, Inc (MSC). Supported by a pro-bono committee of management (board), MSC is the new auspicing body which will focus exclusively on the Choir and which will deliver a new level of transparency and accountability to Choir members in relation to all of its activities. Many members of the original Choir have followed Welch to the MSC which is scheduled to recommence public performances as from 29 April at the Melbourne International Jazz Festival.

On 21 May Welch launched his new choir as the Choir of Hope and Inspiration (See Melbourne Street Choir, Inc). A training choir, the Morning Bell Choir (named so because their training session began earlier in the day to the main Choir), was also launched as the Choir of Pride & Joy on the same day.


The choir raised money to record a CD through busking in city streets. They also hold fundraising concerts at venues such as the Melbourne Town Hall[5] and the Sydney Opera House.[6]

A self-titled companion CD to the series was released containing traditional songs such as Amazing Grace and Silent Night as well as pop songs such as Flame Trees by Cold Chisel and Hallelujah written by Leonard Cohen.[7] It was each and every member's first experience in a recording studio.

The CD debuted at number 28 on the ARIA album chart in late May 2007.[6] It has now sold almost 100,000 albums.


The choir received the award for best original soundtrack at the 2007 ARIA Fine Arts Awards at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music on 15 October. The choir won over nominees such as David Bridie and the popular Sydney ensemble Monsieur Camembert. Hosted by ARIA, the awards celebrate the achievements of musicians outside the dominant genres of pop and rock. They precede the 2007 ARIA Awards, which will be held at Acer Arena on 28 October.[8]


External links[edit]