A Symphony of Survival: Remembering the Vocal Orchestra

“The idea of making ourselves into a vocal orchestra came to us when songs were difficult to remember, and we longed to hear again some of the wonderful melodies and harmonies that uplifted our souls in days gone by.”

— Margaret Dryburgh

Join us to experience the incredible story and music of the women’s Vocal Orchestra.

The Vocal Orchestra was formed by Margaret Dryburgh and Norah Chambers in a prisoner-of-war camp in Sumatra during the Second World War. After almost two years in captivity, they hoped the power of music would lift the spirits of other women in the camp and distract them, even just momentarily, from the dire conditions they endured. Without any instruments, the women relied on their voices to create music.

This program will feature pieces sung by the Vocal Orchestra in Sumatra, performed today by the KeyTones Choir. Between music, Betty Jeffrey’s great-niece, Emily Malone, will transport the audience back to life in the prisoner of war camp and provide insights into the formation and impact of the Vocal Orchestra. Betty Jeffrey was a member of the vocal orchestra, and in her book White Coolies, recalled that it was “quite the most wonderful thing that has happened in this camp so far.”

Light refreshments will be provided after the performance.

This program is presented in partnership with the Shrine of Remembrance and supported by the City of Melbourne’s Connected Neighbourhoods Small Grant.

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Jun 14 2024


6:00 pm - 7:00 pm


Shrine of Remembrance


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