Ngangwurra Means Heart: The Black Arm Band and MSO

Mindy Kwanten
Mindy Kwanten

On the eve of the performance of The Black Arm Band and the MSO’s performance of Ngangwurra Means Heart at Melbourne’s Princess Theatre, Aussie Theatre’s Jan Chandler managed to touch base with a new member of The Black Arm Band, Mindy Kwanten.

Mindy Kwanten admits to having a deep love of music. Rather than preferring one musical style over another, she believes that there are great songs in every genre,“my daily life is filled with many different styles and that’s just the way I like it!”

In her younger years, Mindy performed in numerous high profile concerts, including being invited to sing for His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales at his official ceremony in 1994 and later for our Olympians at The Sydney Ticker Tape Parade. She has also appeared as a support act for INXS, Eskimo Joe and David Campbell.

Musical theatre has been another outlet for Mindy’s multi-faceted musical talent. At 17 she was lured away form the Sydney Conservatorium to take the leading role in Fame the Musical and toured around Australia and to Asia. She has also had roles in, among others, Hair the Musical and Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical.

But it doesn’t end there. If you are into Cabaret then you may also have had the opportunity of seeing this multi-talented performer. In 2012 Sass and Class, a one woman show that Mindy wrote and starred in, had a sold out season in Sydney. Then for The Sydney Cabaret Festival she created Min Min Lights,which was the most successful show of the season.

Jazz is another of her musical outlets. If this is your preferred style of music then you can catch Mindy in performance with her jazz trio Women of Soul, or with her husband Mitchell Kwanten in Bow and Arrow.

How do you choose a highlight from such a career? Mindy admits that it is very difficult but decided to, in her own words, go on a “roll with Thelma Houston! I was 17 when I got the role of Mabel Washington in the original production of Fame the Musical and to be honest, I don’t normally dig the whole importing celebrities for a role thing when we have such amazing talent over here… but in this case I am glad it happened. Otherwise I wouldn’t have got to experience her magic 8 times a week! She would constantly amaze us all and every night she would sing different and inspiring licks with such control that they poured out like water from jug. It was fascinating to watch her and I watched her and took in as much as I could. Like a good sponge should.”

On Saturday 30 November Mindy Kwanten steps on to yet another stage; she will be singing with The Black Arm Band and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in Ngangwurra Means Heart. When asked what it meant to be involved with The Black Arm Band her response was immediate and from the heart.

It’s a beautiful thing. Going through rehearsals this week I have often caught myself thinking ‘you are part of something really special here’. It’s hard to put into words actually. I feel very empowered to be able to help bring the story and vision of Ngangwurra out to people. On a personal level I have felt a sense of belonging and acceptance unlike any other production I have had the pleasure of being involved in. There is just so much respect between everybody, it’s really refreshing.”

Mindy admits to being overwhelmed by the calibre of people who have been involved in The Black Arm Band since it’s inception in 2005 and it means a lot to her that her name is now added to the list.  From her experience at rehearsal it has become clear to her that it’s not just the on stage talent that has made past productions such a success, but also the team behind the scenes.  She feels privileged to be amongst such company and is very proud that she has the opportunity of being involved, to sing and share our stories, “I am feeling very fulfilled and inspired!”

And what of the audience, what may they expect?  In Mindy’s words expect: “some major ear candy!!! … Add in a visual feast and some thought provoking material and you’ve got yourself one hell of a night out.

It is phenomenal hearing five different aboriginal languages over the orchestra … The combination is just out of this world! It’s not something you will hear every day and I think you’d be mad to miss this experience. … I hope people leave with a full heart.”

Ngangwurra Means Heart: The Black Arm Band and the MSO
Princess Theatre, Saturday 30 November @ 7.30 pm

Jan Chandler

Jan has been working freelance in the arts industry for some 15+ years in a variety of roles including: arts management; journalism (print, radio and online); publicity; and media relations. Passionate about the arts in all their variety, Jan has worked in film (production assistant; reviewer); dance (publicity; producer and presenter of 'Dance Dialogues - 3CR) and Board Member of Ausdance (Victoria)); performing arts (company manager, performer, reviewer, online editor). Jan had the honour of being the General Manager of Ilbijerri Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Theatre for some 18 months.

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