Albany’s Breaksea launch 2023 season at State Buildings, with five events for fifth anniversary

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David CusworthThe West Australian
Breaksea singers Pia Harris, Bonnie Staude, Rachelle Durkin and Matt Ward, at State Buildings, the venue of Thundrstorm, their major metro concert for 2023. Daniel Wilkins
Camera IconBreaksea singers Pia Harris, Bonnie Staude, Rachelle Durkin and Matt Ward, at State Buildings, the venue of Thundrstorm, their major metro concert for 2023. Daniel Wilkins Credit: Daniel Wilkins/The West Australian

International opera soprano Rachelle Durkin has taken a new role as artist patron of Albany-based music education organisation Breaksea, returning to her regional roots after 20 years overseas.

The New York Met star fled the Big Apple’s COVID mayhem in 2020, landing in her home State in time for a welcome new year’s concert.

Now living in her hometown, Busselton, she has teamed with fellow singers and Breaksea founders Matt Reuben James Ward and Pia Harris to promote the organisation’s first five years.

“What got me in was just that sense of community,” Durkin says.

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“When I was very young I was very, very shy, and introverted, and my first stage experience was with a community theatre company, and even though I’m very privileged that I’m a professional singer and I’ve sung at The Met and I’ve sung around the world, I think it’s really, really important to get back to those roots.

Breaksea singers Matt Ward, Rachelle Durkin, Bonnie Staude and Pia Harris at State Buildings.
Camera IconBreaksea singers Matt Ward, Rachelle Durkin, Bonnie Staude and Pia Harris at State Buildings. Credit: Daniel Wilkins/The West Australian

“I love what Breaksea is doing with the community and bringing everyone together, especially children. Now that I have a child who is seven years old, and who is very theatrical, I think it’s so important down south, where there might be limited resources, that Breaksea is really reaching out to those communities, in the South West and in the Kimberley as well.

“That’s basically what caught my attention.”

It a new role, but Durkin and Ward have worked together before, including on last year’s children’s opera Our Little Inventor, with music by WA composer Emma Jayakumar, which Ward directed.

Ward says getting Durkin on board is part of celebrating five years of the not-for-profit organisation.

“Really Rachelle encapsulates everything we stand for, someone who was raised in regional WA who had that first opportunity from a community group, who went through WA Academy of Performing Arts,” he says.

“She was mentored by many people as a youth and a young person, then performs all around the world, at The Met, and now Rachelle’s based in Busselton, really leading the way and setting a standard for other professional artists in Australia, saying you can live in regional WA and have a career.

Rachelle Durkin
Camera IconRachelle Durkin Credit: Supplied

“So for us she’s the face of everything we’re trying to advocate for, everything we’re trying to say is possible. It’s possible to grow up in regional WA and have a career as a professional artist and we’re thrilled about the profile that Rachelle will bring to the company as we celebrate five years this year.

“We’ll also celebrate Rachelle’s career and what she’s doing, and to have that partnership is really exciting.”

Breaksea will consolidate and celebrate its five years with five events:

  • Harris will conduct a community choir project, Origins, at the Joondalup Festival with 250 singers and several youth artists supported by Breaksea, including Bonnie Staude, Jarrad Inman, Gus Moir, Isaiah Quintana and Karyn Djojo Dihardjo, at Hillarys Boat Harbour, on Wednesday, March 22 at 6.30pm.
  • Seachange, a catalogue launch just released, celebrates a community development project last year involving hundreds of workshops, including artists living with all abilities, and features 12 songs written at Albany Regional Prison and produced by Breaksea.
  • Breaksea Film Festival, a virtual event, commemorates Rob Castiglione, a founding artist and board member with Breaksea who passed away last year after a fight with cancer. “It’s a chance to celebrate his incredible artistry, and what he was so eloquent at doing as a filmmaker with capturing the inner heart and the inner compassion and humanity that we believe we bring to all of our projects,” Ward says.
  • Made in WA and City of Albany funding will support Seadragon, an interactive children’s performance work inspired by characters and themes collated in creative sessions with Great Southern school to be staged at the Albany Entertainment Centre on Saturday, July 1 as part of the City of Albany’s Maritime Festival. “Over the space of four months we’ll come back to the schools to perform a 45-minute piece at those schools and in public venues at Albany Entertainment Centre,” Ward says, with a Perth season later in the year and regional tour next year.
  • The final event is Thunderstorm, Breaksea’s fifth anniversary celebration to be held at Perth’s State Buildings in the Postal Hall on Saturday, September 2. It will be based on Breaksea’s 2018 Centenary of Armistice project By Other Eyes. “It’s got some of our most successful, most passionate, most emotive music, it’s a play with musical interludes celebrating what we’ve done over five years,” Ward says. Tickets will include drinks and canapes.

“Every single event has mentored youth, has provided professional placement for youth, and has also provided opportunities for our youth mentees to shine their talent out to the wider community and the industry,” Ward says.


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