Roma May 2016

by Melinda Wells

What is it that makes telling your story to a stranger so powerful? How can six women roll into a regional town and extract tales and narrative about sensitive, emotional issues from the local residents and walk away with superbly written songs? Songs revealing the true life of the families of the thousands of war veterans who served their country in the countless battles that have scarred our nation’s history. Songs that will travel the state and be retold to the strangers who sit in drafty halls, drawn in by curiosity and intrigue, longing to hear the tales that will be lost with the passage of time.

As a woman, as a song-writer and as a passionate community contributor, I was filled with excitement and insecurity as I waited on the steps of my home to be picked up in the minivan and transported to Roma, the heart of the Maranoa region. Deb, Emma, Roz, Jackie, Kristy and me: girls on a mission to change the world one song at a time. Destination Big Rig Caravan Park was the place where we would hang out, sleep and bond over the sharing of original songs and philosophies, joined by the lone male, Hayden, who was about to document our project, our process, our journey through the songs of war.

Us women performing songs with the lovely folk at Pinaroo Retirement Village
Us women performing songs with the lovely folk at Pinaroo Retirement Village

Filled with a sense of purpose and responsibility, we headed to our first workshop at St John’s school, where more than 20 students gathered eagerly to meet with us, curious to see just what a song-writing workshop might actually be. It was encouraging and inspiring to find the students had researched two members of the school community who had been affected by a soldier’s service within their family. Mature enquiring allowed our team to have two pages of information with which to dissect and reassemble into a song, led by the students, guided by the loving hands of our song-writers… then a song was born!

The following day, after feeling so inspired and connected by the experience of working with fresh, young minds on a subject that is often ignored, we trotted off to Pinnaroo, the local Roma nursing home to experience the opposite spectrum of participants. After sharing pre-written songs, we engaged in a spirited sing along and get to know you chat, where all the facilitators worked the room in search of friendly conversation, connection and a story or two that could be shared… All of us
were touched and sometimes saddened by these gentle loving souls, a sprinkling of anecdotes came gently floating from their memories, out of their mouths and to our ears and our hearts. Lyrics and chords ensued, the women taking the precious memories of these amazing elders and moulding them into songs.

We were fortunate enough to return to the school for a second session, where a story told during our visit to Pinaroo had made its mark on our team and became the focal point of yet another song.

Performing with the kids of St John’s Catholic School at Bungil Cultural Centre

 

Me at Kristy Apps backstage

It’s almost indescribable how it felt to then take these precious songs and perform them for a welcoming crowd; most rewarding when the youngsters jump up and share their own song alongside us. I feel deep within me that a healing had taken place in Roma during our stay, a cathartic, energising experience that reached out and enveloped both the facilitators and participants. I penned a few lines from the stories that wafted into my psyche during the Pinnaroo visit…

Ghost Town by Melinda Wells (Roma 2016)
It’s a ghost town, we live in fear, Dust settles as they disappear
Down the long, long road, see the silhouette, of a hundred soldiers we will not forget
Come home baby, come home. Come home baby, come home.
Life moves at a slower pace, wake in the night and I see your face
Days into months and I play the game, waiting for a letter that has your name
Come home baby, come home. Come home baby, come home.
Please don’t let there be a knock on the door, to tell me I won’t see you anymore
The silence lingers like a frosty night, one woman’s pain will be another’s delight
Come home baby, come home. Come home baby, come home.
I see your shadow stretch across the stones, I see your uniform hang from your bones
My heart breaks for the anguish I see, but I thank the Lord that you came home to me.
You’re home, baby you’re home. You’re home, baby you’re home.

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