The Dandenong Ranges Music Council is excited to be leading the Penny Drive community music project to celebrate in song the remarkable story of fundraising by the school children of Victoria to rebuild the school in Villers-Bretonneux, France. This extraordinary project, combining history and music, commences in October in Children’s Week and will culminate in performances in Education Week, May 2018.
After the devastation of WW1 Australian soldiers and their families from Victoria adopted Villers- Bretonneux to contribute to the reconstruction of the town and support the families. As part of the fund raising effort, Victorian school children were each urged to donate a penny and raised the enormous sum of £12,000 pounds which was dedicated to the building of the Victoria School.
For today’s children of Victoria the story of the Penny Drive is long forgotten. The children of Villers Bretonneux have never forgotten. For a hundred years every day they have read the “N’oublions jamais l’Australie” (Never Forget Australia) sign in their schoolyard and school rooms. The French children wrote a song ‘Forever Friends’ in celebration of the shared history.
The story of the Penny Drive is a beautiful example that out of war can come generosity, caring and the gift of learning. It exemplifies compassion between children and how giving a penny can change a community. It also recognises the worth of a penny, in difficult times children of Victoria gave up their pennies and in a united effort achieved such a significant outcome. In 1923, in a message of thanks, Monsieur Poincare wrote, ‘I cannot but be greatly moved at this proof that the sentiments of friendship and of brotherhood sealed on the battlefields of the Somme and the Dardanelles between the soldiers of Australia and those of France are maintained among their children and orphans.’
You can find more on the history at Culture Victoria's Villers-Bretonneux page.
The project will start with workshops in 3 schools in October 2017, Macclesfield Primary School, Kallista Primary School and Tecoma Primary School.
Music Educators Susie Davies-Splitter and Phil Splitter will lead workshops with school children in the Yarra Ranges to compose the Penny Drive song ensuring that the history will live on in music.
Susie is a music and movement educator, award winning composer and an ANCOS (Australian National Council of Orff Schulwerk) accredited trainer and leads regular training in Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong and China.
Phil has been composing and performing since an early age, playing guitar and percussion, as well as singing in many bands. He is also an accomplished workshop facilitator, motivational speaker, award winning script and songwriter as well as a dynamic and high calibre MC.
Susie and Phil have developed the very popular and award winning 'Welcome to Music' series of CDs and books, musicals, story books and choral range which is enjoyed extensively by teachers, parents and children of all ages throughout Australia and around the world.
They are also the founders of ‘Hearts in Harmony Community Music’, a not for profit association. Their passion is to help cultivate healthy communities and each individual’s potential to be creative and compassionate human beings through music and the arts.
More recently they have added ‘Ukexperts’ to their long list of credentials and with their original and exciting new ‘Black Belt Ukulele’ program and ‘Uke ’N Sing’ classes for all ages, learning the Ukulele has never been easier, more fun and totally accessible to all!
Details of the event are still a work in progress and we will announce details as they are finalised.