For a great deal of us, recorder lessons in music class at both primary and secondary school were a frequent feature. For some it was banal, draining and torturous. For others it was not an issue and perhaps even enjoyable. This divide is captured in Mrs Carey’s Concert. The documentary focuses on an 18 month lead up to a bi-annual music event at the Sydney Opera House performed by the female students of the Methodist Ladies College in Sydney.
Specific focus is paid to violin soloist Emily, who initially is insular and fearful of leadership. Bullying, lies and rumours are suspected as occurring on the playground for unknown reasons for Emily. Simply put, growing up is very difficult. Let alone at an all girls school with extensive musical rehearsal periods.
A prominent and interesting subplot takes place when a group of troublesome girls are taken out of choir practice to see how the class functions without its main distractions. Rambunctious Iris, seen as the worst of the group, submits a question to lead musical teacher Karen Carey that holds some potency. Exposure to music is seen as a beneficial advantage and a privilege by the music staff at MLC. Iris notes this, and while she is quarrelsome, she protests that being forced to partake is not necessarily a good thing.
A follow up piece interviewing students would answer the question that the film subtly asks. Does exposure to such musical works such as Verdi and Handel have any weight? Mrs Carey answers that what the concert does is place each student as a vital member of a team, outside of the actual musicality of the performance. Rehearsals are naturally monotonous but are fruitful in the end.
Ultimately the film is as much about pedagogy as it is about music. This is its greatest strength. The mixing proves extremely worthwhile with teaching and learning alongside the astounding musical performance that culminates with the documentary’s conclusion in the final minutes.
Directors Bob Connolly and Sophie Raymond have captured something very unique and ripe for discussion in the short 95 minutes filmed. Raking in over an incredible $1.2 million in its theatrical release, Mrs Carey’s Concert is also nominated for the inaugural AACTA award for Best Documentary. It is a pleasure to watch, and a film that is both entertaining and educational; both on the part of the educator, the student and the pedestrian.