This research explores the role of community music in the lives of older Australians. This qualitative case study investigated the meanings and understandings ascribed by participants to their musical engagement in the South of the River Community Gospel Choir. This mixed a cappella SATB choir was formed in 2002 in Melbourne. The choir began with a repertoire of African-American Gospel music and South African Freedom Songs. With time their musical choices have transitioned to include more contemporary Australian composed works. The choir sings in diverse community settings such as high security prisons, palliative care, hospitals and the more common range of gigs such as community events, private events and folk festivals. Data were gathered from individual and focus group semi-structured interviews undertaken in 2016 with the members of the choir and with the Musical Director. Data were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis and reported under the themes of Musical engagement and Social connection, Performing and Outreach. The findings confirmed the pivotal musical and social importance of the Music Director; the importance of performance opportunities that support both socialising and community outreach; and the role of ensemble membership in fostering and maintaining understandings of self-worth and self-esteem.


Community Choir, Phenomenological Research, Music Engagement, Social Connection, Older People

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Dawn Joseph is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia. She teaches in undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Dawn researches, publishes and reviews in national and international journals in music education, teacher education, African music, cultural diversity and ageing and well-being. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: djoseph@deakin.edu.au.

Dr. Jane Southcott is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education, Monash University. Her phenomenological research explores music education, cultural identity, positive ageing and community music. She teaches in postgraduate programs and supervises many postgraduate research students. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: jane.southcott@monash.edu.


This research was supported by Deakin University Research Capacity Grant Scheme. This project has been subject to ethical review and an application has been approved by the appropriate University Human Ethics Committees at both universities. There are no conflicts of interests.

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