Hymn to humanity
MRS Carey’s Concert not only demonstrates the transformative power of music but also the potency of a simple human story.
This observational documentary focuses on the students at an exclusive Sydney girls school as they prepare for their big two-yearly concert at the Sydney Opera House.
The entire school is involved – if you don’t play an instrument, you sing in the choir – and musical director Karen Carey’s two biggest challenges are students Iris Shi and Emily Sun.
Emily ( pictured) is an incredibly gifted violinist and Mrs Carey wants her to perform a solo; Emily is reluctant, saying she is happier following others and does not want to lead.
What might initially look like false modesty or shyness turns out to be a symptom of something much sadder in Emily’s past.
Meanwhile, rebellious Iris is relegated to the choir and she’s not happy about it. She thinks the concert is ridiculous, but uncompromising Mrs Carey is convinced she can crack even this tough nut.
The cameras followed the students and staff for 18 months, attending the orchestra’s rehearsals every week as well as private lessons, interviews and the big concert itself.
The cameras focus closely on the girls’ faces – when they are performing, when they are talking and when they are unaware they are even being filmed – and it is remarkable how much of a story can be told just through emotions washing over their faces.
Watching Emily’s body language changing over the course of the film is fascinating and observing the emotions on her face as she plays is quite beautiful, especially once you learn what she thinks about while she plays.
Even Iris’s scowling, eye-rolling demeanour can be fascinating and you can pinpoint the precise moment when she ‘‘ gets it’’.
Between the remarkable musical performances and the tender, insightful human moments, I was not prepared for how much this film would affect me.
The only thing more beautiful than the music is seeing those simple, subtle moments that nobody could possibly script.