With Fringe still a thing in 2021, we sat down with two of the driving forces behind Adelaide’s Gospo Collective, the acclaimed community-based music program that is set to reheat a hit.
Singing sisters Charmaine Jones and Joanna Arul Tropeano are South Australia proud. As Adelaide-based performers, educators and musical entrepreneurs, they’ve carved out careers that are as eclectic as the people they’ve worked with and the shows that they’ve produced over the last twelve years.
Eschewing the notion that you have to leave this state to ‘make it’, the Sri Lankan born sisters are a testament to hard work and having passion for what you do. “Everyone should be encouraged to share their voice,” says elder sister Charmaine, Gospo’s founder and lead conductor.
Raised by their parents to do exactly that, it’s a philosophy they pour into their roles as teachers, arrangers and performers with Gospo Enterprises, the company Charmaine founded in 2009.
“Singing and performing the way we do as a collective is a beautiful way of connecting and communicating,’ says Joanna, who takes charge of Gospo’s Jones Chorus, their education program for 12-16 year olds.
Like Charmaine, she also works as a choral director at an Adelaide school and runs a well-followed fashion blog (@the_style_file) on the side. There’s no question, however, about where her heart truly lies.
“I’m a bit more reserved than Charmaine in terms of my personality, but when I sing there is a freedom that is undeniable. Sharing that with our students and seeing them thrive during a performance is my life’s reward. I’m so lucky to do what I do.”
Frequently recognised around town, the sisters grew up with music as a part of their daily lives. Although recalling early concerts performed at parents’ dinner parties and re-enactments of Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals, none of it seemed attached to the concept of celebrity. “Singing was for everyone, and still is,” Joanna says.
In addition to being a soprano singer, the pair’s mother ran a speech, drama and elocution school in Sri Lanka. It meant that the way the siblings spoke and presented was drummed into them very early on.
“Singing was a natural extension of that and became a central part of our education. In reality, it’s been a discipline we’ve practised without thinking about it since before we can even remember. It even felt normal when I started teaching at the age of twelve!” says Charmaine.
This early discipline carried them through an extremely difficult period in 2020. Although forced to move their choral groups online, The Gospo Collective continued to perform, inviting guests to their ‘Live Lounge Sessions’ via their growing YouTube channel.
By continuing to practice their art, Charmaine says they’ve ‘embraced the complexities of life as we know it’, and emerged as better musicians.
This year, their work will again culminate in their annual showcase at the Adelaide Fringe, where they will reboot their award-winning presentation of Jackson v Jackson.
Playing to sellout crowds in 2019, the show is a combination of both Janet and Michael’s greatest hits, and delves deep into the famous siblings own influences. The result is a captivating journey through some of the best soul, funk and pop music ever created.
As per all of their previous shows, Charmaine says audiences can expect special guests on stage each night, and confirmed an overture had been written by Chong Lim AM, the legendary composer for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
“We rejigged everything for COVID, so we can’t wait to bring back a show we know the people love.”
Check out some highlights of their earlier Fringe shows on YouTube @GospoMusicAUS
Words Jon Aspin
Images Diana Melfi