The 2020 Victorian State Schools Spectacular was due to be performed twice on Saturday 12 September at John Cain Arena. Instead of bumping in and out of the arena, makeshift film studios have been bumped into the homes of main cast members across the state to produce a made-for-TV special which will be broadcast by the Seven Network this Saturday 5th December at 7pm.

This year’s modified, alternative performance outcome has inspired more than 2000 students to put in much effort during a time of upheaval in their lives. This year’s Spectacular features performances reflecting themes of resilience, rising up and the art of connection.

VSSS TEASER 2020 on Vimeo

Victorian State Schools Spectacular students have dedicated countless hours across many months involving approximately 2000 Zoom sessions since April preparing for this show. Persistence, dedication and determination have been the overwhelming traits these students have exhibited in 2020. The year has been like no other and they have maintained engagement and passion throughout difficult times. Supported by a dedicated team of people striving to give them a whole new perspective on how they can reach audiences through the art of performance, this has truly been a once in a lifetime opportunity for them.

“Spectaculars come in many shapes and sizes! By moving the production into the virtual and made-for-TV space, the Spectacular ventures into a new arena. Effectively making 14 music videos all with different styles and themes, the songs capture the spirit of the cast who decided not to give up, but to give into the delight of music, song and dance in the pandemic’s lockdown days. From hip hop to soul, from Vanessa Amorosi to Beethoven (yes, it’s the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy – and this is performed by the Mass Choir and the VSS Choir).

“Great songs of resilience from Emilie Sande, Aloe Blac, Stevie Wonder, Goanna and John Farnham carry the show. Featured artists include the Victorian State Schools Pasifika Choir, the VSS Mass Choir and the Victorian State Schools Choir – now all performing as virtual choirs, headed up by the stunning talents of the principal vocalists, dancers and orchestra.

“This Spectacular delights in the expression of hope, light and life seen in the eyes of all of its young participants.” – Quotes by Creative Director Neil Gladwin

Parents and siblings became crew members – helping performers to set up a TV camera, lights, microphone, laptop and large green screen in their sheds or lounge rooms. Several film kits rotated through the homes of the Principal Vocalists and Dancers, with detailed cleaning between each delivery. Production team members connected virtually to the students at their scheduled times from all their remote locations for various sessions including wardrobe, lighting, sound and stage management training before they then recorded their performances – as if they were all together in a TV studio.

The dance team alone has run over 50 sessions in three weeks via Zoom and Webex to teach all the students new choreography that had to be totally revamped from performing in an arena with massive floor space and to three sides of an audience, to what can be danced in a contained space in front of a green screen, in front of a fixed, unmoving camera.

The members of the orchestra, backing vocalists and members of the Victorian State School Choir also worked through countless online rehearsal and recording sessions adapting to the new format with students making DIY sound booths out of their wardrobe, blankets, cushions and boxes. The production team virtually recorded each of them individually before mixing and mastering tracks to accompany the visuals.

“This year has been a true testament to the transformative power of music and music education. I am truly inspired by the resilience, determination, talent and commitment to the project shown by each and every one of our music performers this year. They have bravely chosen to overcome their personal fears and uncertainties during this lockdown period to rise above the occasion and deliver stunning performances.

Musical Director Chong Lim AM

“I am so proud of them for adapting to the online tutorials and recording processes we have specially designed and introduced to them and have emerged with flying colours and a new set of skills as well! They have all done so with cheerfulness, enthusiasm and a hunger to perform to the best of their abilities with grit and determination. I can’t wait for the rest of Australia to hear and see their superb performances in the virtual concert we have collectively made.” said Musical Director Chong Lim AM.