Gloucester singers: three years on Mauatua and Hanu Barff, Nina Samson, Liam Chester and Grace Forrester

Blast from the past: Liam Chester, Nina Samson, Mauatua Barff, Grace Forrester and Hanu Barff in 2015.
Blast from the past: Liam Chester, Nina Samson, Mauatua Barff, Grace Forrester and Hanu Barff in 2015.

Remember these teenagers, better known as ‘The Gloucester Five’.

In 2015, Hanu Barff, Mauatua Barff, Nina Samson, Liam Chester and Grace Forrester were invited to take part in the Department of Education’s ‘West of the Divide Wind and Vocal Ensemble’, which ventured through parts of Europe.

In order to pay for their trip, the now former Gloucester High School students began a year long fundraising adventure, with lots of help from family, friends and many members of the community.

It all began about halfway through 2015, when the students started performing at events and for local service clubs, holding raffles and barbecues, putting way every dollar to help support this once in a lifetime opportunity. Reaching their goal, the group visited five countries over two weeks in late 2016.

Without this community support, they may never have experienced the international exposure which has put them all on an amazing musical journey.

So what has happened to Hanu, Mauatua, Nina, Liam and Grace in the three and half years since it all began?

Grace Forrester's promotional shot for the Taree production Les Miserables. Photo Ashley Cleaver/Cleavers Images.

Grace Forrester's promotional shot for the Taree production Les Miserables. Photo Ashley Cleaver/Cleavers Images.

Grace has had a busy few years continuing to develop her skills in performing arts. Soon after returning from the Europe tour, Grace performed in the Taree Arts Council original production, ‘Crystal Dreaming’ and played one of the lead characters, The Witch in the 2017 Gloucester High School musical, ‘Into the Woods’. In November 2017, she was reunited with a number of the West of the Divide students to perform as a featured artist at the Tamworth Regional Spectacular CAPERS. 

Now a year 12 student at Great Lakes College (GLC) Senior Campus, she had a busy year performing as a featured artist at the Department of Education (DET) Performing Arts Extravaganza, Star Struck 2018 at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre and in the ensemble of the Taree Arts Council 2018 production of Les Miserables. She appeared in the Great Lakes Community of Schools event ‘Shine On’, performing with the GLC Jazz Band and was selected to attend the DET Solo Vocal Camp and DET State drama camp during last school year.

Nina Samson before her year 12 formal in Gloucester. Photo Sharon Benson Photography

Nina Samson before her year 12 formal in Gloucester. Photo Sharon Benson Photography

For Nina, she returned to Europe in 2017, touring to the Baltic States with renowned national choir, Gondwana Voices. Later in the year, she also joined Grace, Liam and a number of the West of the Divide students to perform as a featured artist at the Tamworth Regional Spectacular CAPERS. Nina also managed to complete an accelerated HSC music stream, achieving a band 6 with first place in GHS year 12 music while still in year 11.

Nina successfully accepted into Australia's national youth choir, Gondwana Chorale, who she joined in

Sydney at the University of NSW for two weeks rehearsal before embarking on another concert tour of the Baltic states in 2019. 

In February 2018, Nina performed Vivaldi's Domine Deus, from her HSC repertoire, accompanied by Annette Burrows on piano and Sara Soupidis on flute, in the Bravissimo concert at The Glasshouse in Port Macquarie.

Nina successfully completed the rest of her HSC in November 2018 closely followed by her 8th grade AMEB piano examination. She’s accepted an offer from University of Newcastle to study music this year, with her heart set on studying piano technology and tuning in France in the not too distant future.

Hanu Barff as Amos in a performance of Chicago at the Armidale Showground in November 2018. Photo supplied

Hanu Barff as Amos in a performance of Chicago at the Armidale Showground in November 2018. Photo supplied

Sibilings Hanu and Mauatua moved to Armidale, where they have both excelled in their creative pursuits. Hanu is about to embark on the third year of his University of New England Bachelor of Theatre and Performance degree, where he has become a well-known face on the theatre department's playbills. 

He’s performed with the university's student choir, and headed up ‘The Three Tenors’ group who performed at the 2018 graduation ceremonies, as well as taking their show on tour. He’s starred in a number of theatre productions, most notably the university's production of The Admirable Crichton and has not long finished playing the role of Amos in a professional production of the musical Chicago.

Mauatua Barff and her awards after a very successful run at the Armidale Eisteddfod. Photo supplied

Mauatua Barff and her awards after a very successful run at the Armidale Eisteddfod. Photo supplied

Mauatua has continued to further her musical studies, playing double bass in her high school string group, as well as flute in another school music group. Last year she won the school's major music award, took out the Armidale Eisteddfod for vocal performance, and is a member of the New England Conservatorium's choir. She’s successfully auditioned for the Gondwana choirs for a second year in a row, and was selected to travel to London and Berlin with Gondwana Voices choir to sing with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in May 2019.

Liam Chester sang at the Gloucester VIEW Club's Christmas luncheon as part of his fundraising efforts for his 2019 overseas tour.

Liam Chester sang at the Gloucester VIEW Club's Christmas luncheon as part of his fundraising efforts for his 2019 overseas tour.

Liam Chester also completed his HSC exams last year, making the distinguished achievers list (band 6) for music and has set off on another overseas adventure with the West of the Divide choir. Among his long list of achievements since his first venture overseas (which were written about in the Gloucester Advocate recently), he was a featured artist in Capers in November 2017 and performed as part of a choir at the Sydney Opera House. His plan is to study a bachelor of Creative Industries specialising in sound/stage/lighting design.

The Gloucester Five would like to thank the generous and supportive Gloucester for helping kickstart their musical journeys.