By Emilie Ng
PIANO lessons are not compulsory in the Webb family, but according to mum Fiona, go without them and life would be “a bit boring”.
Fortunately for Mrs Webb and her husband Paul, boredom is not an issue at home since all 12 of their children are committed to perfecting skills on the piano and at least one other instrument.
Some, like eldest daughter Nancy, 18, branched out to violin and the harp, others, like fourth boy Peter, have begun training on the piano accordion to impress their nursing home fans.
Even the youngest, Brigid, turning three this year, has already picked up the violin in the hope she might join the family ensemble.
“It certainly is good for the family as far as the children get better with each instrument,” Mrs Webb said.
“They can work together, and enjoy each other’s company, rather than going off and doing something different.”
But David, Liam, Nancy, Nathan, Peter, Isaac, James, Rebecca, Thomas, Owen, Xavier and Brigid don’t just play music for themselves.
The children began sharing their music with small audiences under the guise, Webb Family Music.
“It started with just little lounge-room concerts,” Nancy said.
“There were some elderly ladies at the parish who were going to be spending Christmas by themselves, and we thought we’d invited them over and play some music for them.
“So for Christmas, two or three of them came over.”
These days, 130 people cram into the Webb family’s lounge room for two days’ worth of Christmas cheer.
Outside of the holiday seasons, the Webb family also plays for residents at their local nursing homes and retirement villages, just to see them smile.
The family also plays music at Mass, inspired by the compositions set for the Sydney World Youth Day in 2008, which they attended together.
“The purpose of music is to bring harmony, order and beauty into the world,” Nancy said.
“People need to see beautiful things and hear beautiful things, you know whether they like the pop-style music, bring some beauty into that, or they’re coming to Mass and they need to see the beauty of God in the Mass, then we try and help them with that as well.”
“So if we can do a bit of that in whatever situation we’re in, then I suppose that’s a good thing.”
Their most watched video is a version of Csárdás, a Hungarian-folk-inspired composition by Vittorio Monti.
It has clocked more than 131,000 views since its release early last year.
Among classical pieces and traditional hymns, the family has also composed their own arrangements for songs by Katy Perry, music from The Lord of the Rings and even Taylor Swift.
Nancy is the star of each video, and said YouTubers The Piano Guys and Lindsey Stirling, whose YouTube videos “lift people up and inspires them to seek a greater good”, inspired them to make their own family videos.
“We thought we’d try and do that as well with our limited capabilities and we’ve built on that over the years,” Nancy said.
What began as recordings in tracksuits using one camera propped up on a tripod has now turned into a full day’s production, complete with separate audio recording sessions and on-location filming.
Almost 500,000 people have viewed the Webb Family Music’s YouTube channel since it began five years ago.
Second eldest Liam, who is starting a film degree in Brisbane this year, said when he began learning music with his siblings 15 years ago, he never dreamed of having an international audience.
“I wouldn’t think that 15 years down the track we’d be running a YouTube channel with nearly 500,000 views,” Liam said.
“Now I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
“When I’m back home we all figure out what we’re going to record next.”
While it’s sometimes unbearable to listen repeatedly to his own music, Liam said one comment on the video for the family’s rendition of traditional hymn Be Thou My Vision made it worthwhile.
“An older man from the US commented saying that the video had really helped him,” he said.
“He said his wife past away from a stroke and he listened to the video all day and that really helped him cope with it.
“It makes everything we’ve done in the past five years, even if it’s helped that one person, that makes everything worth any of the 50 listenings of that piece.”