How do you arrange a group of 70-80 amateur singers to consistently present classical music concerts of high quality?
Of course there’s all the hard work over typically 14-15 rehearsals leading up to each concert. We are fortunate that our conductor Carlos and accompanist Angela are both consummate professionals who draw the best out of us. We also benefit from many talented musicians in our ranks, as we can see when willing and able pianists step in if Angela is unavoidably absent. So there’s hard graft supported by professional leadership, but that’s just the start.
About this time we are already lining up soloists and orchestral musicians for our concert. Recent vocalists have ranked in the top soloists at the Sydney Eisteddfod. Our 2010 cellist was a finalist in the ABC young performer awards. Many of our orchestra play or have played with the Wollongong Symphony or Sydney Symphony orchestras These are all professionals with busy schedules and we need to book them early and provide each with the concert music – another job for our committee and librarian.
The venue has to be booked a year in advance, particularly for our December concert, which also falls in peak wedding season. So we aim to work out the concert schedule in the preceding September/October. The choir practice CDs have been produced and are selling fast. But there’s still concert flyers to produce, programmes to design & print, and advertising to be placed, as well as all the logistics for the night … supper, parking, ticket sales, the raffle, front of house organisation, flowers, stage management etc. The accumulated knowledge for this is passed down though succession in the committee – our choir DNA.
We are grateful for the volunteer support both within and outside the choir, without whom this could not happen – many of these (our graphic designer and website manager for instance) are professional people giving freely of their time and resources.
But whilst we rely on this help, we are at our core professional. With our venue, conductor, soloists and professional orchestra, each concert costs over $15,000 to stage, and that’s not counting the costs of all the rehearsals.
Our continual challenge is to break even financially, given that our ticket sales in no way cover the concert overhead. The choir and friends of the choir make up much of the difference, and our sponsors also help to plug the gap.
That way we can maintain a secure future and continue to bring high-quality classical concerts to the Sydney northern beaches.