Two Sunday afternoons in Canberra

Carolynn Everett writes this week about two contrasting Sundays in Canberra.

Last November during a visit to Canberra we attended a delightful Sunday afternoon concert at the High Court Building on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin. There is a regular program of such concerts, (which are free, but which must be booked online): you can find all the details at

This monumental concrete and glass building, which was opened in 1980, has a very large foyer which is several stories high. Those hard surfaces make for a rather remarkable acoustic, and so singing there is a unique experience.

This concert was given by The Llewellyn Choir, which is based at the ANU School of Music. The choir has a similar number of singers to MWC, and grey hair pre-dominated! The dress code seemed to be ‘full black’ for everyone, including the optional (black) ties for the gentlemen.
Interestingly, their repertoire seems to be similar to ours: recent concerts have included Ariel Ramirez’s ‘Missa Criolla’, the Brahms ‘German Requiem’, and Karl Jenkin’s ’The Armed Man’.

Their Music Director, Rowan Harvey-Martin, is a highly qualified and very experienced young woman, who is also a violinist. Anthony Smith is the choir’s repetiteur: as well as being a remarkable pianist, he is also a musicologist, composer, and arranger. They are a formidable team!

The concert included Berlioz’s ‘Shepherd’s Farewell to the Holy Family’, (from ‘L’enfance du Christ’), songs from Argentinian composers Carlos Guavastino and Astor Piazzolla, and excerpts from Will Todd’s ‘Mass in Blue’, written in 2003. This was an excellent program, and the choir sang with great enthusiasm, while obviously enjoying themselves.

Earlier this year the choir were to travel to Spain, where they were to present concerts in Madrid, Salamanca, Cordoba and Barcelona. What an adventure!

And at the end of the concert, after much applause, the choir members were busily packing up, including clearing away several hundred chairs … all part of the joys of community choirs! Next time you are in Canberra … 

Footnote: And the second Sunday afternoon …? Back in the early 1990’s I visited Canberra with a Sydney choir which numbered around 30, and we had the privilege of presenting a concert in this magnificent building during the weekend.

This was not a formal concert – there was no seating for the audience, and so visitors came and went as they explored the building. There was no piano, so we provided our own keyboard. However, we thoroughly enjoyed singing there, and counted it a real privilege to have had the opportunity to perform in such a space, with its remarkable acoustic.