It’s that time of year

It’s that time of year again.  The purple haze of the jacarandas is becoming gradually less intense as the blooms fade and fall; the lorikeets are wheezing asthmatically as they get together for another round of procreation; the sounds and smells of summer barbecues saturate the evening air.  And for Choir members, another season of singing is over.  Over the next few weeks, our families will be able to enjoy our company on Thursday evenings, rather than just sitting watching TV while we are rehearsing at CPPS.  Anne says she is particularly looking forward to that as Thursday night’s schedules are the worst of the week – she wonders if this is a conspiracy on the part of the networks!

And we Choir members can also justifiably bask in the afterglow of another year’s series of enjoyable and successful concerts.

This last pair of concerts seemed to go rather well, coming as a great relief after the last few rehearsals, which had been not a little fractious.

The Sunday performance in particular was fabulous, with everyone immersed in the music, singing confidently and fluently.  We should not have been surprised that the audience responded with very generous applause and some most complimentary comments over drinks and nibbles on the terrace afterwards.

My favourite comment came from one of  the new members of the orchestra.  I overheard her say to someone else, “What a great afternoon!  I had no idea that community choirs could sing as well as this!”

It’s a great feeling to have been part of it all.  Like most Choir members, I can’t wait for it all to start again next year.

We’ve got a luverly bunch of soloists

I do not know what it was that reminded me of the original song about coconuts last night at rehearsal, but at the end of the soloists’ rehearsal the phrase just came to mind.  They had sung beautifully individually, and, what is more, had blended extraordinarily well when singing together, which is not an easy task for four singers coming together for the first time.  Anita, Naomi, Ryan and Hayden are a great combination.

We in the Choir  think we have some difficult runs to sing in the Magnificat, but they are nothing as compared to what Bach asks of the soloists. Every solo piece – well this is Bach – has long, angular runs, often with little opportunity to take a breath. Perhaps the most notable examples are those in Deposuit potentes, which are not only tricky but also sung at great speed, as demonstrated so ably by Ryan O’Donnell.  And to think that we have the delightful Anna Yun to add to the mix next week!  What a line-up!

And we did not give too bad an account of ourselves in the Choir, certainly with the Bach Magnificat and the Handel Coronation Anthems.  The carols could certainly do with some polishing, but no doubt with some revision at home and two rehearsals next week, will be up to scratch on the night.

The audiences will be in for a real treat next weekend.  And we in the Choir should enjoy ourselves too!


Sydney Sings the Verdi Requiem

Last Sunday afternoon, ten members of MW Choir joined the Sydney University Graduate Choir in Sydney Town Hall to sing Verdi’s Requiem, a dramatic work inspired by the death of Verdi’s great friend, the author Manzoni.  Julie Drury and I happened to meet up in the audience and thoroughly enjoyed an excellent performance.  As we reflected later in the week,  it was not a performance where you come out on a euphoric high, but one where, as you reflected on it later, you realised just how good it had been.  Julie commented that going into the shops after hearing such a beautiful and profoundly moving work, seemed utterly banal.

As listeners, we were struck not just by the imposing Dies Irae and other loud sections, but more particularly by the control and clarity of the very quiet choral singing at the start and end of the piece.  We also felt that the soloists, who play a major part in the central sections, were well matched, and liked the way in which the soprano used just sufficient  body movement and facial expression to colour the mood of the words.

I wondered whether the MWC choristers might like to record their own feelings about the experience as the basis for this week’s blog, and contacted them by email, expecting perhaps two or three replies.  There were eight.  (That’s a second 80% turn-out this week.)  Some were powerfully succinct, others were more expansive, but all are really interesting.  It was clear that it had been a truly memorable experience.

Common themes were the thrill of singing in the Town Hall; the sheer joy of being enveloped in a great drama of joy, sorrow, anger and pleadings; sharing the experience with friends and colleagues from MWC and the wider choir; the eager anticipation at the start of each day and the sense of exhaustion at the end; appreciation of the privilege of singing a great work with a group of dedicated and committed musicians.

It is impossible to distil all the thoughts into a few paragraphs in the blog.  So, if you have a few moments to spare, click here to read everyone’s comments. It’s well worthwhile.  They make for fascinating reading.



Carlos on fire

We nearly had to call the Fire Service to attend last night’s rehearsal.  Carlos was on fire.  What he had been doing for the rest of the day I do not know.  But by the evening he was well and truly ignited, fired with a passion for the music we are singing and fired by the vision of the performance he wants us to give in a few weeks’ time.

And when Carlos is on fire, he lights up all and sundry around him.  Nobody was spared.  All voices were put through the mill; our pitch, rhythm and intonation thoroughly assessed and, wherever necessary, corrected.

Never content with just notes, Carlos instilled in us the sense of the music; where to sing gently, and where to sing with strength; how to add colour and texture to reflect the conjunction of music and words; all the time projecting the true character of the music as if there were an audience somewhere in that crowded room.

By the end of the evening, our performance of those two key sections of The King Shall Rejoice was cemented in our musical consciousness.

I reflected as I drove home, with Thou hast prevented him and Allelujah still rushing around in my mind, that it’s at times like this that we should be very thankful to have such a great man as Carlos as our conductor.  It cannot be said too many times: we are extremely privileged to work with a consummate musician who not only understands all the intricacies of the music but also is ready to freely share his own innate musicianship with us.

We can look forward to a few more rehearsals in the same vein, as Carlos refines and polishes the rest of the music for the concert.

And we can look forward to two fabulous performances.  With a little more effort, we should sell all the tickets and sing to two capacity audiences, who will no doubt be thrilled with what they hear.


Thank you, SSO

As I sat down at the computer to start composing this week’s blog, I did not have an idea what to write about.  It is one of those days when the mind is blank – not that it should be, as we have done a fair few things this week, all of them memorable and interesting in their own way.

For example, Sculpture by the Sea was an enjoyable walk over the cliffs in sunny but not too warm weather, followed by a delicious lunch with stunning views over Coogee beach.

Then the Con Choir and Orchestra played a wonderful programme last weekend, including Mozart’s Great C Minor Mass, before which Ryan O’Donnell sang On Wenlock Edge by Vaughan Williams, evoking fond memories of a beautiful part of England which I used to cycle around in my teens.

So, bereft of ideas, I wandered into YouTube, to check out the links of the carols from last week’s blog, and, suddenly, something happened.  One of those infuriating adverts came up, interrupting the mental flow.  My initial temptation, as always, was to switch it off as soon as possible, but the strains of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries were so arresting that I stuck with it.  It was delightful!

It is an ad for the 2018 Season of the Sydney Symphony.  It is very imaginative, very creative and has a few surprises in store.  Click here to watch it – it only lasts just over a minute – less time than it takes to sing Omnes generationes from Bach’s Magnificat.  It would be intriguing to see what the panelists on Gruen might make of its appeal to all sorts and conditions of people.

So – many thanks to the SSO for giving me something to write about this week.  I do hope you enjoy watching the ad as much as I did.

PS.  Quite a number of our members are rehearsing this weekend for a performance of Verdi’s Requiem next weekend at Sydney Town Hall.  It is a huge work, extremely demanding but immensely satisfying to sing.  Good luck to them and their fellow choristers.   If you can, do go to the performance next Sunday afternoon – details on our NoticeBoard page.