About hlyth2013

I run websites for The Choral Grapevine (a regional newsletter for choirs in Western Victoria and South-Eastern South Australia) and Cycling Geelong (a recreational cycling group). I am an artist and photographer, musician and recreational cyclist.


Sunday, July 7th, 2pm, St Lukes Church Barrabool Road, Highton

If you’re anywhere nearby, come along and enjoy yourself singing the choruses from Handel’s most popular choral work.

For bookings contact Anne Pilgrim

Cost $15 – includes music hire and afternoon tea.

And if Geelong is too far away…  perhaps Port Fairy isn’t. 

The 38th Annual Port Fairy Messiah will be at St John’s Anglican Church Port Fairy on Saturday December 28th at 7.30pm.  Jeanette Hajncl will conduct the performance with orchestra, choir and professional soloists.  Come along and sing.  Bring your own score, or borrow one on the day.

This is very popular with holiday makers – especially those who sing in choirs.

Messiah trivia

Should one stand for the Hallelujia Chorus?

This tradition honours an story about the London premiere.  It is said that the king (George II) stood when the chorus began.  This prompted the audience to stand, as it was close to treason to stay seated if the monarch were standing.   However, there is no evidence that this is so, and, indeed, it is doubtful whether the king was even in attendance.

So, please yourself.  (As it’s at the end of a long second part, it may be an opportune time to stretch the legs.)

Messiah is not ‘set in concrete’. 

In Handel’s time there were re-writings for each of the first 13 performances, changing solos to suit the singers, and instrumentation to suit the available forces.  Handel wrote new solos for various performances to suit his soloists.  Mozart re-orchestrated the work for much larger ensemble, this edition becoming the standard for many years.  It is known that most of the solos were sung by various voices in Handel’s time.  Bernstein, in a performance in Carnegie Hall, re-ordered the sections.

Speedy composition

Without the aid of any of today’s technical short-cuts, and by daylight or lamp-light, Handel wrote the initial version in around 24 days.  There are 259 pages in this score!

Why an ‘out of town’ debut?

Operas were losing their charm with London audiences, so Handel tried his luck with  oratorio.  The first of these was Esther, a private commission.  In 1740 and 42 Handel did a season in Dublin at the request of the Duke of Devonshire. While Messiah  was not part of this series, the work received its initial performance on April 12th, 1842,  a charity performance, to an audience of 700 people.  The choir was 32 men and boys, with some of the solo work taken by the men of this group, as well as three female soloists.  The orchestra was strings, trumpets and timpani.

The first London performance was at Covent Garden on 23rd March, 1743.

Western District Choral Festival – Warrnambool: Saturday, June 22nd, 2019

St Joseph’s Catholic Church, Warrnambool

WDCF Compere John MacInnes

This year’s Western District Choral Festival was hosted by the Merri Singers of Warrnambool, and under the direction of Philip Shaw.  Twelve choirs from south-western Victoria and south-east South Australia attended. The compere for the event was John MacInnes.

After the event was opened by Councillor Michael Neoh, the first choir to perform was the host choir, The Merri Singers, under the direction of Jeanette Hajncl.  The accompanist was Merle Wines.


First the choir sang Back to Warrnambool, composed in the 1920s by R. Stoneham.  This song showed the group’s good blend in unison singing and excellent diction.  Verse two featured a baritone solo, reminiscent of the singing of John Brownlee.  The second song was Mangwani Mpulele, a Zulu song, sung in parts.


The Hamilton Singers performed A Musicological Journey Through the Twelve Days of Christmas, by Craig Courtney.  Only loosely based on the Christmas song, each verse features a different musical style and composer, beginning with unison men singing plain chant.  The piano enters to introduce 15th Century France (Josquin des Pres?), three french hens were a Palestrina motet, followed by a paraphrased Vivaldi Gloria introducing four calling birds. Beethoven heralded five gold rings, followed by six geese in Mozartian style.  Naturally, the swimming swans were introduced by a parody of Saint Sans The Swan. Wagner’s Valkyries shattered the tranquility as eight maids a-milking (complete with horned headgear). 

The nine ladies are dancing a Strauss waltz, of course.  The leaping lords galloped to Offenbach, while the pipers made a good job of sugar plum fairies (with subtly-dancing cross-dressing nymph).

Flamboyant and light-footed sugar plum fairy

Finally, all stops are pulled out in a rousing Sousa march featuring twelve drummers.  The most accomplished accompanist, playing all the orchestral and organ parts, was Celine Rogers, with the whole melded together by musical director, Beth Tonissen.  It’s clear that this crowd-pleasing piece will remain in Hamilton Singers’ repertoire for years to come.

TIN SHED SINGERS (Warrnambool)

Next was an all-men group – Tin Shed Singers (sometimes known as ‘the sheddies’).  This group was formed by Philip Shaw to give men the opportunity to sing together and give each other mutual friendship and support in a ‘non-pub’ setting.  After 13 years, this group is extremely accomplished.  Dressed in appropriate shed gear, the Sheddies presented four pieces – The Sheddie Mission Statement, Backs are Broke (a song about Koroit, written by sheddie T. de Kok and arranged by Jeanette Hajncl – whose attachment to the sheddies is via marriage), Sylvie and finally Anthem of Warrnambool by J. Lee.


Footprints the Choir are from Dunkeld.  This community group presented three songs, Just one Single Voice, Out Beyond Ideas and We Won’t Cry. Footprints are directed by Fran Coogen-Agar and accompanied by Ewan Cameron.

CANTORI (Warrnambool)

Cantori, a chamber choir from Warrnambool, under the direction of Jeanette Hajncl, has now been performing for ten years and are a most accomplished group of auditioned singers.  The choir showed their versatility with music spanning the 17th to 20th centuries – Sanctus by Clemens non papa, an arrangement of Amazing Grace featuring solos and wonderfully blended choral parts, and a delightful arrangement of Rubber Ducky from Sesame Street by J. Moss.


Cantori were then joined by many other singers from the assembled group, forming The Port Fairy Messiah Choiah Impromptu.  Off the cuff, the group sang Handel’s Hallelujah, conducted by Jeanette Hajncl, who has, for some years, been the musical director of this annual performance on 28th December.  Many singers, both local and holiday visitors, join an orchestra and professional soloists in this exciting work, always to a full house of appreciative music lovers.


The Portland Community Rockers, are a community group formed in 2015, directed by Rosie Collins from the guitar.  They sang Fields of Athenry and the Drifters hit Under the Boardwalk.


The name Khinkali comes from the Georgian word for ‘dumpling’.   This small group, directed by Philip Shaw, sang the Shaker song, Scour and Scrub, arranged for the group by Jeanette Hajncl, Banobbo, a traditional Georgian song, and Walk with Me by M. Shanahan.


Next was Apollo Bay Community Choir, a small and enthusiastic group, directed by Annabel Tellis Tunley.  This unaccompanied group sang four songs, Lean on Me, Peace White Dove, Zidele Amathambo and Video Killed the Radio Star.


The Millicent Choral Society were the sole South Australian representative at this years festival.  The choir was formed in 1974.  The current conductor is Michael Bleby.  Their songs were: We Gather Here Together (a 16th Century German madrigal), This Day of Joyful Pleasure by G Nanino, and A Joyful Madrigal by D. Moore.

THE RESONATORS (Warrnambool)

The Resonators are from Warrnambool.  Formed 10 years ago to sing gospel and African music, the group of nine singers sing without conductor of accompanist.  They sang with a sure sense of style and well-blended harmony.  The first song, Mahalia Jackson’s He Calmed the Ocean, featured a female solo.  The Resonators other pieces were Thandaza, an African Spiritual Song and Brother Done Been Here, an American Negro Slave Song.


Singers from all the choirs then gathered at the front of the church to sing two songs for massed singing with great verve, conducted once again by Festival Director Pihilip Shaw.  The first was Everything can Turn Around written, led and accompanied by Don Cowling.  This was followed by a Zulu hymn, Thurma Mina, arranged by Cath Mundy. This joint performance fittingly demonstrated the purpose of the WDCF – getting together to make music.

Many hours of work have gone into this most successful festival – from the director Philip and Merri Singers, and from all the groups represented.  Choirs who undertake to sing at the festival need to factor the date into their busy year of singing, and to work on festival songs as well as their other performance commitments.  For many, it is a long trip, and may mean organising accommodation.

Thanks to all the people involved in this most afternoon of fine music making and friendship.  Special thanks to the Merri Singers and Philip Shaw and Jeanette Hajncl for the many hours of work to ensure success.

After the music came the party – with afternoon tea for singers and audience, and discussions about where the festival might be held next year.  Watch this space….

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Thanks to Festival Director Philip Shaw for this video of the WDCF Massed Festival Chorus performance.



Baroque Bonanza – The Ballarat Choral Society

Welcome to our next exciting adventure in music

Ballarat Chamber Opera presents a sumptuous Baroque Bonanza with the participation of Ballarat Choral Society, renowned organist Calvin Bowman and a selection of outstanding soloists.

The program includes works by JS Bach, CPE Bach and Pachelbel, and there is a community workshop too!

Performance: Saturday 3 August, 3pm at the Anglican Cathedral Church of Christ the King
Conductor: Helen Duggan
Soloists: Alison Ho, Lyndal Allen, Christine Heald, Timothy Reynolds, Ollie Mann (some tbc)
Organist: Calvin Bowman

Community Workshop: Saturday 3 August, 10.30am to 11.30am – Calvin Bowman, Rick Chew (Federation University) and Christine Heald (Ballarat Chamber Opera) will teach participants Bach’s final chorale so they can participate in the afternoon’s performance.

Please mark this very special day in your calendar, and stay tuned for details on how to book.

Meanwhile, if you’re a singer…

Invitation to participate in this rare event

We’d love for you to perform the entire program with us, and we’re actively recruiting singers for Ballarat Choral Society – whether that’s welcoming back familiar faces, or welcoming brand new-to-us people.

If that’s you, fantastic! If not, please pass this invitation on to anyone whom you think might be interested.

Below you’ll find all the details – program, rehearsal material, dates and so on. Do please consider joining us, as it promises to be a most exciting and rewarding experience.

Magnificat – CPE Bach
Cantata 78 – JS Bach
Magnificat – Pachelbel

BCS Rehearsals
Every Wednesday night 7.45-10pm with a short tea break, at Ebenezer Hall (behind Ebenezer Church, 212 Armstrong Street South, Ballarat). If you’re new, simply turn up a few minutes early and we’ll organise music for you.

Joint rehearsals
In addition to regular BCS rehearsals, please note the following joint rehearsals, to be held at Anglican Cathedral Church of Christ the King (49 Lydiard St South, Ballarat):
20 July – possible joint rehearsal, to be confirmed
27 July – joint rehearsal 2-4pm (time tbc)
3 August – final joint rehearsal 12.30-2.30pm

Rehearsal Resources
Sheet music is provided for you to use and take home (if we have hired music, you’ll need to return it at the end otherwise you get to keep it – please check with our Music Librarian Deirdre Stewart when you pick yours up on arrival).

You will find audio practice tracks and pronunciation guides by clicking here. There are also rehearsal CDs available at practice, to support learning the music.

BCS subscriptions cover the cost of sheet music, rehearsal venue hire, as well as the excellent training and support of our Musical Director Helen Duggan, who is the concert conductor. Subs for this program are $60, and there is a one-off $10 joining fee for new members.

But we don’t expect you to pay at the door before coming in!

You’re welcome to come along to the rehearsal and see what you think, before making any commitments.

For more information contact The Ballarat Choral Society.

Symphony in a Day – Beethoven’s 9th: Friday 14th, 2019

Friday 14th 2019 was an auspicious day for music in Victoria.  It was Melbourne’s turn to rehearse and perform a symphony in a day with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.  Musicians of a high standard from community orchestras and choirs were invited to pass a rigorous vetting process to become part of this elite performance.  The whole performance was under the charismatic direction of Benjamin Northey, who is Chief Conductor of the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, and Associate Conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

At least three Geelong singers were among the guest choir members (from Geelong Chorale, Windfire Choir and Wondrous Merry).  The soloists were auditioned from the members the MSO Chorus, and we were delighted to see that Geelong resident soprano Emily Swanson was selected as the soprano soloist.  Emily performs with Windfire Chamber Choir and Vox Angelica and has extensive solo experience.  The other soloists were Carolyn Baker, mezzo-soprano, Asher Reichmann tenor and Robert Latham, bass.  Warren Trevelyan-Jones was chorus master.

The short program comprised only the last movement of Beethoven’s Choral Symphony (Symphony 9).   Prior to this, Ben Northey introduced a few of the guest members of the orchestra, some of whom had travelled from all over Victoria to play.  Of special note was that, as there is only one timpani part, a guest performer, Allison Summers, was selected to play this pivotal part.

It was a joyous occasion, with an audience made up largely of friends and family of the singers.  One father had travelled all the way from Mildura to hear his Ballarat-based daughter perform as a sessional player with the MSO clarinet line for the very first time.

Phones were flourished taking photos.  Audience members stood and waved to gain the attention of their friends.  Finally, the auditorium lights dimmed, and the orchestra tuned up.

Thunderous applause greeted the conductor’s entry and the arrival of the soloists.

This was a joyful performance.  The orchestra played with their usual impeccable style.  The choir sang with a rich tone and great precision, and excellent diction for the German text and with the excitement of singing this much loved work with a world-class orchestra and chorus.  The soloists all triumphed as they sang this taxing and intricate score.  The music builds from gentle beginning – with reprises of the themes from earlier movements, all of which were rejected by Beethoven before the cellos and basses quietly played the well-known “Ode to Joy” theme – arguably one of the greatest melodies ever written.  After initial development of this theme, the bass soloist heralds the choir’s entry, followed by the rest of the soloists.  One can imagine the shock of the first audience when hearing singers disrupting the conventional orchestral structure of the symphony, followed by their delight at the way the choir and soloists complete Beethoven’s transcendental masterpiece.

A screen behind the stage showed close ups of players and singers, an enhancement for the audience as so many of the performers are not easily visible to the audience.

The final chord had no time to die away before the audience’s thunderous applause, along with cat calls and foot stamping.

Congratulations to all performers, and especially those guest performers who can now tick ‘the Mighty 9th‘ off their bucket lists.

Last week musicians around New South Wales also had the chance to perform Beethoven’s 9th – at the Opera House with the SSO and Chorus.  This performance celebrated the choice by Australian listeners to ABC Classic FM of Beethoven as their favourite composer (this year’s Queen’s Birthday weekend classic countdown).

The Melbourne performance was at Hamer Hall.  The management took this opportunity to have an emergency drill to evacuate the Hall.  This was accomplished in an orderly manner and, hopefully, will enhance the safety of all who use this space.

Another chance to sing with the MSO – Handel’s Messiah

Singers from several Geelong choirs and who already know Handel’s Messiah have been invited to join with the MSO and MSO Chorus for a Geelong performance, on Friday 13th December.

Messiah is also the work chosen for the next in the Singing the Classics series – on Sunday, July 7th, at 2-5pm, at St Luke’s Uniting Church, Highton.  All welcome – but bookings essential.  Contact Anne Pilgrim if you are interested.


Windfire Music Festival 2019

All Saints Church, Newtown

Conductor:  Mark O’Leary – Assistant Conductor:  Juliana Kay

Exaudi is a choir of experienced young singers.  The choir performs a wide range of music, with a focus on modern compositions and arrangements.

This was an outstanding concert – enhanced by the excellent acoustics of another of Geelong’s historic churches, All Saints, Newtown.

The first two pieces were by Australian Stephen Leek.  The first, Kondallila, evokes the sounds of Kondalilla Falls in the Queensland Sunshine Coast hinterland.  It features the use of sibilants and other unvoiced sounds, voiced and whistled birdsong, as well as overtones producing an eerie effect (later also evoked in Exaudi’s arrangement of Waltzing Matilda).  The singers began the concert surrounding the audience, before moving up to the area in front of the chancel.

Two Norwegian folk song arrangements followed, in modern arrangements by Frank Harvey and Gunnar Erikson.  Next was Northern Lights by Ola Gjello, then two more songs about light –  Lux Aurumque by Eric Whitaker and Lux Aeterna (an arrangement for choir of Elgar’s Nimrod by John Cameron).  The first of these, which translates as ‘golden light’ featured a high soprano solo part, gloriously sung in this performance.

A song about writer’s block followed – Mrionczarnia by Polish composer Jakub Neske.  Stuttering nonsense syllables give a feeling of discomfort – the writer unable to put pen to paper.  As the block continues, a high soprano solo evokes a sense of calm, before the nonsense chant continues.  The piece concludes with a collective sigh. (Video below recorded in 2018)

The first part of the concert ended with Canticum Novum by Swiss composer Ivo Antognini – a piece that is rightly becoming a popular choice by fine choirs like Exaudi.

Bach (again) arranged by Rhonda Sandberg from the Bach chorale Come Sweet Death.  After singing the chorale in Bach’s original harmony, the music fragments.  Minimal hand movements from the choir enhanced this performance.  Another hymn followed – a modern arrangement of All Creatures of our God and King by Anders Edenroth.

I am a fish – composed and conducted by Assistant Conductor Juliana Kay was next – a world premiere at this concert.  I’m sure we’ll hear much more music by Juliana Kay in the future.

Three folk songs completed the concert, in modern settings.  The first was Loch Lomond, featuring a fine tenor solo.  In places the tempo quickened and a fast marching rhythm was evoked.  The second was Exaudi’s wonderful setting of Waltzing Matilda by Ruth McCall.  This includes echoes of both the traditional tunes, It begins with a chant in traditional Noonga language from Western Australia, before introducing a new tune which reenters throughout the work.  It also features overtones.

The final song was an arrangement of The Parting Glass by Juliana Kay.  Arguably of Irish origin, The Parting Glass was considered the most popular song of parting until Robert Burns wrote Auld Land Syne.  A parting glass is a final tipple given to a traveller as he sets off on his journey.  There was no parting glass given to these fine singers, but the accolades by the large and appreciative audience hopefully made up a for this.

This was an magnificent afternoon of music-making.  The choir or around 50 voices sang faultlessly, with clear diction and perfectly tuned chords.  The program was carefully crafted to give continuity and contrast.

Exaudi’s next concert is a Picture Book Concert with Malcolm Dalglish  (7:30PM, James Tatoulis Auditorium, MLC, Tickets).  After this the choir will be touring in Scotland and Ireland.  For more details visit Exaudi.

More videos of Exaudi can be seen on You Tube.


The final closing concert of the Windfire Festival is on Sunday, May 26th, at 3pm, at St Mary’s Basilica, Yarra Street, Geelong.  It features a massed choir and Orchestra Geelong conducted by Tom Healey, performing Nicholas Buc’s Festival Mass and two choruses from Messiah, as well as the Sonus Wind Ensemble, and Sally Wilson, soprano.

Tickets at the door.

VOCAL WORKSHOP – Geelong Harmony Chorus

Geelong Harmony Chorus were in excellent form, after a triumphant return to Geelong last weekend from the Sweet Adelines Australia last week in Hobart.  The group, numbering only 33 dedicated singers, were placed 5th overall, and were the popular favourite.

Today’s workshop was conducted by Michelle Stowe – Geelong Harmony’s Assistant Director.

Michelle outlined the history of barbershop, and the philosophy that now has groups of people of all ages from around the world, singing this style of close harmony.  The chorus then sang one of their competition songs from last week’s convention – titled Good Enough for NowIt certainly was!

Women’s barbershop uses the same terminology for vocal parts as the original (male) barbershop.  Thus singers are, from lowest voices to highest, basses, baritones, leads (singing the melody) and tenors, with the basses and baritones singing an octave above the written pitch, and leads at tenors singing in the soprano range.

Michelle led the group of more that 50 workshop attendees warmed up with a couple of techniques, including ‘bubbling’ – singing ‘brrr’ at various pitches.  Michelle explained that this helps singers focus their voices correctly.  The aim is to produce a direct tone, without vibrato, and to sing whole phrases legato and seamlessly.

The members of Geelong Harmony then supported the group to learn the four parts of a simple barbershop song – Since You Went Away.  In barbershop performance, which is a cappella, the singers get their notes from the key note only, and do not rely on the tempered pitch of a keyboard.  This helps the chords ring and fosters the production of overtones.  For today’s workshop, some participants chose to step outside their comfort zone.  There were sopranos singing bass, and at least one bass singing the tenor part (equivalent to first soprano).

Before the two hours were over, the whole group managed to produce a quite creditable attempt at Since You Went Away in four part close harmony.

Geelong Harmony rarely perform at public concerts.  However, they are in demand for Citizenship Ceremonies at City Hall, and can be seen carolling in Market Square each Christmas.  As well as performing with the larger ensemble, a number of members take part in barbershop quartets, two of whom also performed at the recent Hobart Convention.  There are 32 Sweet Adeline choruses around Australia.

Geelong Harmony Chorus is always on the lookout for new members.  Singers need to be able to sing in tune, blend with other voices, hold a voice part and learn to sing their music without sheet music and, most of all enjoy having fun and making music with a group of like-minded women.

Rehearsals are held each Monday evening at 6.45pm at Douglas Street Uniting Church in Manifold Heights.  For more information phone 0406 666 737 or contact the Membership Manager.


The final concert in the Windfire Festival is the Celebration Festival Closing Concert, at 3pm on Sunday 26th May at The Basilica of St Mary of the Angels, Yarra Street Geelong.  It features a massed choir, Orchestra Geelong, Sally Wilson – soprano. Sonus Wind Quintet and Frank De Rosso – organ.  Tickets are available at the door or at Trybooking.