National Youth Choir of Australia: Thursday, July 6th, 2018

Basilica of St Mary of the Angels, Yarra Street, Geelong

A Music at the Basilica presentation.

Take 28 of Australia’s best singers between the ages of 18 and 26.  Bring them together for a few days as a chamber choir.  The result was on show at the National Youth Choir of Australia‘s concert at the Basilica of St Mary of the Angels on July 5th

Despite only a short time rehearsing together, Noel Ancell OAM, Director of the AYCA produced an outstanding program of challenging and varied sacred choral music.  The blend was impeccable; technique never in doubt; musicianship and style faultless. 

The program began with Swiss composer Ivo Antognini’s 2015 Canticum Novum.

This was followed by the world premiere of young Sydney composer William Yaxley’s Mass for Seven Voices.  This is a magical work.  Each movement evokes its own mood.   Examples of this are the stillness of Sanctus, with its rhythmic whispered ‘Pleni sunt coeli’ and upward glissandos, and the contrasting  rhythmic Benedictus sung by the lower parts.  The audience were forewarned that the music might appear ‘strange’, especially  the in the final Agnus Dei, where soprano and alto are in one key and tenor and bass another.  This movement was largely antiphonal, with a final satisfying resolution.

The NYCA then presented a spirited performance of Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden, by J.S. Bach.  There was a joy to this performance – a lightness and deftness evocative of a dance.

Benjamin Britten’s A.M.D.G (Ad maiorem Dei Goriam), composed in 1939, followed – a challenging setting of 7 poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins, not published or performed in Britten’s lifetime.

Despite the few days of rehearsal time, members of the choir have also formed some small groups to perform motets and madrigals.  The Geelong performance included a six-part motet by Carlo Gesualdo composed for Holy Saturday. 

The program concluded with a moving performance of Timor et Tremor, one of Francis Poulencs Quatre Motets our un Temps de Penitence.

After warm applause from the small but appreciative audience, an encore, Lux Aeterna – a choral setting of Edward Elgar’s Nimrod ended this beautiful concert. 

There is still time to hear this outstanding group, before they disband to all corners of Australia.  There are performances in Bendigo on 6th July, Flinders on the Mornington Peninsula on July 7th at 11am, and Melbourne (Carlton) at 7.30 on Saturday July 7th

There was a notable absence of Geelong district choristers at the Geelong performance.   Where were you?

For a taste of what you missed watch the NYCA performance of Canticum Novum by Ivo Antoghini, performed in Brisbane in 2017.






Western District Choral Festival 2018: Review

Colin Mockett, entertainer and writer extraordinaire, has written a review of the 2018 WDCF at Geelong Grammar’s SPACE.

Read Colin’s review here.

Colin Mockett as billionaire philanthropist Sir Richard Cranberry, before the opening of the Superfictional “Cate@The Smelter” Centre for Art and Technology Experimentation at the old Alcoa Smelter, Point Henry, Geelong, in 2012.

Western District Choral Festival 2018: Sunday, June 17th, 2018

The Space, Geelong Grammar School

Festival hosts – The Geelong Chorale

Today’s festival was a celebration of song and the joy that people obtain from singing together in groups.  Fourteen choirs participated in an afternoon of fine music making and friendship.  It was a chance for choirs to perform at their best.  They did not disappoint.

The program began with the host choir, The Geelong Chorale, and was introduced by John Stubbings OAM, who acted as MC throughout the afternoon.

The music ranged from a 16th century madrigal, to folk songs from around the world, through popular songs, songs from musical theatre and old favourites.  Even opera had its place, with a delightful rendition of ‘Painless Opera’ by Phyllis Wolfe-White by the Geelong Youth Choir.  The smallest group was 8 voices (The Geelong Youth Chamber Choir), the largest around 40 voices (The Geelong Chorale).  There were youth choirs, mixed choirs, a female choir (Welsh Ladies Choir), and a male choir (International Harvester Choir).  The youngest singers were of primary school age, and the oldest at least 90.

As Geelong is at the eastern end of the WDCF region, many choirs came from the Geelong area.  The two groups from further afield, Colac Chorale and Apollo Bay Community Choir were warmly welcomed and greatly enhanced the afternoon’s singing.

The afternoon ended with all singers merging onto the stage for a massed choir performance of “Africa”, conducted by Jodie Townsend, Director of Music at Geelong Grammar School.

It is interesting to note that The International Harvester Male Chorus (formed in 1943) may be the oldest continuously performing choir in Australia in its current form.  Raise the Bar, the adult section of The Geelong Youth Choir will be the featured choir for a forthcoming performance of “The Events” at GPAC.  Geelong Harmony Chorus are fresh from a very successful Sweet Adelines Convention in Hobart, where they were placed fourth overall, and third in their section.

At the close of the Festival, Frank Sykes, Vice-President of The Geelong Chorale, handed over the Festival to The Merri Singers from Warrnambool who will host the festival in 2019.

Participating Choirs:  The Geelong Chorale, Colac Chorale, Wondrous Merry, Apollo Bay Community Choir, Geelong Youth Choir, Raise the Bar Vocal Group, Geelong Harmony Chorus, Welsh Ladies Choir, International Harvester Choir, Sing Australia, Geelong, Vox Box, U3A Geelong Choir, Geelong College Community Choir, The Choir of Geelong Grammar School.

Thanks to The Geelong Chorale, especially their hard working committee, and secretary Angela West, Geelong Grammar School and Jodie Townsend, for accommodating the festival in the excellent performing arts space and all participating choirs and their conductors and accompanists.  Thanks also to City of Greater Geelong for their support.

Download a copy of the Western District Choral Festival 2018 program here.


Geelong Harmony Chorus croons into fourth place in national titles

Geelong Harmony comes fourth in national competition

Geelong Harmony has returned home from the Sweet Adelines Australia national a cappella competition in Hobart on 19 May with medals for fourth place in a field of 23, and third place in the medium chorus division of 13.

The chorus received a total score of 592 points from four International judges in categories of sound, expression, music, and showmanship.

‘We are excited and proud to have received our highest score ever, and to make an improvement of 39 points on our score at last year’s competition’ said Musical Director Alex Morris.

‘Our 35 singers gave heartfelt, energetic and entertaining performances of our two contest songs, winning us a well-deserved spot among Australia’s top five choruses for 2018.  This is an amazing feat for us, placing us well ahead of several larger choruses.’

The top five place getters performed in a special showcase on Saturday night at Wrest Point, with Geelong Harmony singing Alex Morris’ four-part arrangement of ‘Constant Craving’ by K. D. Lang.

You can catch Geelong Harmony perform their contest package on17 June as part of the Western District Choral Festival at the SPACE, Geelong Grammar, 2-5.00pm. Tickets are $10, including afternoon tea.

The Geelong Harmony a cappella women’s chorus rehearses every Monday night at the Western Heights Uniting Church Hall, 31 Douglass Street, Herne Hill, 6.45 to 10.00pm. New members are welcome. For more information visit, call the Membership Manager on 0406 666 737, or email

Some photos from Sneak Peek a couple of weeks ago.

Three barbershop quartets

Music of the Americas – Vox Angelica: Sunday, 14th May, 2018


St Paul’s Anglican Church, Geelong

One could not imagine a more fitting final concert for the 10TH Annual WINDFIRE FESTIVAL OF MUSIC IN GEELONG’S HISTORIC CHURCHES  than a performance by Geelong’s premier chamber choir, Vox Angelica.  Tom Healey, director and founder of Vox Angelica selected a program of music from the Americas, ranging from the 17th century to the 21st.

Tom Healey, Director, Vox Angelica

Throughout the program the choir showed good blend, faultless diction, and the ability to tackle highly complex counterpoint and luscious modern harmonies with equal skill.  The acoustic in St Paul’s Church is superb for vocal music – allowing for the fullest of texture and the quietest pianissimo.

From the first, it was clear that this was to be an extraordinary concert.  There was much rarely heard music, ranging from three Baroque pieces from Mexico, Peru and South Carolina through the centuries to contemporary music.  At the 17th century, most composers in the Americas were immigrants.

Resuenen los Clarines (May the trumpets sound),  by Manuel de Zumaya, dates from 17th century Mexico.  This antiphonal piece for two four part choirs, was challenging – with a fine interplay of sections between the two choruses.

Recordad Silguerillos (Remember, Little Goldfinches), by Juan de Araujo, a Spanish immigrant to Peru, for two sopranos, descant recorder and organ, was performed by Emily Swanson and Helen Seymour (sopranos), Jan Lavelle (recorder) and Frank De Rosso (organ).  The piece is a love song, with interwoven voice parts.   This was an admirable performance, enhanced by the wonderful acoustic of St Paul’s Church.

The third piece was a setting of Magnificat from Theodore Pachelbel.  Pachelbel, an immigrant to South Carolina, was the son of more famous Johan Pachelbel.  This setting was for double choir.

During the concert, Tom Healey played two contrasting pieces on the organ.  The first, a gentle 18th century Offerterio by Domenico Zipoli, an Italian migrant to Argentina, showed off the organ’s reedy stops with only one sustained one pedal note.  The second work, Toccata (from Suite) by Canadian composer, Thomas Bédard, was spectacular and used the full power of the organ, and showed off Healey’s phenomenal technique.

Lament Over Boston, a re-imagining of Psalm 137 with a new world focus, by William Billings, laments the unrest in the city in the late 18th century, with the approaching revolution against British rule.  In  English, it demonstrated the choir’s excellent diction and blend, and also Billings’ skilled word painting.  A part-song  in a lighter vein followed – 19th century romantic composer Edward MacDowell’s Barcarole.

Two of the USA’s most famous composers of the twentieth century were next – with Aaron Copeland’s At the River for men’s choir and piano, and Randall Thompson’s Come In for women’s choir, piano and flute.  In this setting of a poem by Robert Frost, the flute interludes mimic birdsong.   After a climax from full voiced choir, the music ebbs to an exquisite and moving  pianissimo, before the birdsong dies away to a final  thrush-like chirrup. The flautist in this performance was Brighid Mantelli.

Brighid Mantelli

Argentina’s Astor Piazzola is famous for his tangos.  The final piece before interval was an energetic  setting of Libertango, full of tango rhythms from the lower voices and piano, and finishing with a stunning fortissimo climax.

Twentieth and twenty-first century music from North America comprised the second half of the program.  It included spirituals like My Lord, What a Morning, arranged by HT Burleigh, and sung with a warm a cappella.  The subterranean bass note in the final extended pianissimo chord reverberated hauntingly.

Canada was represented with works by two contemporary female composers .  The first was the beautiful moving In Remembrance for a cappella choir, from Eleanor Daley’s Requiem.  The second work was an exquisite setting of Hear My Prayer (Psalm 103) by Stephanie Martin.

Thomas A Dorsey’s gospel song Precious Lord, begins in a traditional style, before relaxing into a heavy jazz-rock with men singing the tune, and the choir’s women singing in harmony above, with a virtuosic jazz piano accompaniment, played with great flare by the choir’s accompanist, Sonoka Miyake.

The final piece was another spiritual Let the Light Shine on Me, arranged by Moses Hogan.

Congratulations to Vox Angelica and Music at the Basilica, under the musical directorship of Frank De Rosso, for presenting this celebration of beautiful music.






Yarra Gospel Choir: Sunday May 12th, 2018

St Lukes Uniting Church, Highton

Yarra Gospel Choir performing at Windfire Music Festival

Yarra Gospel is an exuberant community choir, based in Hawthorn.  They entertained an appreciative audience on this cold, wet afternoon in Geelong.

From the first item, it was clear that this is a group who just love to sing together.  The sound is well balanced, with some lovely gospel harmonies.  The first piece, Bye and Bye, featured talented soloist, Elan, who at various times in the program showed an equal talent in blues, jazz and gospel style, and the ability to improvise.

The choir is led by a team of three musicians, director and founder, Yvonne Giltinam, and Assistant Conductors and Accompanists, Kareene Deppeler and Luke Speedy-Hutton.

While firmly in the gospel tradition, the program included both traditional and modern songs, with a range of percussion instruments – and audience participation in with claps, click and foot-tapping.

Keep on Travelin’ Soldier is a modern gospel song by Rollo Dilworth.  It starts with the sounds of feet marching, then unison whispering, then the choir in harmony, building to a climax with soprano solo obligato (sung by Elan) and finally dying away with whispering and marching feet.  This was a moving and satisfying performance.



Although some members of Yarra Gospel read music, the choir learn their repertoire by rote.  The audience was given a taste of this, when, infiltrated by choir members, they quickly learned and ‘performed’ Just about to make it over, in three part harmony.  This item began the second half of the concert.

Steady my trembulin’ soul was one of several songs on the theme of ‘going to heaven’.  This song featured baritone soloist Steve, in a style reminiscent of Elvis’s early days in gospel choirs.

The final song, Peace in the Valley, also the concert title, was a fitting gentle song to complete this most enjoyable concert.

Tom Healey, President of Music at the Basilica Committee of Management thanked the choir, commenting on their warmth and vibrant singing.

Tom Healey congratulates and thanks Yarra Valley Choir

The final concert in the 10th Annual Windfire Festival of Music in Geelong’s Historic Churches is on Sunday, 13th May at 3pm at St Paul’s Anglican Church, La Trobe Terrace, Geelong.  Presented by Vox Angelica, under the direction of Tom Healey, is titled Music of the Americas.

Sneak Peek – Geelong Harmony Chorus: Monday, May 7th, 2018

Western Heights Uniting Church

Once again this accomplished women’s barbershop choir presented a preview of their items for the annual Sweet Adeline’s Convention and Regional Competition.  This year’s  event is to be held in Hobart from 17-20 May.  As usual there was a packed house of followers, families and other music lovers.

Geelong Harmony is conducted by Alex Morris, a multi-talented musical dynamo, who introduced the choir under ‘competition conditions’ as if he were MC at the convention.

From the appearance of the first singers this group showed their professionalism, ascending the choir risers with relaxed precision.  The music began with one note – tuning from an electronic A, a la orchestra!  Then the chorus launched into the first of their two competition pieces At Last My Love has come Along and Looking at the World Through Rose Coloured GlassesThe choir not only sounds wonderful, but is also a visual treat.  All eyes focus (adoringly) on musical director Alex, with gestures facial expressions reflecting the emotional impact of the music.  The blend is impeccable, harmony precise, and diction clear.  The ebb and flow of tempo in the first song was faultless.  Dynamics ranged from very soft to full fortissimo, without any loss of vocal tone.  However, it’s the overwhelming joy in singing and sense of togetherness and warmth that is the overriding impression of this fine group.

At the start of Rose Coloured Glasses, two singers wooed Alex with bouquets of spangled red roses.  By the end of the piece, every singer sported either a large sparkly red rosette or was holding a shimmering red bloom.  Not to be outdone, Alex Morris now sported a rose-emblazoned waist coat!

After thunderous applause, and a pause for a publicity photo and raffle draw, the concert resumed with quartets.  Three Geelong Harmony quartets will be competing at Hobart this year.  Two were represented in the Sneak Peek concert, as well as a mixed quartet – giving Alex Morris the chance to show off his vocal abilities as lead.  This quartet, called Around the Blend, comprises two members of Geelong Harmony, Alex, and the husband of one of the chorus – and had come second in a barbershop competition last year.  They presented If Ever I Would Leave You (from Camelot), and I Got Rhythm

Only two of the women’s quartets were available to perform at Sneak Peek.  The first was Push Play who sang Are You Lonesome Tonight and Back in the Old Routine with precision and lots of humour – and a surprise tap dance at the end from one talented member.  This was followed by Something Else, who, attired in long black frocks and sporting identical ‘diamond’ necklaces, sang Who’s Fifty Now – a riotous song with lots of theatrical interplay.  The second piece I Won’t Care… if You Love Me showed a fine togetherness and some beautiful singing from the top voice – with an exquisitely controlled extended long high note in the final chord.

Geelong Harmony then returned to the stage to repeat their contest songs, and also presented some other items from their repertoire – Blue Indigo, Constant Cravings (the only diction glitch occurred here – at least one audience member heard ‘constant gravy’), and Under the Southern Skies.  Finally, Alex Morris invited all past and present members of Geelong Harmony Chorus to join the competition group to sing one of the group’s signature pieces How We Sang Tonight.  It was a joyful night of fine music-making.

We wish Geelong Harmony Chorus well for their singing in Hobart.  We know that, whatever the outcome of the competition, all the singers will have a wonderful time, with lots of music, friendship and laughter.

Keep watching the Choral Grapevine and Geelong Harmony’s Facebook page to hear news from Hobart and see lots more photos.

Past and present members of Geelong Harmony present “How We Sang Today’