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.

Sound the Trumpet: The Geelong Chorale – Friday, 10th May, 2019

Windfire Festival 2019 – Concert 1

Basilica of St Mary of the Angels, Geelong

The Geelong Chorale presented this opening concert, with the assistance of brass quartet brass and organ.  The Chorale was directed by Allister Cox OAM.  The brass quartet comprised Daniel Ballinger and Sarah Hepworth, trumpets, Melissa Shirley, horn and Stewart Armitage, trombone.

The opening work Entrat Festiva, for brass quartet and organ, by 20th century composer Flor Peters, was presented from the choir loft, with Frank De Rosso playing the organ.  A more fitting work to open the festival could not be imagined.  The music is exciting, joyful and loud, setting the whole church ringing.

Festival Director, Frank De Rosso, is a master at using the spaces available in St Mary’s so that performers are heard to best advantage.  This means that sometimes performers are not seen, but this is in the long tradition of music in churches, where often, as at St Mary’s, organs and musicians we placed out of the congregation’s sight, and choirs often placed behind screens.

St Mary’s has an semicircular gallery behind the high altar, separated from the chancel by a marble colonnade. This space was chosen for the second work – Cantite tuba in Sion (Sound the trumpets in Sion)The acoustic was perfect for the choir, with the lines perfectly blended in weaving counterpoint.

The choir then moved to a space behind the main altar, now in view, for Pater Noster, by Francisco Guerro, for choir and brass, along with the brass.  It is easy for brass instruments to overshadow voices, and this was somewhat the case for this work, as the choir was still masked by columns and the main altar.

This was followed by three works for choir along, Sicut Servus/Sitvit anima mea by Palestrina and Exultate Deo, by Scarlatti. The last is a most exciting celebratory work, with a fast “Jubilate” middle section (taken by the Chorale at lightning speed) and finishing with joyful Alleluias.

Positioned in a transept, the brass quartet played Canzona a 4 by Giovanni Gabrielli.

The choir were finally in full view – standing on the chancel steps.  The sound was also more balanced between choir and brass, for a performance of Hans Hassler’s Missa Octo Voci The brass played one of the 4-part ‘choir’ parts, the Chorale the other.  A feature was the antiphony – with one choir singing alone, followed by the other, and then both together, giving a rich texture and full sound.  The Chorale demonstrated a sure line, and clean polyphony.  There was also a good balance between parts, despite the numerical lack of basses and tenors.

A haunting melody played by solo horn began the second half of the concert.  It was the opening of Easter Moon, by contemporary Melbourne composer, Christopher Wilcock.  began the second half.  The choir entry was a chant, mainly unison, building from piano then crescendoing to blossom into harmony.  The pattern continued, trombone solo followed by voices, trumpet duet followed by voices.  Finally the haunting strains of the horn died away to silence.

In honour of the setting, St Mary’s, three settings of Ave Maria followed, by Bruckner, Franz Beibl and Morten Lauridsen.  The second of these includes brass, the other two are for choir alone.

The brass returned to the choir loft to play Grand Choeur Dialogue by Eugene Gigout – a spectacular piece for organ and brass.  Finally, the choir joined them, in a very early and florid setting of Now Thanks We All Our God by Johann Bachelbel.

The Geelong Chorale has rarely been heard to better advantage.  They choir appeared to revel in this difficult music.

The collaboration with brass on such joyful music made a perfect opening concert for this year’s Windfire Festival – the 11th.  This year’s festival runs across three weekends, and includes eight concerts in various venues, four weekday lunchtime “Organ Plus 1” recitals, an afternoon tea (with music) for Mother’s Day and a workshop.  For more information go to Music at the Basilica.  

Helen Lyth

The Geelong Chorale presents its next concert on Sunday August 18th, with a program of music from opera and operetta.

Read  Shirley Power’s review of Sound the Trumpet at Entertainment Geelong.

High Tea with Geelong Harmony

Sunday, May 5th, Vines Road Community Centre

Life on a high note for 25 fabulous years

“We came for the music and stayed for the friendship”

Plan an event and invite your friends and family.  Expect a hundred or so guests for a  celebratory afternoon tea, with a Sneak Peek at your competition items.  Find you have more friends than you realise – in fact, over 100 more.  CELEBRATE!

Geelong Harmony’s celebration of their achievement – 25 years of fine singing and friendship was an occasion of much joy, laughter, friends made and remade and excitement.

Titled “Hi-ho Silver Jubilee”* this event sparkled and rang with the beat of not hooves, but music-making.  Guests entered through an arch of balloons into a richly decorated room, to be offered the promised tea and party food.  The noise level grew as old friends met and former singers reminisced about their time with the group.  The age level was diverse, with quite a number of original choir members being present, as well as children (and perhaps grandchildren) of current members.

The current chorus members had worked hard, planning the event over many months, decorating the hall, designing the commemorative brochure, organising raffles, anniversary merchandise and a silent auction, baking and arranging, and, of course, providing the essential woman-power to run the event.  “Another cup of tea?  Certainly.”  “Can I interest you in some raffle tickets?”  “May I collect your plates?”

After first cuppas had been consumed and the group hushed from chatter, announcements were made before the Geelong Harmony made their entrance and moved with their usual professional aplomb onto the risers.  No fixed smiles here.  They beamed with excitement and the verve to showcase their new pieces, already performance-ready and sparkling (with not a spangle in sight).  Alex Morris’s charismatic leadership has Geelong Harmony working as one to produce harmony with razzamatazz.

Geelong Harmony barbershop wouldn’t be the same without barbershop quartets.  Guests were treated to a taste of these.  Humour abounded as each group mixed hi-jinks with fine harmony. 

There was time for more chatting, tea and food, and guests were invited to bid in the silent auction and purchase jubilee wine and merchandise.  There was time to look at the array of costumes Geelong Harmony have worn over their 25 years of performing. For the latest version, you’ll need to wait until after this year’s National Convention, in Hobart from 13-16th May.  (Only those at yesterday’s celebration had an advance look, and we’re not talking!)

Then it was time to cut the cake – with Geelong Harmony’s musical directors past and present who could attend, being chosen for the task – Joan Humphrey (2005-2007) Lucy Jones (2007-2011) and Alex Morris (2012 – present).

After a hasty costume change for chorus members, the audience were treated once again to a Sneak Peek of this year’s competition pieces, along with several other songs from the repertoire.

Well done and thank you for a wonderful afternoon of entertainment and friendship.  Thanks to all Harmony members who worked so hard to make high tea with Geelong Harmony such a success.

*Some of us are old enough to remember the 1950s cinema serial The Lone Rangerwho had ‘a mighty horse with the speed of light…”





Vivaldi’s Gloria in D, Saturday, May 4th, 2019


St Mary’s Church, Colac

This delightful afternoon’s music was the first time, to my knowledge that these two choirs have collaborated.  I do hope it happens again.

The first half of the program featured each choir singing it’s own selection of songs.  Colac Chorale presented arrangements of four love songs by Robert Schumann, sung in English and arranged for four parts.  The conductor was Johanna Latham (who incidentally played violin in the chamber orchestra for the Gloria) and accompanist Pamela Radcliffe.  This group included the beautiful Ich grolle nicht translated as I Shall Not Grieve. The choir sang with clear diction, good dynamic range and showed the attention to detail of presentation that is the mark of good direction.

Ballarat Choral Society, directed by Helen Duggan, sang a bracket of nine songs with texts by Shakespeare.  They ranged from two, Where the Bee Sucks and Full Fathon Five which may have been sung at performances of the plays in Shakespeare’s time, to contemporary settings of two songs from John Rutter’s song cycle When Icicles Hang.  The accompanist for these was Lauren Knight, who also provided the continuo in the performance of Vivaldi’s Gloria.  Several of the songs were performed by a small group from within the choir.  One of these was a most interesting setting of When Daisies Pied, from Love’s Labours Lost which begins with an ostinato from the men of the group, was accomplished with aplomb and clarity.  The final piece, Blow Blow Thou Winter Wind showed up some lovely unison singing from the sopranos of the choir, as showed off the sensitive pianistic skills of Lauren Knight and a lovely tone from the sopranos in the unison opening.

After a short interval, both choirs returned to the stage, along with a small chamber orchestra, to perform Gloria in D by Vivaldi, conducted once again by Helen Duggan.  This opportunity allowed both choirs to sing this exciting work, something that, due to small numbers might not be possible alone.

This was a most rewarding performance, with soloists Eleanor Kerr and Lyn Broadstock (sopranos) and alto Christine Head.  Of particular note were the lovely Domine Deus, for soprano, oboe and continuo.  This is effectively a duet between the soprano (Eleanor Kerr) and oboe (Stephen Moschner).

Despite a couple of issues with time (perhaps due to the lack of time to rehearse as an ensemble, and the dry acoustic of St Mary’s Church), this was a most accomplished and moving performance, with the choir showing excellent light and shade, and a sense of excitement building towards the climax of the final fugue Cum Sancto Spiritu, in gloria Dei Patris, Amen.

This performance was repeated on May 5th in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Ballarat.

Geelong After Dark – Friday, May 3rd, 2019

A last minute, massed choir was hastily assembled from Geelong choirs and singing groups to perform at the rotunda in Johnston Park.  After only 3 rehearsals, and only one with Jonathon Welsh, conductor, this small group did an amazing job on two pieces especially composed for Geelong After Dark and its overarching arts event, Mountain to Mouth.  This performance was titled M~M@GAD and featured various other performers as well as the choir.


St John Passion – Clunes Sunday, May 5th


This performance is highly recommended, as those who attended the recent performances in Hamilton and Melbourne will agree.

If you’re anywhere near Clunes, ACC presents its final performance of Bach’s St John Passion on Sunday, May 5th, at 3.00pm at St Paul’s Church.

This superb chamber choir, accompanied by Melbourne Baroque Orchestra playing baroque instruments, is conducted by Douglas Lawrence,  The soloists, headed by tenor Timothy Reynolds who is possibly the finest Bach Evangelist in Australia, are excellent.  Timothy also sings the tenor arias.  Five of the soloists came from the choir itself.  Elizabeth Anderson’s pure alto, and well shaped phrasing is perfect for Bach’s expressive and poignant music.  Elspeth Bawden’s crystal clear soprano soars exquisitely in the soprano arias.  Amelia Jones sings Ancilla, Tanum Shipp sings Servus and Kieran Macfarlane sings Petrus.  The other soloists are Jerzy Kozlowski, who sings Jesus with a rich bass, contrasting with Oliver Mann’s more bariitone timbre singing Pilatus and as bass soloist,

This is an extremely moving performance, which gained a standing ovation at the Melbourne performance last Sunday.