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.

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.


Apollo Bay Community Choir with Guests: Sunday, 13th August, 2017

This was the last event in the first ever Apollo Bay Winter Festival and was to have been the Western District Choral Festival.  Luckily, despite the small number of choirs able to attend, the decision was made to replace the WDCF with a concert.

The host choir, Apollo Bay Community Choir began and finished the concert.  The concert started with the choir behind the audience, moving down the central aisle as they sang a folk tune.

Once at the front of the church, two more songs were sung, including Rolling in the Deep – in a setting which gained in complexity from unison, to two and finally three part harmony.  Apollo Bay choir is conducted by Annabel Tunley.

The concert was most entertainingly compered by Caroline Wren, from 3ABR (87.6FM). 

The Colac Chorale had taken the fire theme for this final weekend of the Winter Festival to choose three songs.  First they sang William James’s Bush Night Song, followed by The Never Never by Letty Katts and Keep the Home Fires Burning, a patriotic song, composed in 1914 by Ivor Novello.

The Colac Chorale

A quintet from the Deans Marsh Singers presented Eric Bogles’ Shelter, The Parting Glass , a Scottish song, and The Irish Blessing (May the Road …)There was a fine sense of ensemble, including a full range of dynamics. 

With a return of The Apollo Bay Community Choir the audience enjoyed three more songs.  The concert culminated with three pieces, which were originally planned for massed singing of all the choirs, Zidele, Shona Mananga (a South African uprising song with a stunning performance by a soloist leading the choir) before a farewell to all with May Your Cup Always be Full.

This was a most enjoyable end to the festival and was well attended mainly by members of the local community.  Congratulations to Apollo Bay Community Choir for turning a disappointment into a delightful afternoon of music making.

Images of the Fire ceremony Saturday evening 12th August.