Windfire Festival Gala Opening Concert: Friday 4th May, 2018

Basilica of St Mary of the Angels, Geelong

The Festival of Music in Geelong’s Historic Churches was begun by Music at the Basilica in 2009.  This year marks 10 years of fine music making.

The first concert of 2018’s festival, now re-named the Windfire Festival, featured Orchestra Geelong, a massed choir of singers from Geelong region choirs, and two soprano soloists – Sally Wilson and Lee Abrahmsen.  John Stubbings was the concert compere.

Orchestra Geelong performed the first half of the concert, conducted by Malcolm John.  The music began with two works by Malcolm John, who is a prolific composer.  The first, Brass Fanfare, was commissioned to celebrate the Windfire Festival’s 10th Anniversary.  Stephen Moschner (oboe) played the second movement of Malcolm John’s Oboe Concertino.  Melinda Bell featured as soloist in the Andante from Mozart’s 4th Horn Concerto.  Works by Handel, Elgar, Mozart, Schubert, and film music by Eric Coates (Dam Busters March) and James Horner (Theme from Titanic) completed the first half of the concert.

After interval, the soloists and choir joined the orchestra, conducted by Tom Healey.  Lee Abrahmsen sang Visi D’Arte from Puccini’s Tosca, followed by Sally Wilson in a dramatic performance of Lady Macbeth’s Aria from Verdi’s opera MacbethThese items were accompanied on the piano by Sonoka Miyake.  The choral items were Parry’s Jesusalem, Mozart’s Ave Verum, Adam’s O Holy, featuring Lee Abrahmsen as soloist, Peter Christian Lutkin’s setting of The Lord Bless You and Keep You, Sanctus from Gounod’s Messe Solonelle with Sally Wilson as soloist.  The concert concluded with a stirring performance of Vaughan Williams’ The Old Hundredth Psalm performed by choir, orchestra and congregation.

Windfire Festival 10th Anniversary Festival Choir in rehearsal

The festival continues over next week, concluding on Sunday May 13th by choir Vox Angelica conducted by Tom Healey.  For more information go to the Festival website.

Festival Gala opening Concert

Windfire Festival celebrates ten years

Congratulations to Music at the Basilica, Musical Director, Frank De Rosso and the Music at the Basilica management committee.

This opening concert is performed by Orchestra Geelong and a massed choir from many Geelong choirs, as well as Geelong Grammar School Choir and The Geelong Youth Choir, and soprano soloists Lee Abrahmsen and Sally Wilson.

As well as individual tickets there are Festival Passes available:

GOLD PASS:  This will give you entry to all seven concerts and both workshops for $170 Full/$165 Concession

SILVER PASS:  This will give you entry to any 4 concerts of your choice for $90 Full/$85 Concession

Individual tickets:  Gala Opening Concert – $35/$30, other concerts $25, Workshops – $10.  Children are free to all events.

Festival Passes are available from

For more information visit

Dixit Dominus and Coronation Anthems ~ The Geelong Chorale

Sunday, April 29th, Wesley Church, Geelong

Allister Cox conducting the Geelong Chorale and Instrumental Ensemble

For the first concert of 2018, the Geelong Chorale selected one of George Frederick Handel’s most challenging works for choir string orchestra and continuo, and soloists – Dixit Dominus (Psalm 109)This work, composed while Handel was working and studying in Rome, is florid and exacting.  Handel was 22 and was thriving on the chance to experiment with the richness of the Italian baroque.  It is a huge undertaking for the choir, with six very exacting choral movements, punctuated by only two solo movements.  These were sung by Lee Abrahmsen, soprano, and Colm Talbot, alto.  The other soloists were Emily Swanson, soprano, Terence McManus, tenor, and Will Humphreys, bass.  The concert was conducted by Allister Cox, who is also the Musical Director of the Geelong Chorale.  The orchestra of 16 fine musicians was led by Kathryn Buttigieg, with the Chorale’s accompanist Kristine Mellens, playing continuo.

The choir, despite sometimes struggling with an extremely high range and intricate counterpoint, showed that it can overcome technical difficulties to make exciting and moving music.  De torrente in via, the second last movement, is an example of emotional intensity, with the men of the choir singing in quiet unison under the soaring counterpoint of two soprano soloists, whose intricate part weaving of clashing seconds, resolves into glorious sonority.  The sopranos were Lee Abrahmsen and Emily Swanson, Lee bringing a warmth of operatic tone, and Emily and incisive clarity and a feeling for Handelian style.  After this quiet movement, the joyous Gloria patri is a celebration of baroque sparkle.  The sopranos in particular are to be complimented on their clean singing of bouncing octaves in the extended Amen section – a precursor of many more to be found in Handel’s more mature works.  Will Humphreys, who is a regular member of the Chorale, it to be congratulated for stepping in at late notice to sing the bass solo, with a fine tone and excellent technique for the very florid music.

After a brief interval, the music moved forward twenty years, to a mature Handel, firmly established in the English musical establishment.  In 1825, at the age of 42, Handel composed four coronation anthems for the coronation of King James II.  The orchestra includes strings, The first and best known is Zadok the Priest.  This begins with a long ritonello from the orchestra – building up then dying down in a series of broken chords from strings till the anticipation is rewarded with a blast of choral chords with trumpets and timpani – “Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anointed Solomon King”.  The joyousness continues as the choir declares “God save the king, may the king live forever. Alleluia, Amen”.  Although Zadok was the second Coronation Anthem performed at the coronation of James II, it is now always sung first.

The other coronation anthems are Let Thy Hand be Strengthened, The King Shall Rejoice and My Heart is Inditing which was originally sung during the coronation of the Queen Caroline.  This movement is the only one which includes soloists.  For this performance, the final anthem sung was The King Shall Rejoice.   The final movement “Halleluia, Amen” made a most fitting finale to this fine concert of Handel music.

Zadok the Priest



Sing Beethoven’s NINTH SYMPHONY

Experienced singers in the Geelong region are invited to become part of the Geelong Symphony Orchestra Chorus to sing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. 

The performance is part of the GSOs third concert in the 2018 subscription series.  It will take place on Saturday October 27th, 2018 at Costa Hall, Gheringhap Street, Deakin University Waterfront Campus, at 7.30pm.

A number of rehearsals will be held for the choir before one or more rehearsals with soloists and orchestra.

A familiarisation workshop will be held on March 4th (details of time and venue to be finalised soon).

To register your interest as a singer, please fill out the form here.  For  more information please contact Helen Lyth

The conductor is Fabian Russell.  The chorus master is Peter Tregear of the Consort of Melbourne.

Soloists Lee Abrahmsen soprano, Manfred Pohlenz bass baritone, Tim Reynolds Tenor,  Alto still to be decided.

This is your chance to sing Beethoven’s magnificent ODE TO JOY.



Noel! Noel! – Friday, December 18th, 2015 – Windfire Chamber choir and orchestra and Geelong Youth Choir

Thanks to Colin Mocket (That’s Entertainment) for this review.

No, the Noel! Noel! carol wasn’t included in this concert. Few carols were. But there was candlelight – small, high candles glowing on high  sticks at the end of each pew in Geelong’s Basilica. And the pews were full with a highly appreciative audience that rang the rafters with long and loud applause at the end of this most unusual – and exquisite – musical Christmas fare.
The concert started conventionally enough, with the Windfire String Ensemble – a 15-piece chamber orchestra led by Ben Castle – performing Corelli’s ‘Christmas Concerto’, six short, delicate pieces with adroit mastery.
This relative musical calm was contrasted  by the following segment  from the Geelong Youth Choir conducted by its vibrant director Denise Hollingworth.   Four short numbers showcasing the choir’s talents began with a beautiful version of ‘Panis Angelicus’ – with the senior singers behind Brianna Ekberg’s warm and full solo soprano voice.  More of Brianna later. This was followed by the full choir and a sung version of Pachelbel’s Canon complimented by Janelle Kratzmann’s violin.  Janelle then took the conductor’s podium to lead the choir through a spirited version of  ‘Do You Hear What I Hear?’ before Denise returned to conduct a gloriously happy segment finale – a resounding movement-filled version of the Gospel standard ‘Gotta Whisper, Gotta Shout’.
The Youth Choir’s enthusiastic applause might have daunted any following artists, but this concert had more and better to come – though this benefits from a little back-explaining.
Earlier this year the Basilica’s Windfire music programme offered five scholarships to young local singers, which included workshops and masterclasses with regional musicians Rick Prakhoff, Malcolm John and Wendy Galloway. The trio of tutors were so pleased with the skills, commitment and dedication shown by their scholars, that they created a work specially for them – Dr John setting a Christmas poem by Francis Webb for five soprano voices backed by the Windfire Chamber Choir. In the event, one of the scholars, Grace Leaming, was unable to sing; but the other four sopranos, Aurora Harmathy, Jessica Nelson, Jana Thierry and Brianna Ekberg (yes, she of the Youth Choir’s Panis Angelicus) delivered a delightful version of the new work, titled ‘Five Days Old’, before joining the Chamber Choir and Windfire Ensemble for the event’s big finale – a full version of Josef Haydn’s Mass of St Nicholas.
This fully-sung Mass, with the choir and orchestra conducted by Rick Prakhoff and soloists Lee Abrahmsen, Belinda Paterson, Michael Petrucelli and Kiran Rajasingam did full majestic justice to the impressive masterwork – which led to all that resounding, sustained  appreciative applause.
For this was very much a Christmas concert with a refreshing difference –  and it was executed brilliantly.

— Colin Mockett

Photographs:  Angela West

Editor’s note:  We’ve been very lucky over the last few weeks to enjoy so much fine music, with concerts from our choirs (including St Pauls carol services this afternoon and this evening).  I, too, thoroughly enjoyed Noel! Noel! and think that I’ve never heard the Geelong Youth Choir in better voice.  Choral music is assured a fine future while we have young people getting training of this calibre in youth and adult choirs.

I look forward to reports of Christmas music and concert reports from our other wide-flung choirs.  With the .WWWeb we’re now happy to publish your photos as well.

Haydn’s Creation – The Geelong Chorale – review

Thanks to Colin Mocket (That’s Entertainment, Geelong)

Hayden’s  Creation – from woe to go in song

Joseph Haydn’s Creation sung by the augmented Geelong Chorale conducted by Allister Cox, Wesley Church, Yarra St, December 5, 2015.

It’s not every day you get a chance to review the creation of the earth.
In Geelong, it happens only once every couple of decades, because 1994 was the last time this work was sung in our city, by the same group, then known as The GAMA Singers.
Ironically that was the last concert in what was then Geelong’s premier vocal auditorium, the west wing of the Town Hall concert hall, before it was  taken over as a base for local politicians. At the time they promised to build a replacement venue. As this never happened,  Geelong must be the only place on earth where The Creation was so swiftly followed by local council annexation.
But leaving all that aside, there were, surprisingly, several voices remaining from that 1994 event in the 2015 Chorale, and more survivors in the audience. And most were in agreement that this was the superior performance. This was, in short, a luscious piece of choral work that was (literally) magnificently delivered.
Technically, it was beautifully balanced, with a highly competent 30-piece orchestra in front of the Chorale’s 46 voices with four soloists seated to one side – all controlled with musical elegance by one conductor, Allister Cox. And  there was not a microphone or mixing desk in view.
None were needed because the soloists had the ability and power to project over both choir and orchestra to tell the stories of Haydn’s masterwork with clarity and beauty.
The structure of the work moves from chaos to order,  giving prominence – and characters – to those soloists. So the wonderful soaring soprano of Lee Abrahmsen was singing the archangel Gabriel’s view of the creation, while Manfred Pohlenz’s rich, commanding bass gave voice to archangel Raphael. Later, in act three, these two became Adam and Eve, allowing them to assume the prominent, driving roles for the entire concert, with tenor Daryl Barclay singing the lesser part of archangel Uriel and the Chorale literally singing like angels extolling praise for their maker. Clearly maestro Haydn had little time for altos, as soloist Kathleen Rawson’s sole role was to augment the final amens, which she did as adroitly – and masterfully – as every other musician involved in this most glorious of concerts.
Aesthetically and acoustically, the Church venue was perfect for the occasion, and director Cox’s reverence and reference to his 1859 original score  added even more lustre.
I shudder to think of the enormous amount of work and expertise that went into staging this exquisite concert. It would have taken months of rehearsals and significant resources. But believe me, it was worth every moment. And there’s another irony in that it told of (literally) everything being created on a much shorter time-scale, just six days.
Here’s hoping we all get to see the next staging of this glorious work – perhaps in Geelong’s long-promised purpose-built concert hall.

Colin Mockett