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.



Western District Choral Festival – June 22nd

This year’s Western District Choral Festival will be in Warrnambool, hosted by the Merri Singers. All choirs in the Western District of Victoria and South Eastern South Australia are invited to attend.  Thanks to Philip Shaw for the details below.

Where and When?

The festival will be held in St Joseph’s Church, 169 Kepler St Warrnambool (car park accessed from Raglan Parade, on-street parking in Kepler and Lava Streets.)

The church will be available from 12pm and the concert will start at 1:30pm.


There will be an upright piano as well as a small amp with three inputs available for use by choirs. The amp will be used for announcements and the guitar accompaniment of one of the group songs.

Tea, coffee and toilet facilities will be available in the meeting space next to the church, but afternoon tea following the singing will be in the church hall.

St Joseph’s is wheelchair accessible from the car park, as is the church hall.

How long?

We expect each group to have 8 minutes of performance time. Please let us know if you have any special requirements (eg mobility problems for moving into position).

Number of Choirs

To make the afternoon manageable we will be able to host a maximum of 15 choirs at the festival. More than this would necessitate having the afternoon too long or brackets too short. Choirs that have already expressed interest will have first options of attending, after which acceptance will be in order of Registration receipt.

Massed choir songs

Group songs will be a traditional Zulu hymn Thuma Mina and Everything Can Turn Around, a song written for a men’s health flash mob by Warrnambool songwriter Don Cowling.  Electronic copies of these will be circulated on acceptance of Registration.

Next Year

Post-festival tea is traditionally the time that the host of the following year’s WDCF is announced, so now is a good time to start thinking about throwing your hat into the ring. Please let us know if you are interested. Previous hosts are always willing to share hints to make the yoke easier and the burthen lighter!


Please download and complete the registration form attached (either directly in the Word Document or by printing the PDF document and completing manually) and return it to Philip Shaw  or as text attachment to 0437 955 887 by Friday 12 April.

WDCF 2018 – Singers mass on stage for “Africa”

Western District Choral Festival – 2019

Festival details released

Saturday afternoon, 22nd June 2019

Warrnambool  (Venue to be advised)

Hosted by Merri Singers

Please register expressions of interest with Philip Shaw as soon as possible  to ensure you are sent all the details (if possible by December 5th, 2018).  This will not commit your group to attending but will ensure that you will be included in our WDCF communications.

The WDCF provides a wonderful opportunity for Western District and SA south eastern groups to hear what their colleagues are singing, and a rare chance to socialise with singers from around the region. It can provide ideas for new repertoire as well as different approaches to presentation.

Each choir will have a performance bracket of 8 to 10 minutes (depending on the number of groups attending) and will be invited to participate in the massed choir songs. There will (of course!) be afternoon tea to follow. Entry will be $5 for singers and $10 for audience.

Some of the choirs from the WDCF 2018

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