Within a few days of arriving in Sydney in October 2007, Paul successfully auditioned for the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, one of Australia’s foremost choral organisations, which celebrated its 90th birthday in 2010. SPC encompasses several different choirs - Paul is bass section leader in the 30-voice Chamber Singers - but they often perform in combination, especially for their collaboration with Sydney Symphony Orchestra in performing some of the big choral works in the Sydney Opera House.
Highlights of the past four years have been Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius and Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast, both with the SSO under their principal conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy; Berlioz’ Romeo & Juliette (cond Charles Du Toit); and the Bach B Minor Mass and St John Passion, Purcell’s King Arthur, the Monteverdi Vespers, all conducted by our wonderful Artistic Director, Brett Weymark.
Recently I was involved in the inaugural series of the Australian World Orchestra, singing Brett Dean’s Vexations and Devotions, with the composer conducting. My most recent event was a reception for the Choir given by the Governor of NSW in Government House, marking the launch of our 2012 Season.
My programme through to the end of 2012 looks like this:
29, 30 Oct, 5, 6, 12 Nov 2011
American Journeys (Philharmonia Chamber Singers, Weymark) Unaccompanied works by Barber, Fine, Whitacre, Lauridsen, Rorem, et al Bathurst, Orange, Bowral, Sydney, Penrith.
23, 24, 25 Mar 2012
Northern Lights (Philharmonia Chamber Singers, Weymark) Frank Martin Mass for Double Choir, Rautavaara Missa a Cappella Parramatta, Sydney, Newcastle
2, 4, 5 May 2012
Poulenc Gloria, Mozart Requiem (SSO cond David Zinman, SOH Concert Hall)
20, 21 July 2012
Night Vigil (Philharmonia Symphony Chorus, cond Graham Abbott) Rachmaninov Vespers, Andrew Ford Waiting for the Barbarians (world premiere) Parramatta, Sydney
24, 25 August 212
The Beatles Unplugged (Philharmonia Chamber Singers, Whitwell/Walker) City Recital Hall
19, 20 October 2012
Glorious Baroque (Philharmonia Chamber Singers, Mats Nilsson) Vivaldi Gloria, CPE Bach Magnificat, Godár Magnificat, Pärt Summa City Recital Hall
1, 3 December 2012
Tchaikovsky Queen of Spades (SSO cond Ashkenazy, SOH Concert Hall)
8, 9 December 2012
An English Christmas (Philharmonia Choirs, Weymark, SOH Concert Hall) Britten Saint Nicolas, traditional carols
For further information on Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, go to http://www.sydneyphilharmonia.com.au/.
The above was written in late 2011. I was really looking forward to the 2012 programme, especially to the chance to do the Frank Martin Mass for Double Choir with Brett in the March programme, a piece I had been trying to persuade him to include.
Unfortunately in early 2012 the Choir got into serious financial difficulties. One of the steps taken by management was to re-jig the 2012 timetable, including pushing the Frank Martin programme later in the year, to a time when Brett would be away on sabbatical leave. I was NOT happy.
Against that background, after some further Board skulduggery at the AGM in May, I decided to resign. The commitment involved, requiring over 100 "calls" a year (rehearsals and performances), not to mention private learning and practice time, was very substantial for an amateur choir, especially as I was working 3 days a week at that time in my legal accounts job. It wasn't fair on Anne, either.
I have sung in choirs for well over half a century, starting with the Children's Day choir at Ballyholme Presbyterian Church. At Inst, the Madrigal Group under Ronnie Hiscocks established a preference for small-group a capella singing. I have had the privilege of having some exceptional choir directors - Philip Cranmer at Queen's University Belfast, Peter Godfrey with the Dorians in Auckland, and finally Brett Weymark here in Sydney stand out above the rest.
I am hugely grateful for the experience of being able to sing great music (I opted out of the Beethoven 9th!) in great venues with great conductors. Working at a high level is challenging but enormously satisfying.