Dear friends and supporters of The Geelong Chorale,
After more than 12 months in hibernation, we are delighted to be preparing our first concert for 2021: Around the World in Eighty Minutes. As international travel remains limited, let us take you on a veritable world tour, commencing in Australia, with brief stopovers in many countries before a welcome homecoming – and with no need to quarantine for 14 days! It is a joyous programme of music from the world’s treasury of folksongs: just what we need to uplift our spirits.
We hope to confirm our concert date and time very soon and look forward to welcoming you.
The Geelong Chorale’s Christmas concert this year featured works by two great English composers: Fantasia on Christmas Carols by Ralph Vaughan Williams and John Rutter’s supremely engaging Magnificat. There was also be a chance to hear two rarely performed Christmas chorales from Vaughan Williams’ cantata, Hodie. The Geelong Chorale was once again be joined by The Geelong Handbell Choir, directed by Gwyn Gillard. Soloists for the concert are Fiona Squires, soprano, and Rodney Dearing, baritone, with piano accompaniment by Kristine Mellens.
Saturday 7 December, 5pm
All Saints Church, Cnr Noble Street and Talbot Street, Newtown 3220
St Luke’s Uniting Church, Barrabool Road, Highton.
Great Moments, presented by The Geelong Chorale directed by Allister Cox. St Luke’s Church, Highton, August 18, 2019.
In the seven years since Allister Cox was appointed director of Geelong’s premier choir, he has set the group plenty of musical challenges.
In the past year alone, the Chorale brought an intensely moving In Remembrance commemorating the anniversary of WWI’s ending, as well as their complex collaboration Sound The Trumpets celebration in St Mary’s Basilica.
This concert arrived almost as a release from all that musical concentration. For this was easy, fun, and happy, both in its choice of material and delivery.
That cover-all title, Great Moments, carried the sub-text ‘Arias, duets and choruses from some of the best-loved operas, operettas and musicals’.
In practice, this came down heavily in favour of operatic choruses (9) to four operetta pieces and three extracts from musicals.
The programme neatly grouped each segment together with the Grand Operatic choruses up front before an interval, then the light opera and ending with a big Hollywood musical flourish.
So we began with Verdi’s joyful Brindisi from La Traviata and ended with an equally exuberant rendition of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!
In between we heard a delightful musical selection delivered with a good deal of spirit and skill by the Chorale and its guest soloists Lisa Breen (soprano) and tenor David Campbell.
Such was the level of bonhomie that the two soloists, seated to one side when not called upon to sing, nevertheless joined in with most choruses including a memorable moment when the ebulliently jovial David couldn’t resist singing Bernstein’s West Side Story I Feel Pretty along with the female chorus.
He had previously delivered a wonderfully romantic solo of Donizetti’s Una Furtiva Lagrima from L’elisir d’amore as well as leading the Chorus’ tenors and basses in two lusty numbers, Tower Warders from G & S’s Yeoman Of The Guard and You’re Back Where You First Began from Franz Lehar’s The Merry Widow.
For her part, Lisa gave us a beautiful solo version of Un bel di vedremo from Puccini’s Madam Butterfly as well as The Merry Widow’s Vilia. As a reviewer and performer I’ve experienced Lisa’s singing in many capacities for more than 20 years, and I don’t think I’ve heard her sing better. This was especially evident when she led the full Chorale in an a cappella version of Gershwin’s Summertime from Porgy and Bess. This sublime moment was, conversely, the only piece that had not involved Kristine Mellens’ skilled piano accompaniments.
Lisa and David joined, both individually and as a duo, with the Chorale in their spirited versions of big favourites The Anvil Chorus, Wedding Chorus and Voyagers Chorus, while deputy conductor Anne Pilgrim led the Chorale’s Sopranos and Altos in Verdi’s Witches Chorus from Macbeth.
Director/conductor Allister Cox introduced each work with his familiar charm and depth of knowledge – along with some carefully chosen humorous insights – while at the finish, soloists Lisa and David spontaneously left their seats to squeeze on to the Chorale’s rostrum and deliver those joyful Oklahoma! whoops.
It was a moment that captured exactly the energy and cheer of what had been such a skilfully delivered but delightfully lighthearted musical afternoon.
Great Moments: The Geelong Chorale – Sunday, 18th August, 2019
Posted on August 19, 2019
St Luke’s Uniting Church, Highton
Conductor: Allister Cox OAM
Accompanist: Kristine Mellens
The Geelong Chorale is a chamber choir. Therefore, a foray into musical theatre, opera, operetta and musical comedy is rather outside the choir’s usual musical fare. Allister Cox, musical director for some years, is a long-time performer in musical theatre, and directed the choir and two excellent soloists with assurance.
The first half of the program was devoted to grand opera, with choruses, solos and duets from Verdi, Mozart, Donizetti, Gounod, Puccini and finishing with a rousing performance of the Easter Hymn from Cavalleria Rusticana. There was a little staged drama – the program began with Brindisi (a drinking chorus) from La Traviata. The choir (as people at at party) chatted animatedly during the introduction till the tenor, David Campbell, entered from off stage singing the well-known verse followed by the chorus with the choir before soprano Lisa Breen entered to sing the verse reprise. It is good to hear Lisa’s lovely singing after some time. We hope to hear more of her in future concerts.
David Campbell’s acting skill came out throughout the program, no more so that in his aria Un Furtiva Lagrime with a stunning love-lorn cadenza.
Kristine Mellens, the Chorale’s accompanist, had a near impossible task – attempting to emulate an orchestra. Kristine wrought all possible tone from the available upright piano playing with drama, a sense of style and sensitivity (especially in David Campbell’s aria from L’elisir d’amore).
Deputy conductor, Anne Pilgrim conducted the women of the choir in The Witches’ Chorus from Verdi’s Macbeth. There was a fine sense of dynamics, and some percussion in the background as the witches announce Macbeth’s arrival. Unison singing brought out the excellence of the choral lines, even though the sopranos were depleted somewhat in this program.
The second half of the concert produced lighter fare – with excerpts from Yeomen of the Guard, Die Fledermaus, The Merry Widow, Porgy and Bess, West Side Story and concluding with a rousing performance of the title song from Oklahoma with soloists joining the choir.
The choir was in its element in an a capella arrangement of Summertime from George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess with Lisa Breen excelling in a jazz style performance. This arrangement, which includes intricate scat singing from the choir, would be well worth keeping in the choir’s repertoire.
The near capacity audience included many who are not regulars to concerts from GeelongChorale. Judging from the warmth of the applause, they were not disappointed.
The Geelong Chorale’s final performance of 2019 is Magnificat: Music to Celebrate Christmas, on December 7th at 5pm at Christ Church, Geelong.
The Geelong Chorale’s first concert for 2019 was the opening concert of Music at the Basilica’s 11th Annual Windfire Music Festival. It was a spectacular program of music for double choir, brass ensemble and organ, featuring music from the Renaissance to the present day.
Friday 10th May, 7.30pm
Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels
136 Yarra Street Geelong
This, the opening concert of Geelong’s annual Windfire Music Festival, proved perfect for the occasion. It was a memorable concert that took full advantage of the Basilica’s superb acoustics.
My initial impression was of a warm, welcoming atmosphere with hanging glass lanterns and glowing radiators.
A welcoming address from from Fr James Clarke led to a stirring, resounding intro, Entrata Festiva, a modern (20th Century) piece featuring Daniel Ballinger and Sarah Hepworth’s trumpets, Melissa Shirley’s horn, Stewart Armitage’s trombone and the Basilica’s thundering, mighty organ played by Frank De Rosso.
Then the Chorale members entered, only to disappear again as they took up positions in the acoustic sweet-spot in the space behind the venue’s original altar.
The blend of their voices, without accompaniment was perfect in its resonance as they sang Guerrero’s Cantite tunba in Sion.
That musical contrast between first and second items assured us in the audience that we were about to experience a programme of thoughtful excellence.
The choir then moved into sight at the front of the original altar, resplendent in their neat black and red, and Allister Cox introduced us to three works from the 16th century. First, Jacobus Gallus, whose Pater Noster used choir and brass to excellent, full and harmonious effect, followed by an a capella rendition of Giovanni da Palestrina’s calm and beautiful Sicut Cervus.
This was followed by Scarlatti’s glorious Exultate Deo with its joyful praise to God ringing throughout the rafters.
The choir changed position once again to risers on the right of the first row of pews, allowing the brass to move closer on the left.
Together they presented Gabrielli’s Canzona ´a 4 with sympathetic style.
Then followed a sharing of brass and voices to present the music of Hassler’s Missa Octo Voci, sung in Latin and accepted with warm applause.
At one point the director’s microphone failed mid-introduction, but Allister simply raised his voice to be clearly heard, demonstrating the excellence of the venue’s acoustics.
After a short interval the concert took a more modern, contrasting turn with Christopher Willcock’s challenging Easter Moon. The composition’s strident and sometimes pensive tones were handled with accomplished ease by choir and musicians.
Then came an unusual inclusion, with three different versions of Ave Maria, from Bruckner, Biebl and Laurisdsen. Allister explained that he had chosen them as appropriate because of the venue, (St Mary’s Basilica) as well as referencing the forthcoming Mother’s Day. The subtle differences and variations of tune and style added a deal of interest as the pieces were sung consecutively.
Then followed a triumphal and stirring Grand Choeur Dialogue with Frank De Rosso at the organ and the Choir in full voice, thundering down from the venue’s choir loft.
The concert finished on a different, but equally stirring note with the brass leading into voices to present Pachelbel’s rousing Nun Danket all Gott.
Taken together, this concert set the Windfire Festival to a stirring start while demonstrating our city’s exceptional quality of musicianship and choral abilities.
An exciting year coming up for the Chorale! Here are the dates for your diaries.
• Friday May 10, 2019 – concert for Music at the Basilica’s annual Windfire Festival at St Mary of the Angels Basilica.
• Sunday May 26, 2019 – Music at the Basilica Massed Choirs Concert at St Mary of the
Angels Basilica. Geelong Chorale members will be participating.
• Sunday August 18, 2019 – Opera and Operettas concert.
• Saturday December 7, 2019 – Christmas carols concert.
A concert of additional significance
In Remembrance, presented by The Geelong Chorale, director AllisterCox, St Paul’s Church, November 11, 2018,
The date, November 11, 2018 marked 100 years since the signing of the armistice that brought an end to the Great War.
It was commemorated in Geelong with two extraordinary musical concerts held in different churches, both chosen for their acoustics rather than secular symbolism.
The first, held on the evening on Friday November 9 in St Mary’s Basilica is reviewed below.
This, second concert, was held on the afternoon of the date itself, November 11, in St Paul’s Church.
Although organised separately and by different groups, the concerts shared similarities. There was a core of singers involved in both events, but that was hardly surprising, considering that they sought to recruit the best available voices in our region.
They shared a common format, in linking the music with the recitation of poems written at the time. And both concerts used Wilfred Owen’s Anthem For Doomed Youth and Edward Elgar’s For The Fallen as early introductory works.
But there the similarities ended.
For where the St Mary’s concert had chosen to illustrate the war’s massive orgy of death and destruction in its selection of works, this concert chose to celebrate the peace that followed the armistice’s signing.
As such, the two concerts actually complimented each other, both musically and historically.
This one, organised by The Geelong Chorale with its conductor Allister Cox and guest soloists, consisted of two major works written four years apart – either side of the war – to illustrate the emotions at those times. There were other, smaller works adding contrast and colour.
The afternoon’s theme was set by the Chorale’s Tim Gibson, released from his singing duties to read selected poems with gravity and clarity. He opened the concert by reading Siegfried Sassoon’s poem Aftermath. This was followed by the chorale singing Matthew Orlovich’s Lest We Forget before Tim read For The Fallen, containing the now-immortalised lines ‘age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn..’ put into its correct context.
This led to the Chorale singing Owen’s Anthem for Doomed Youth before delivering Elgar’s For the Fallen in full, with all of its dark, challenging complexities. This mammoth piece was faultlessly delivered by the Chorale and soprano soloist, Fiona Squires, accompanied by Kristine Mellens’ piano and with input from Jess Morris’ clarinet.
Then, following a short interval, the concert’s second half was almost entirely given over to Theodore Dubois’ Messe de la Déliverance, written to thank God for bringing peace at the war’s end.
This work’s seven segments of soaring praise and triumphal hosannas not only contrasted what had gone before, it was delivered in Latin with plenty of sacred musical complexities.
And the Chorale delivered a near-faultless performance, accompanied by Beverley Phillips at the church’s organ, with two excellent soloists in tenor David Campbell and baritone Manfred Pohlenz.
In an unusual touch, David and Manfred, while seated in front of the Chorale between their solos, joined in with its male voices in their big choral movements.
And together, they sent the Chorale’s voices – and that sacred thanks – soaring and resounding through the venue’s excellent acoustics.
And it brought such a suitable, and memorable, end to the weekend of remembrance.
Sunday 5 August 2018, Requiem by Faure and other French choral music.
St Paul’s Anglican Church, LaTrobe Terrace, Geelong at 2.30pm.
Entertainment Geelong The Stars Aligned in Concert
Fauré Requiem with motets by Fauré, Duruflé, Gounod, Franck & Villette sung by the Geelong Chorale, conducted by Allister Cox. St Paul’s Church, August 5, 2018.
Only rarely does it happen, when the stars align, the ducks are in a row, all the hard-work preparation pays off and fortune smiles on a single performance.
That all happened with this concert.
I don’t think that I have ever heard the Geelong Chorale in better voice. What’s more, its choice of material and soloists was perfect, the venue’s acoustics allowed pinpoint clarity – and the audience relished every note, every flourish and every syllable of conductor Allister’s introductory remarks.
This was a concert that grew to become a memorable occasion.
Its music was drawn mostly from the works of 19th Century French composers with Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem the principal work, taking up all of the concert’s second half.
For this, the Chorale had brought in soprano soloist Lisa Breen, whose warm, rounded tones and precise clarity was perfect for the solo piece Pie Jesu; and baritone Tom Healey, who matched Lisa for precision and added elements of power and pathos in his Libera Me.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard Lisa or Tom sing better, either. Their voices jigsawed seamlessly into the flawless elegant rendition that the Chorale was providing.
Add in Frank De Rosso’s masterly accompaniment on the St Paul’s pipe organ – which must, surely be the best in our region – and the combined interpretation could only be described as glorious.
And that was, if you like, only the main course.
We had been prepared for this by a series of appetisers starting with the well-known favourite in Cesar Franck’s Panis Angelicus delivered by the Chorale with al the warmth and flavour you would expect from bread made in heaven. This was followed by six short motets from De Several, Duruflé Saint-Saëns, Villette and Fauré along with a resounding version of Gounod’s Ave Maria featuring soloist Lisa.
The Chorale, for this concert, was smaller than usual and in an unfamiliar formation. Its eleven sopranos were ranged to conductor Allister’s left, with his 13 altos to the right, separated by the central male component of three tenors and seven basses.
Whether it was this configuration, the reduced size, or perhaps the make-up of voices, but this format sounded simply glorious given those perfect acoustics in St Paul’s church.
And such was their appreciation that following the performance, many audience members remained, waiting to congratulate the conductor, soloists, accompanist and individual Chorale members as they trickled in, wearing the satisfied smiles of people who knew they had made a first-class performance of an excellent concert, and all on a day when the god(s) were smiling, too.
The venue, titled ‘SPACE’, for ‘School of Performing Arts and Creative Education’, turned out to be a sparkling new theatre complex built inside the environs of Geelong Grammar’s Corio campus.
And it proved to be perfect for this non-competitive gathering of choral groups from Victoria’s Western district.
But that intro, too, was a little misleading, for 12 of the 14 choirs were from Geelong, and rather than a gathering, this presented as a glorious celebration of group singing.
Those 14 choirs brought the width and depth, the textures, colours and diversity of sung music, from folk songs to high opera, jazz to classic pop, in a smoothly-organised procession over two hours with just a ten-minute leg-stretching break.
And in the process, they created an afternoon of musical joy for its fortunate audience.
The show began with event hosts, The Geelong Chorale, displaying its delicacy of tonal excellence with ‘O Radiant Dawn’, followed by a happy rendition of the traditional Christmas ‘Wassail’. It ended with the venue’s hosts, the Choir of Geelong Grammar School making a glorious job of Freddy Mercury’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, followed by an all-on-stage – 400 voices, according to MC John Stubbings – version of Toto’s ‘Africa’. This had everybody in the room singing do-do-do do-do doop doop dooo.. and blessing the rains down in Africa – while hoping the rains in Geelong would hold off to allow them a dry walk back to the car park.
The time in between was filled with fine music and delightful memories. The Colac Chorale brought gentle treatments of folk spirituals with ‘Black is the Colour’, ‘The Water Is Wide’ and ‘Wade In The Water’; followed by Geelong group Wonderous Merry, who continued the wet theme with ‘Soon It’s Gonna Rain’ but negated the concept by singing ‘Dem Dry Bones’ – complete with an illustrative string-puppet skeleton – as their final number.
The Apollo Bay Community Choir was next, presenting a trio of joyfully warm African-styled rhythmic numbers from their Gitika Partington songbook, including one written by the gloriously named Three-Bucket Jones.
Then came the all-female Geelong Harmony Chorus presenting vocals as sparkling as their costumes, along with some neat prestidigitation as they conjured roses while singing about ‘Looking At The World Through Rose Coloured Glasses’.
The Geelong Youth Choir began small, with its six-member Chamber Choir before expanding to 30+ voices to present its witty, clever ‘Painless Opera’ – then expanding further by melding with their adult group, Raise The Bar, to bring a little happy clapping Arabic magic with ‘Sih’r Khalaq’.
Alone, Raise The Bar gave a preview of their forthcoming GPAC play appearance with ‘We’re All Here’, then reunited with the Youth Choir to sing a cheerfully spirited ‘Jabberwocky’.
Geelong’s Jeanette John conducts two choirs, one all-female, the other all-male, and they presented back-to-back. Her Geelong Welsh Ladies Choir opened with a Welsh hymn before moving to the classic show tune ‘Wouldn’t It Be Loverly’, while Jeanette’s men, the International Harvester Choir, started with a spiritual, ‘Cross The Wide Missouri’, before presenting ‘Bring Him Home’ from Les Miserables and finishing with a pop version of Verdi’s chorus of Hebrew Slaves in ‘Speed Your Journey’.
Sing Australia’s Geelong group displayed crisp vocal clarity in their trio of songs that started with ‘Catch A Falling Star’ and finished with a plaintive ‘Take Me Home’. Then followed Vox Box, bringing bright Billy Joel and joyful ‘Java Jive’ before a gentle spiritual ‘Deep River’.
The U3A Geelong Choir kept that gentle flow going with a delightfully sparse version of WB Yeats’ ‘Down By The Sally Gardens’, before lifting the tempo with the Rice-Webber showtime ‘Any Dream Will Do’. This segued neatly to the Geelong College’s Community Choir’s medley of songs from the Four Seasons’ Jersey Boys musical – and this led to the immaculately blue-blazered entry of the Grammar School Choir to sing a spirited ‘Jerusalem’, a gentle ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’ – then that wonderful ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ before the all-on-stage finale.
In total, everything came together; the superb venue, the different personalities of choirs and wide variety of their content to create what was simply a wonderful afternoon of joyful song.
– Colin Mockett
Many thanks to Helen Lyth of The Choral Grapevine for her wonderful photos of the event.
This had to be just about the Geelong Chorale’s perfect concert.
Its content, two significant works by George Frederic Handel, written 20 years apart and for very different occasions, was executed just about flawlessly.
Their guest soloists were impressive, their scratch orchestra of a high quality and the overall reception couldn’t have been better.
This concert twice drew long, wholehearted applause from its appreciative audience that continued through several bows from choristers, soloists and orchestra until conductor/director Allister Cox finally gestured to end them with calming waves of his hand.
He had chosen to reverse the listed order by putting the most difficult piece first. This was Dixit Dominus, written in 1707 when Handel was in his early 20s and commissioned to create a musical version of the words of God.
A feature of concerts led by Allister Cox are his illuminating and interesting introductions and this was no exception. He neatly put the work into its time, place and perspective.
But after that, the Chorale and guests delivered a 30-minute oratorio that had all the required delicacy, strength and power to exactly illustrate their conductor’s words – one that would have certainly brought the glory of God to its 18th Century congregation.
The 10 segments ranged from muted intricacy – Virgam virtuosi delivered by alto Colm Talbut accompanied by organ, cello and bass, while Tecum principium had Lee Abrahmsen’s (literally) glorious soprano voice soaring over chorale and orchestra to swirl around the rafters of the acoustically and visually suitable venue. There were moments of rare musical delicacy, with Ms Lee Abrahmsen, duetting with fellow-soprano Emily Swanson; and of robust vigour, with the male chorale and soloists combining to bring De torrente in via to sturdy life. And it all climaxed in glorious splendour drawing that first burst of sustained applause quietened by the first conductor’s gesture.
Following a short interval, Chorale and guests presented Handel’s Coronation Anthems, written in 1727 and performed at every British coronation since, Allister’s introduction informed.
This was fascinating on several levels, not the least because it drew into perspective the Germanic elements of British Royalty, for the work’s commissioner, George I, its original recipient, George II and its creator were all German-born.
The works also illustrated not only Handel’s musical maturation, but also his differences in interpreting the words of God to the glory of a monarch.
The Coronation Anthems were all bright, triumphant and illustrious, beginning with the magnificent Zadok the Priest, delivered with equal amounts of finesse and vigour by the Chorale and its orchestra augmented by trumpets, oboes and timpani.
The anthems oratorio brought larger prominence to soloist tenor Terence MacManus and baritone William Humphreys, whose discreet trips between his regular central position in the Chorale to take his place with the other soloists became a charming feature.
But above all its component parts, this concert’s memorable element was the quality of its music and it’s professional delivery.
All together, this elegant concert would have significantly enhanced the reputation of our principal choral ensemble.
And that has to be the perfect result to a near-perfect musical afternoon.