More on Zelenka

Dr Janice Stockigt

Dr Janice Stockigt

Since giving our performance of the Missa Dei Patris by the little-known Jan Dismas Zelenka on 1 December, we have learned that one of the world’s leading authorities on the Bohemian composer lives in Melbourne: she is Dr Janice Stockigt, an Associate Professor and Honorary Principal Fellow of the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music in the University of Melbourne. Dr Stockigt has written on Zelenka for, among other publications, the authoritative Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians, and spends a great deal of time in the Dresden Court archive, doing research on Zelenka. So, having failed to take advantage of her expertise in advance of our concert, we decided to do so after the event, by sending her a copy of the recording of the performance.

Dr Stockigt was in the process of reviewing 8 CDs of Zelenka’s music when our recording arrived. She commented that “each of the eight CDs I’ve reviewed is recorded at 415 and I’ve become so used to this sound that I now expect all Zelenka to sound like this”. (In Baroque Pitch, at which early music specialists usually perform, A above Middle C is tuned to 415Hz, while modern Concert Pitch has A at 440Hz.) Dr Stockigt explained that when these works are performed at modern Concert Pitch (as we did in our performance) a strain is put on choristers’ voices in high tessitura passages.

Going beyond this technical point, Dr Stockigt said that she found our performance very enjoyable and was particularly impressed at the way it had brought out the drama implicit in much of Zelenka’s writing.

From what Dr Stockigt said, Zelenka’s music is being performed more and more these days. The Choir can take some satisfaction that it has given Sydney audiences an opportunity to hear it performed.

John Bowan

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News from former Grads soloists

Our efforts to engage an outstanding group of soloists for our performance of Christopher Bowen’s Australian War Requiem in August have incidentally elicited information about the career development of two outstanding young baritones, who have sung with us in the past but, as it has unfortunately transpired, are not going to be able to do so this time.

Andrew Finden received an honourable mention in the Joan Carden Carden Award in 2007 and as a result sang the roles of Raphael and Adam in our exciting performance of Haydn’s Die Schoepfung in August of that year, before going to Europe, where he is now a contracted soloist at the important German regional opera company in Karlsruhe.  He is currently singing the role of Papageno for the first time in Mozart’s The Magic Flute, and on 21 February  sang the role of Berardo in the premiere of the company’s new production of Handel’s Riccardo Primo, which he reports is being done in Baroque style with 1000 candles.  Later in the season, he will be singing the role of Konrad Nachtigall, one of the Mastersingers in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger.

Morgan Pearse will be remembered as having sung in our performances of Rossini’s Stabat Mater, Mendelssohn’s Die Erste Walpurgisnacht, Handel’s Messiah, and most recently Bach’s St John Passion in August last year.  Morgan subsequently went to London and has just completed a Masters at the Royal College of Music as the inaugural Dame Joan Sutherland Scholar.  It is pleasing to be able to report that he has just been offered a nine months attachment to the Houston Grand Opera in their Young Artists Program, beginning in August. This is a great opportunity, as Houston is one of the best opera companies in the United States, after the Met.

Morgan and Andrew have very warm memories of appearing with Christopher Bowen and the Choir, and, circumstances permitting, would like to do so again, although they are both unavailable for us in August.  When ciecumstances permit, it will be interesting to have them sing with us again and to judge the progress they have made since we last heard them..

A recent item on our blog reported on young tenor Pascal Herington’s farewell concert, before he goes to Berlin for further study.  Pascal has sung solo roles in our performances of Handel’s Saul and Messiah, and most recently last December in Zelenka’s Missa Dei Patris.  Those of us who attended the Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s recent performance of Richard Strauss’s Elektra, under David Robertson, were surprised and delighted to see Pascal singing the role of the Young Servant.

John  Bowan

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The Kornels and the Sydney Consort

In the Choir’s recent concerts (for example, our performance last December of Zelenka’s Missa Dei Patris), we have had the benefit of the company of violinist, Stan Kornel, as orchestra leader and his wife, keyboard player, Monika, on the chamber organ. It was, therefore, a pleasurable duty for a number of us to attend the first concert for 2014 of their early music group, The Sydney Consort, at St. Augustine’s Church, in Eaton Street, Balmain, on 21 February.

Baroque musical instruments

Baroque musical instruments

Entitled “Con Amore”, the concert consisted of Baroque works composed for the viola d’amore, oboe d’amore and recorder. Stan and Monika had invited a fine group of musicians to join them for the concert, including Jane Downer, a specialist on the oboe d’amore, who was briefly back from Europe, where she has played with, among other groups, Florilegium, the Academy of Ancient Music and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment; and Hans-Dieter Michatz, for many years principal flute with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra (Hans-Dieter, interestingly has a record of pioneering the performance of newly discovered works by Zelenka.)  Stan Kornel played the fascinating-looking and sounding viola d’amore. Among the regular players of the ensemble is fine SSO violinist, Fiona Ziegler. On this occasion, Monika Kornel played the harpsichord.

The program consisted of two well-known works by J. S. Bach, the Fifth Brandenburg Concerto,and the Concerto in A for Viola d’Amore, Telemann’s Triple Concerto for Viola d’Amore, Oboe d’Amore and Recorder, and an interesting Concerto in B Minor for a similar group of instruments by an anonymous Polish composer of the 18th Century. This program was presented with an engaging mixture of informed professionalism and panache. The concert was immensely enjoyable and those of us hearing the Sydney Consort for the first time have vowed to go and hear them again ASAP.

The next opportunity to do this comes up on Good Friday, 18 April, at 8.00 pm, when they will be presenting the Stabat Mater of Antonio Caldara, to be sung by, among others, Belinda Montgomery, soprano soloist with us last year in the St John Passion and Zelenka. This concert will also include one of Biber’s exciting dramatic sonatas and will feature sackbuts, perhaps the same ones Christopher Bowen is promising for our May concert.

Your correspondent strongly recommends the Sydney Consort’s concerts to Graduate Choir members and supporters. You can follow their news on their website. Just a couple of words of advice: parking is a little tight around St. Augustine’s, so give yourself a little time to find a spot. It is a pleasant venue, well-lit and with a good acoustic. The pews, however, appear to have been built with a view to keeping the faithful awake during the sermon. So a cushion may well be a useful accoutrement.

John Bowan

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An Australian War Requiem – meditating on conflict and loss

‘Mary presents the infant Jesus’, courtesy of ThruTheseLines on flickr, made available under a Creative Commons licence Attribution 2.0 Generic (cc by 2.0)

‘Mary presents the infant Jesus’, courtesy of ThruTheseLines on flickr, made available under a Creative Commons licence Attribution 2.0 Generic (cc by 2.0)

August 2014 marks the centenary of the outbreak of World War 1—the ‘war to end all wars’—a conflict which saw Australia first fight under its own flag, lose 60,000 to death and more than a hundred thousand to injury, and which helped define its fledgling sense of nationhood.

But amongst the historic discussion of military strategies and political outcomes lie the almost forgotten personal stories, and, in particular, the memories of the grief and loss of mothers who bade a brave farewell to their boys marching off to war, and who were denied the joy of welcoming them home again.

To honour this important anniversary and that of the Gallipoli campaign, the Sydney University Graduate Choir has commissioned Music Director Christopher Bowen OAM to compose an Australian War Requiem. The composition, based on excerpts from the Stabat Mater and also letters between soldiers at the front and their mothers at home, depicts three tableaux: Tableau 1 The Horror of War, Tableau 2 Sons and Mothers, Tableau 3 Reflections on Loss.

Mr Bowen and Pamela Traynor, who has written the text, received invaluable assistance from the Australian War Memorial in finding suitable material. In 2012 the composer made a self-funded visit to Gallipoli and the battlefields of the Western Front, in order to absorb the atmosphere of those places.

On his return, Mr Bowen wrote:

As one travels through the idyllic-countryside of Picardie, better known to us as the Somme, suddenly in the midst of a cornfield there is a cemetery with row upon row of white headstones…

…There are literally thousands of such places to be found in this area. From a distance a cross can often be discerned on the horizon rising up to the heavens and it is inconceivable, beyond comprehension that once, such a gentle and beautiful landscape was a quagmire, a sea of mud, trenches, craters, a place where the stench of death was all around.

I cannot forget the cemetery just outside of Villers-Brettoneux. Set on a gentle slope and with a cold wind blowing in the early morning light, I was profoundly moved and inspired by the sounds, the images which invoked a haunting music.

In the village there is the Victoria school, its hall’s interior built with wood from Daylesford Victoria. And from within looking out through the windows onto the playground there is the sign ‘Do not forget Australia’. There is such a moving and tender sincerity here with the flags of France and Australia fluttering together in the wind, side by side.

…Not far away there is the town of Albert and from the distance a statue covered in gold leaf gleams in the sunlight and can be seen from all around. It is a powerful image…The statue is huge and sits on top of the cathedral’s spire and depicts Mary, the mother of Christ, holding her son high above her head reaching into the sky.

Scored for four-part chorus, semi-chorus, children’s chorus, soloists and large orchestra, the Australian War Requiem will be performed at the Sydney Town Hall on 10 August 2014. We are delighted to announce that we have engaged Ayse Goknur Shanal, Celeste Lazarenko and Andrew Goodwin as soloists, with others to be confirmed.

Tickets for the Australian War Requiem will be on sale from mid February, or can be purchased as part of the Sydney University Graduate Choir season subscription. You can find more information here.

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Sydney University Graduate Choir – Concert Season 2014

SUGC 2014 concert season

SUGC 2014 concert season

2014 is promising to be one of the most exciting years yet for the Sydney University Graduate Choir. We have a diverse series of concerts planned, giving us glimpses of other times and places, of sorrow and loss, quiet reflection and ageless joy.

The journey begins in May, as we explore The Salzburg Connection, through the music of two of its greatest composers: WA Mozart and Michael Haydn, brother of Joseph Haydn. Haydn’s Missa Pro Defunctis for Count Archbishop Sigismund von Schrattenbach, which strongly influenced Mozart’s own Requiem, will be the centrepiece for this concert, which also features Mozart’s Te Deum KV141, Dixit and Magnificat KV193, and Missa Brevis in F KV192.
The Salzburg Connection - Sunday 4 May at 3pm, Great Hall University of Sydney

In August, to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, we will premiere An Australian War Requiem, composed by Christopher Bowen OAM. Taking as its main text letters between soldiers at the front and their mothers at home, the Australian War Requiem represents a meditation on conflict and loss from a uniquely Australian perspective.
An Australian War Requiem - Sunday 10 August at 3pm, Sydney Town Hall

We end the year in the chill beauty of deep winter, enjoying An English Winter’s Evening in the company of Gerald Finzi (Requiem Da Camera, In Terra Pax) and Ralph Vaughan Williams (The First Nowell, Fantasia on Greensleeves).
An English Winter’s Evening - Sunday 7 December at 5pm, Great Hall University of Sydney

Tickets for the first concert of the season—The Salzburg Connection—will be on sale from the end of January. Also, given the significance of the event and the anticipated high level of interest, we will open sales of tickets for An Australian War Requiem from mid-February. You can find more information about how to purchase tickets under ‘Hear us’.

You might consider circumventing the queues by purchasing a subscription to the whole 2014 concert season. The total price for the 3 concerts is $125 (a saving of up to $20), and you also have the opportunity to order your programmes at a discounted price. In addition you will have a seat reserved in the Subscribers seating area, and may enter the Great Hall through a separate entrance.

For more information download the subscription brochure, here.

We hope you’ll enjoy another memorable year of great choral performances with the Sydney University Graduate Choir.

Sydney University Graduate Choir, Music Director Christopher Bowen OAM

Sydney University Graduate Choir, Music Director Christopher Bowen OAM

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Pascal Herington’s farewell concert

Pascal Herington and Anna Dowsley

Pascal Herington and Anna Dowsley

On Sunday 22 December, Pascal Herington, the young tenor, who has sung a number of solo gigs with Grads, gave a farewell concert before going to Berlin next year, with a view to launching his solo career.  The venue was St Canice’s Catholic Church, Elizabeth Bay, where Pascal is clearly an active and popular member of the parish community.  To support him, Pascal had invited a number of leading young singers to participate in the concert. These included no less than four young artists, who have appeared with us: Rachel Bate (soprano), winner of the Joan Carden Award (JCA) in 2010, Anna Dowsley (mezzo), honorably mentioned in the JCA in 2012, Alexander Knight (baritone), who sang the title role in our Paulus in 2012, and Michael Curtain, the very talented rehearsal pianist of our Chamber Choir.

Because of these connections to our Choir, a number of our members attended, including Evelyne de Clercq (President), Marilyn Gosling (Soloist Liaison Manager), and sopranos Dawn Plasto, who lives locally, and Janette McDonnell, who is also not far away. Another notable member of the audience was the Governor, Her Excellency Professor The Honourable Marie  Bashir AC, CVO, whose presence confirmed her love of music and interest in encouraging young artists (Pascal told us that he and the Governor had got to know each other at one of our concerts).

Rachel Bate

Rachel Bate

The concert was musically delightful. It was a particular pleasure to hear Rachel Bate again after a couple of years, during which she had an attachment with the Cologne Opera. Rachel is having a baby in March and doing the occasional concert in Sydney. She hopes to return to Europe after the baby is settled. She gave an outstanding performance of Un bel di, from Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, and made an excellent impression in a number of concerted items, including a duet with baritone Javier Vilarino in Bess, You is my woman now from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. It would be very good for the Choir to have Rachel sing with us again before long.

Anna Dowsley played the role of Dorabella in a couple of excerpts from Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte.  She has played this role on the stage in Japan, and her experience in it shone through. Anna also performed a solo item, Jaegerin, schlau in sinn, from Martha by Flotow, with great flair and vocal athleticism, and sang with great energy in concerted items. It will be fascinating to watch the progress she makes next year, as a Young Artist with Opera Australia

Pascal himself was concerned primarily to perform the role of playmaker and mixmaster. He appeared in a large number of concerted items, even playing the violin in O waly waly to Emily Edmonds’s solo and in Richard Stauss’s Morgen to Javier Vilarino’s solo.  But in his big solo number, the famous Lascia ch’io pianga from Handel’s Rinaldo, Pascal achieved a truly memorable performance

Your correspondent has heard Alexander Knight give accomplished performances in a range of Romantic and Baroque repertoire.  On this occasion, he additionally showed his capabilities in contemporary music, an aria from Nixon in China by John Adams, where, typically, he was fully convincing.  Alexander and Pascal also gave a fine account of themselves in a duet from Britten’s War Requiem.  Alexander also played the role of the Count in the finale of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, and made the most of the Count’s plea for forgiveness, ‘Contessa, perdona’, which marks the start of the close of the action in the opera.  This fine young singer is surely due to take out a major national singing prize soon.  Let’s hope 2014 is the year.

Throughout proceedings, Michael Curtain played with technical precision and great musicality in a great range of styles, from Baroque to jazz to minimalism, showing how fortunate the Choir is in having him at our service.

All but one of the singers at Pascal’s farewell are students of Maree Ryan, the head of the Conservatorium’s Opera and Vocal Studies Unit, who, as Pascal’s teacher, was present. Since the Choir launched the JCA in 2004, Maree has introduced a number of young singers to us, which has been of great value to the Choir and, we believe very useful for their development. The quality of the work on show at Pascal’s farewell was a powerful reminder of the mutual benefit the JCA has delivered to both organizations.

We wish Pascal Herington all the best in this next stage of his artistic development.

John Bowan

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Christmas at the Sydney Town Hall — 17 December 2013

Christmas at the Town Hall - the queue outside

Christmas at the Town Hall – the queue outside

One week before Christmas the Sydney University Graduate Choir joined with the Sydney Community Choir and the Central Coast Chorale (conducted by Christopher Bowen), Waitara Voices (from Waitara Public School, conducted by Jenny Bell), and the joyous soprano voice of Elke Hook, to sing in the now traditional performance of carols (old and new) punctuated by readings at the Sydney Town Hall.

This annual event is produced by the City of Sydney, to a program conceived by Robert Ampt.

Christmas at the Town Hall 2013

Christmas at the Town Hall 2013

Accompaniment was brilliantly provided by the Royal Australian Navy Band – Sydney (director of music Lieut. Steven Stanke), the harp (Jayne Hockley) and the spectacular Sydney Town Hall organ (played by Robert Ampt).

Eager crowds queued around the block and the Town Hall quickly filled to capacity.

Reading at Christmas at the Town Hall

Reading at Christmas at the Town Hall


Reading at Christmas at the Town Hall

Reading at Christmas at the Town Hall

The Christmas concert was a great success,very much enjoyed by audience and performers alike.

We hope that everyone had a Merry Christmas – and our best wishes to you for a safe, happy 2014.




Rosalie O’Neale

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