Entries are now open for the Joan Carden Award 2015

Joan Carden Award 2015

Joan Carden Award 2015

Are you a talented young singer, aged between 22 and 35? The Sydney University Graduate Choir is pleased to invited you to be part of this exciting and prestigious event.

Entries can be submitted online at the Joan Carden Award website, with audition recordings to be submitted by mail on CD. Entries close 1 May 2015.

The adjudicators for the 2015 competition will be Miss Joan Carden AO OBE, Mr Christopher Bowen OAM (Music Director of the Sydney University Graduate Choir), and Mr Anson Austin OAM.

In June, six semi-finalists will participate in a masterclass with Miss Carden, with three finalists being announced at the conclusion of that event.

The finals will take place as part of the SUGC subscription series concert, at the University of Sydney Great Hall on 16 August 2015. Finalists will perform two arias with orchestral accompaniment, after which the adjudicators will select the winner. The audience will also have an opportunity to vote for the ‘People’s Choice’ prize.

The Award has a cash prize of $6,000 and the opportunity to perform as a soloist in one of the Choir’s forthcoming concerts.

As well as choosing a winner, the adjudicators have from time to time identified other young singers for encouragement and these competitors have also been engaged to sing solos with the Choir. They include Andrew Finden (baritone) in 2007, who sang in the Choir’s performance of Haydn’s The Creation in that year and is now a contracted principal with the important opera house in Karlsruhe, Germany; Amy Corkery (soprano) in 2012, who sang in the Choir’s performance of A German Requiem by Brahms in that year and is now much in demand as a soloist around Sydney; and Anna Dowsley (mezzo soprano), who was also singled out for encouragement in 2012, sang the mezzo solo in the Choir’s performance of the Verdi Requiem in 2013, and this year is singing the role of Siébel in Gounod’s Faust and will sing the role of Cherubino in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro for Opera Australia, with whom she is a Young Artist.

For more information and to enter the Joan Carden Award 2015 visit the Joan Carden Award website.

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Sydney University Graduate Choir—our 2015 subscription series


2015 concert series

2015 SUGC Concert Series

Rehearsals have begun for our 2015 concert season, and it is already shaping up to be a terrific series of performances.

Our first offering of the year is Dvořák’s intensely moving Stabat Mater. Completed in 1877 and underpinned by Dvořák’s grief at the untimely death of his daughter, the work was premiered in Prague in 1880, and quickly established Dvořák’s reputation throughout Europe, America and also in Australia. Scored for soloists, choir and orchestra, our concert will take place in the atmospheric Great Hall of the University of Sydney on Sunday 3 May 2015, commencing at 3pm.

In August a very special event will take place. This concert will feature finalists of the 2015 Joan Carden Award, who will perform solo arias accompanied by large orchestra. The winner will be announced at the end of the concert. More information about the Joan Carden Award will be made available shortly.

The Sydney University Graduate Choir and orchestra will also perform works by Fanny Hensel-Mendelssohn (Hiob) and Johannes Brahms (Nänie, Schicksalslied, Gesang der Parzen) dwelling on the theme of mortal destiny. Mark 16 August 2015 at the University of Sydney Great Hall in your calendars as this concert is not-to-be-missed!

On December 6 at 5pm, also at the University of Sydney Great Hall, we will present our final concert of the year: Handel’s Israel in Egypt. This spectactular and colourful work contains more choral movements than arias, and depicts the plagues of Egypt and Exodus of the Israelites.

Tickets for the first concert of the season— Dvořák’s Stabat Mater —will be on sale soon. 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 2015 concert season. The total price for the 3 concerts is $120 (a saving of up to $15), 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.

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Chamber Choir celebrates 10 years of harmony

Last night the Chamber Choir met for a special pre-season dinner to celebrate its 10th birthday.

Conducted by Music Director Christopher Bowen, with membership refreshed through annual audition, and with quality supported through extra rehearsals and its very own rehearsal conductor (leader and founder the very wonderful Ros Moxham), the Sydney University Graduate Choir chamber choir has for a decade provided extra opportunities for singers and audiences alike to experience diverse choral music.

The chamber choir has performed at many Sydney University events; the ABC Choir of the Year (2006) in which they were NSW finalists; at Music Clubs, charity events and celebrations; several times at extensions to the Maritime Museum’s Welcome Wall; and of course singing sections of major works at SUGC subscription concerts in order to provide extra colour and intimacy to the performance of the main choir.

The dinner at Leichhart’s Café Gioia – thanks Pamela! – was thoroughly informal and light on speeches and ceremony (none actually!), a group of friends catching up on stories of the summer holidays, the trauma of returning to work and anticipation of the year of singing ahead. Not to mention close monitoring of the Queensland election results and, of course, the Asian Cup Final! In fact it was so much fun, we shouldn’t wait 10 years for the next one ….


Leader and rehearsal conductor, Ros Moxham (right) with co-ordinator Jan Axon


When Music Director Christopher Bowen (right) and repertoire and graphics guru Christoph Kaufmann put their heads together, great things follow…..


The Chamber Choir includes awesome altos…


… sweetly smiling sopranos …


… and boyish basses (with Ros!)


… there is experience and wisdom …


… youth and glamour …


Chamber Choir singers are generous (look – we left you some pizza!)


… and some can even fly!


Many thanks to aerobatic photographer Catherine O’Doherty!


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The Joan Carden Award—a brief history

A highlight of this year’s Sydney University Graduate Choir concert series will be the conduct of the prestigious Joan Carden Award. As we prepare to open the application process for prospective competitors, it is timely to provide a brief history of the Award to date.

One of the objectives of the Sydney University Graduate Choir is ‘the encouragement and promotion of choral music in Australia through…the development and sponsorship of young singers’. With this in mind, in 2004 an award was established to provide financial encouragement to an outstanding young Australian classical singer, and Australian soprano icon Joan Carden AO OBE graciously agreed to lend her name and, most generously, her time as judge to the award.

The objectives of the award are to:

  • identify and encourage young singing talent
  • strengthen the Choir’s relationship with the University of Sydney and the Sydney music community, and
  • honour the contribution of Joan Carden to music in Australia.

The winner of the inaugural Joan Carden Award in 2005 was soprano Lucinda-Mirikata Deacon. The judging panel was chaired by Ms Carden and included Music Director Christopher Bowen OAM. The prize of $1500 was drawn from a fund that the Choir, with support from the Chancellor’s Committee of the University, had set up primarily for this purpose. Ms Deacon was invited to perform with the Choir at its next concert, Brahms’ Requiem, where she was greeted with enthusiasm by the audience in the University’s Great Hall.

Over the years, interest in the Joan Carden Award has grown, and the participants, drawn from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music (which has also regularly provided senior staff as judges), have made a significant contribution to Australia’s classical music culture (see the Roll of Honour below).

As a result of this success, the Choir in consultation with Ms Joan Carden AO OBE, and with help from classical music station, Fine Music 102.5, has extended the format of the Award from 2015. The intention is to broaden the pool from which competitors are drawn and to bring the pleasure of hearing these wonderful young voices to a much larger audience. It is expected that the Award will be conducted biennially. The prize for 2015 has been increased to $6,000.

The terms and conditions for the Award and the application form for the 2015 Joan Carden Award will be provided here soon.

If you would like to receive an email alert when the application form is available, please click here.

Joan Carden with Amy Corkery, Agnes Sarkis and Anna Dowsley - Joan Carden Award 2012.

Joan Carden with Amy Corkery, Agnes Sarkis and Anna Dowsley – Joan Carden Award 2012.

Joan Carden Award Roll of Honour

2012 Agnes Sarkis, mezzo-soprano

2011 Emma Moore, soprano

2010 Rachel Bate, soprano

2009 Simon Gilkes, tenor

2008 Jinhee Uhm, soprano

2007 Victoria Wallace, mezzo-soprano

2006 Jae-Hyeok Lee, baritone

2005 Lucinda-Mirikata Deacon, soprano


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Christmas at the Town Hall

Christmas at the Town Hall has become the traditional ‘end of year’ celebration for the Grads, and so it was on this past Tuesday night (16 December).

Rehearsing 'Silent Night, Holy Night', with candles

Rehearsing ‘Silent Night, Holy Night’, with candles

The tragic circumstances of the 24 hours prior had prompted a last-minute reshaping of the program—the Waitara Voices Children’s Choir were unable to attend, and their absence was keenly felt.

However, by spoken word, and by heart-felt song, the Town Hall rang out with messages of hope and peace on earth—‘Good will to all men’.

The Sydney University Graduate Choir was joined by the Central Coast Chorale, the choir of St Johns at Wahroonga, the Orange Regional Conservatorium Symphonic Choir, and the Sydney Community College Choir. The program also featured soprano Elke Hook, the Royal Australian Navy Band, led by Lieut. Steven Stanke, and harpist Karen Hickmott. Grads Music Director Christopher Bowen conducted (aka ‘crowd-controlled’) with grace, style and a goodly dash of humour. Presiding over all, maestro Robert Ampt on the Grand Organ, the driving force behind the event.

The audience is seated, the concert is about to begin

The audience is seated, the concert is about to begin

Interspersed with readings on the nativity, some of which gave a beautifully Australian flavour to the proceedings, were some which marked the anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War. These told the story of the Christmas truce in 1914, when soldiers on came out of the trenches to exchange small tokens, and to sing the songs of Christmas that were common to both sides.

The readings were given by members of the Grads, by the Stage Manager John Maizels and the Compere Geoff Shalala.

We also paused, in silence, to remember the victims of the siege in Martin Place and our thoughts went out to their families, friends and colleagues. The contrast between these reflections and the yearning for peace so beautifully embodied in the carol that followed, ‘It came upon a midnight clear’, provided a deeply-felt conclusion for choir and audience alike to this section of the evening.

D Moser - Vice President SUGC

D Moser – Vice President SUGC and one of the evening’s readers

It was an evening that wouldn’t have been the same without Elke Hook, whose lovely soprano voice graced a number of planned musical pieces and readings, plus others that were to have been filled by the absent children’s choir. Harpist Karen Hickmott also stepped in, performing extra pieces at very short notice. The ever-enjoyable Navy Band actually found themselves with slightly less to do, but did it with a characteristic energy and style that had the whole Hall happily joining in.

The concert closed with the thunderous sound of the combined choirs and audience singing ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’—a brilliant and positive message for the Christmas season and for the New Year.

The Sydney University Graduate Choir wishes to thank you for your support this year, and look forward to seeing you again in 2015.

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An English Winter’s Evening

On Sunday, 7 December, after the huge organizational challenge of mounting the premiere of Christopher Bowen’s An Australian War Requiem in the Sydney Town Hall in August, we returned to our home ground, the Great Hall of the University, to present a modest program of English music by Gerald Finzi and Ralph Vaughan Williams, plus a few carols, for the Choir’s third subscription concert for 2014.

An English Winter's Evening

An English Winter’s Evening

There was a certain irony in the concert’s title, as the temperature in Sydney on concert day was hot and humid, with a storm threatening to break, and the conditions in the Great Hall close to their stifling worst. Choir President, David Herrero, made the most of this irony, when he welcomed the audience to the performance ‘on this chilly December afternoon.’

Both works by Finzi, the Requiem da Camera from 1923-24, and the cantata, In Terra Pax, from 1954-56, had overtones of grief and mourning from the First World War. In his music, Finzi seems to make a conscious effort to eschew big effects, while pursuing subtle sensitivity. (During the rehearsal process, I found my respect for it growing and came to regret as tasteless and boorish my initial impression that Mark Twain’s bon mot about Wagner—his music’s better than it sounds—could also be applied to Finzi). By concert time, certain parts of these works had come to sound very good indeed.

Thunder broke out overhead at a very inappropriate time in the Requiem, without for some reason spoiling the atmosphere. The lights threatened to go out, leading one member of the audience to ask if it was a special effect we had organized. If only we had the resources for stunts like that!

Vaughan Williams was represented by his very late cantata on Christmas carols, The First Nowell, and the popular orchestral piece, Fantasia on Greensleeves. In the cantata, his love for the English carols, which included God Rest you Merry Gentlemen, On Christmas Night and the Cherry Tree Carol, as well as The First Nowell, shone through, as well as his mastery as an arranger. The Fantasia gave a number of our orchestral players an opportunity to showcase their skills: Leah Lock (flute), Duncan Thorpe (oboe), Owen Torr (harp—there is always something very cheering about seeing a harp in the orchestra, especially when it is in Owen’s very capable hands), Robert Harris (viola) and Stan Kornel (violin), who once again led the orchestra with style and precision. Elsewhere in the program, Graham Nichols showed his skill on his fascinating instrument, the horn.

David Greco (Baritone) and Kathryn Williams (Soprano)

David Greco (Baritone) and Kathryn Williams (Soprano)

Two young soloists, at different stages of their careers, sang in the concert: Kathryn Williams (soprano) has recently graduated from the Sydney Conservatorium; David Greco (baritone) has sung in opera and concerts in Australia (with Opera Australia and Pinchgut and the ACO and Australian Brandenburg Orchestra) and in a number of European countries. Both made a valuable contribution to the success of the performance.

Although the threatening weather may have kept some potential concert-goers away, the audience was reasonable, if modest. Those who were there clearly enjoyed themselves. The programming of two choral arrangements by Christopher Bowen of carols (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel and the Coventry Carol) helped to create the Christmas spirit, which was further warmed when he invited the audience to join in singing O Come All Ye Faithful, Away in a Manger, Silent Night and (as if to underline the Choir’s special relationship with Felix Mendelssohn) Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.

A goodwill gesture by Christopher and the Choir to the audience, an unannounced leap into the chorus of We Wish You a Merry Christmas, achieved the desired effect despite a lack of unanimity among the choristers as to key and tempo. On the other hand, Christopher’s presentation of his bouquet with a sweeping gesture to Jill Faddy (alto), who is celebrating her fiftieth year as a member of the Choir, was greeted with unanimous acclamation.

John Bowan

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‘So great a beauty’—An English Winter’s Evening

Our year is drawing to a close—the days are growing longer and hotter, saturated in the scent of the flowers and crowned by the purple of the jacaranda. Summer and Christmas are almost here.

But in England, Autumn’s colours have blazed up, and died away; storms rage and batter coast, field and town. The country prepares for Winter’s chill—for long dark nights, hoarfrost and snow, when fields lie dormant, and man and beast seek shelter from the elements.

In our final concert for this year we will present works painting a timeless picture of pastoral England during the harvest and Christmas seasons.

Drawing on text from three well-known English, poets, the first work—Requiem da Camera—by Gerald Finzi, counterpoints delicately phrased impressions of autumn and harvest with reflections on the long shadows thrown by the War that had just decimated Finzi’s generation.

At the outbreak of the Great War John Masefield penned August 1914, building in words an indelible sequence of images: from the great beauty of pastoral England, filled with the gentle sounds of evening –birdsong, the music of the sheep bells in the fold, the whisper of the pines. Masefield then removes us to the ‘the misery of the soaking trench, the freezing in the rigging, the despair in the revolting second of the wrench when a blind soul is flung upon the air’ in a way that was almost prescient.

Masefield himself served as an orderly with the Red Cross during 1915-1916, his experiences at the front, and in writing reports about the Somme and Gallipoli campaigns, giving the proof to the shadows and growing darkness in this, his only war-time poem.

The second piece of text is from Thomas Hardy’s 1915 In time of ‘The breaking of the Nations’. It also alludes to the timelessness of the land, helping to build the picture that wars may rage, and men—and empires—may fall, but the cycles of the earth, of nature, will triumph and endure.

The Requiem concludes with A Lament from by Wilfrid Wilson Gibson, published in 1918, which poses the question that so many who endured and survived the 1914-1918 conflict must have asked themselves: How shall we look on these beautiful things without remembering those we lost who loved them too?

The second work by Finzi—In Terra Pax—juxtaposes text by English poet Robert Bridges with the story of the Nativity as told in St Luke’s Gospel. We are taken to a frosty, clear Christmas Eve in the English countryside, where the distant sound of bells echoes across the landscape and out into the starry firmament. From our solitary listener the story unfolds to tell of those long-ago shepherds, and their wonder at the heavenly chorus singing in glory of the Christ-child’s birth.

The concert will feature two works by Ralph Vaughan Williams, an important influence on, and mentor of, Finzi: the joyful The First Nowell, written late in Vaughan Williams life, and also the popular Fantasia on Greensleeves.

We hope you can join us for what promises to be a beautiful conclusion to a year of wonderful music.

 August 1914 – John Masefield (from Philip the King, and Other Poems, published 1914)

How still this quiet cornfield is to-night!
By an intenser glow the evening falls,
Bringing, not darkness, but a deeper light;
Among the stooks a partridge covey calls.
The windows glitter on the distant hill;
Beyond the hedge the sheep-bells in the fold
Stumble on sudden music and are still;
The forlorn pinewoods droop above the wold.

 An endless quiet valley reaches out
Past the blue hills into the evening sky;
Over the stubble, cawing, goes a rout
Of rooks from harvest, flagging as they fly.

 So beautiful it is, I never saw
So great a beauty on these English fields,
Touched by the twilight’s coming into awe,
Ripe to the soul and rich with summer’s yields.

 These homes, this valley spread below me here,
The rooks, the tilted stacks, the beasts in pen,
Have been the heartfelt things, past-speaking dear
To unknown generations of dead men,

 Who, century after century, held these farms,
And, looking out to watch the changing sky,
Heard, as we hear, the rumours and alarms
Of war at hand and danger pressing nigh.

 And knew, as we know, that the message meant
The breaking off of ties, the loss of friends,
Death, like a miser getting in his rent,
And no new stones laid where the trackway ends.

 The harvest not yet won, the empty bin,
The friendly horses taken from the stalls,
The fallow on the hill not yet brought in,
The cracks unplastered in the leaking walls.

 Yet heard the news, and went discouraged home,
And brooded by the fire with heavy mind,
With such dumb loving of the Berkshire loam
As breaks the dumb hearts of the English kind,

 Then sadly rose and left the well-loved Downs,
And so by ship to sea, and knew no more
The fields of home, the byres, the market towns,
Nor the dear outline of the English shore,

 But knew the misery of the soaking trench,
The freezing in the rigging, the despair
In the revolting second of the wrench
When the blind soul is flung upon the air,

 And died (uncouthly, most) in foreign lands
For some idea but dimly understood
Of an English city never built by hands
Which love of England prompted and made good.

 If there be any life beyond the grave,
It must be near the men and things we love,
Some power of quick suggestion how to save,
Touching the living soul as from above.

 An influence from the Earth from those dead hearts
So passionate once, so deep, so truly kind,
That in the living child the spirit starts,
Feeling companioned still, not left behind.

 Surely above these fields a spirit broods
A sense of many watchers muttering near
Of the lone Downland with the forlorn woods
Loved to the death, inestimably dear.

 A muttering from beyond the veils of Death
From long-dead men, to whom this quiet scene
Came among blinding tears with the last breath,
The dying soldier’s vision of his queen.

 All the unspoken worship of those lives
Spent in forgotten wars at other calls
Glimmers upon these fields where evening drives
Beauty like breath, so gently darkness falls.

Darkness that makes the meadows holier still,
The elm-trees sadden in the hedge, a sigh
Moves in the beech-clump on the haunted hill,
The rising planets deepen in the sky,

 And silence broods like spirit on the brae,
A glimmering moon begins, the moonlight runs
Over the grasses of the ancient way
Rutted this morning by the passing guns.

 In time of ‘The breaking of the Nations’ – Thomas Hardy, published in the Saturday Review, January 1916

Only a man harrowing clods
In a slow silent walk
With an old horse that stumbles and nods
Half asleep as they stalk.

Only thin smoke without flame
From the heaps of couch-grass;
Yet this will go onward the same
Though Dynasties pass.

Yonder a maid and her wight
Come whispering by:
War’s annals will cloud into night
Ere their story die.

A Lament – Wilfrid Wilson Gibson, published in Whin, 1918

We who are left, how shall we look again
Happily on the sun or feel the rain
Without remembering how they who went
Ungrudgingly and spent
Their lives for us loved, too, the sun and rain?

 A bird among the rain-wet lilac sings –
But we, how shall we turn to little things
And listen to the birds and winds and streams
Made holy by their dreams,
Nor feel the heart-break in the heart of things?


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