Joan Carden Award Semi-Finals 2015

The hills were alive with the sound of music at St. Patrick’s Church Hall Summer Hill on Sunday 14th of June when six talented singers competed in the 2015 Joan Carden Award semi finals.

Joan Carden Award semi-finals and master class 14 June 2015

Miss Joan Carden: Joan Carden Award semi-finals and master class 14 June 2015

The adjudicators for the event were Joan Carden AO, OBE and Christopher Bowen OAM.   Both these people have achieved considerable acclaim here and overseas. Joan was one of Australia’s premier operatic sopranos.  Christopher is a talented composer and conductor.  Most recently his An Australian War Requiem for the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War was received with great acclaim.  Both Miss Carden and Mr Bowen have been responsible over the years for the smooth running of this Award which has helped many young singers along the road to successful careers.

The singers who competed on Sunday were:

Maia Andrews – Soprano
Soonki Park – Baritone
Ashlyn Tymms – Mezzo-soprano
Kaine Hayward – Tenor
Sarah Toth – Soprano
Morgan Balfour – Soprano

All these singers gave fine performances and received encouragement from the adjudicators.  Miss Carden’s Master Class, where she worked with the singers to help overcome some small deficiencies was a triumph and provided considerable interest for the audience.

Accompanying three of the singers was Michael Curtain who is well known to the Sydney University Graduate Choir (and most particularly the Chamber Choir) for his sensitive accompanying.  When introducing herself, Ashlyn Tymms informed us that ‘Michael and I will perform the following program.’  A lovely thought.

An opportunity to meet the performers over cheese and wine concluded a very rewarding afternoon’s entertainment, and congratulations must go to Grad’s committee on their organisation of the event.

Finalists - Joan Carden Award 2015

Ashlyn Tymms, Soonki Park, Joan Carden, Morgan Balfour and Christopher Bowen

The three finalists—Soonki Park, Ashlyn Tymms and Morgan Balfour—will next perform with the orchestra during our next concert on August 16th. Miss Carden and Mr Bowen will be joined by Mr. Anson Austin OAM to adjudicate for this prestigious event, which offers a $6,000 prize and further opportunities to sing with the choir. The winner will be announced at the end of the concert, and there will also be a People’s Choice prize, voted for by the audience.

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A lesson in vocal mastery

On Sunday 14 June, seven young semi-finalists will each perform two works of their choosing, as part of the second round of this year’s Joan Carden Award. To have seven talented vocalists is a testament to the level of interest we’ve received in the competition to date. In fact, we were thrilled to have received over 30 entries, which were then painstakingly assessed, bringing the number for the semi-finals to seven and representing all vocal parts.

Joan Carden

Joan Carden

The performance on 14 June will not just determine who will proceed to the finals of the Award in August—it will also include a Master class from ‘the People’s Diva’, Miss Joan Carden herself. This aims to provide all participants with a glimpse into the field to which they aspire, to stimulate them and help develop their own thinking.

There is no better teacher than the voice of experience, and Miss Carden is well-placed to provide advice and valuable feedback to those who are just establishing their careers. As one of Australia’s premier operatic sopranos, she has performed more than 50 major roles, some in more than one language. Her willingness to share her expertise in this way is greatly appreciated.

The semi-finals of the Joan Carden Award (including Master Class) will be held at 2pm on Sunday 14 June in St Patrick’s Parish Hall, Drynan Street, Summer Hill. A limited number of tickets (costing $25) is available—for more information visit the Joan Carden Award website. Tickets include a copy of the program and a glass of wine at the conclusion of the event.

Miss Carden’s detailed biography can be read here. For more information about the Joan Carden Award visit

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SSO to perform Czech music

Grads choristers and audience members still transported by Dvořák’s Stabat Mater can extend their emotional stay in Bohemia until early in June, when the SSO, under Chief Conductor and Artistic Director David Robertson, will give a concert of Czech music. The program includes excerpts from Bedřich Smetana’s set of tone poems, Má Vlast, one of which is the extraordinarily beautiful depiction of the Vltava, the river that runs through Prague (also known by its German name, the Moldau). Also on the program is Dvořák’s masterly Symphony No. 7 in D Minor, one of this composer’s greatest works and a symphony fit to stand alongside those of Brahms.

As well as these Czech works, the program will include the Violin Concerto by the contemporary American composer, John Mackey, to be played by Anthony Marwood.

David Robertson, maintaining his practice of engaging and communicating directly with Sydney music-lovers, will give the pre-concert talk.

The performances will be at 8.00 pm on Wednesday 3, Friday 5 and Saturday, 6 June in the Concert Hall of the Opera House

John Bowan

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Dvořák’s Stabat Mater: A brilliant start to the year

Dvořák Stabat Mater

Dvořák’Stabat Mater

The Choir’s 2015 concert season got off to a brilliant start with a Great Hall performance on 3 May of Dvořák’s wonderful Stabat Mater. Dvořák marked a new direction in Grads’ repertoire and a thoroughly satisfying one at that.

In the deliberations of the Programming Committee in October 2014, Christoph Kaufmann (tenor) and some ring-in desperado (bass) argued strongly for a Dvořák work, Christoph specifying the Stabat Mater, which he had sung in his East German choir in Saalfeld. (According to his account, that performance had made little impact, because it took place almost simultaneously with the fall of the Berlin Wall). There were understandable concerns on the part of some members of the Committee that mounting the work, with its large orchestra, might be very expensive. But, persuaded by Christoph’s thoughtful arguments, and ignoring the wild ravings of the above-mentioned desperado, the group decided to take a punt, shelve any financial reservations, and put the Stabat Mater on the program. (Another signal service of Christoph to the Choir—it was very cheering to have his four month-old son, Finlay, an extraordinarily well-behaved and obviously musical child, present at the orchestral rehearsal. Fin thoughtfully brought his Mum, Ann Marie, along with him.)

When rehearsals began in February, the Choir quickly fell in love with the Czech master’s work, with its plentiful, effortless melody, technical mastery and drama. It was an unusual experience for us to sing such uninhibitedly romantic music.

An excellent quartet of soloists was engaged:

Lucinda-Mirikata Deacon (soprano), the inaugural winner of the Joan Carden Award in 2005, who subsequently studied at the Guildhall School in London, and has experience performing with Welsh National Opera, Scottish Opera and Glyndebourne Education.

Ashlyn Skye Timms (mezzo), a young singer, who came across from Perth to do the gig. Ashlyn has been awarded a scholarship to undertake the Masters program at the Royal College of Music, London, in 2015-16.

David Hamilton (tenor), who has considerable experience in opera and concert performance in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Germany, where he has sung in two performances of Dvořák’s Stabat Mater.

Finally, Adrian Tamburini (bass), a Principal with Opera Australia, who had performed with distinction in our premiere of Christopher Bowen’s An Australian War Requiem in August 2014.

It was a great pleasure for us to work again with Lucinda-Mirikata and Adrian and to get to know Ashlyn and David.

When we gathered in the Great Hall for the orchestral rehearsal on the day before the concert, the 44 players made an impressive sight. This was the largest instrumental ensemble we have ever assembled in Blacket’s sandstone Gothic masterpiece. Our regular Orchestra Leader, Stan Kornel, was unavoidably out of town with his Sydney Consort, and Michele O’Young ably deputized for him. Our distinguished Principal Clarinettist, Deborah de Graaff was also unavailable and Nattanan Low filled in for her. Otherwise many of our regular players were on duty: Inge Courtney-Haentjes (violin), Robert Harris (viola), John  Benz (cello), Paul Laszlo (double bass), Bronwen Needham (flute), Duncan Thorpe (oboe), Gillian Smith (bassoon), Graham Nicholls (horn), Melanie McLoughlin and David Pye (trumpets), Michael Wyborn (trombone), and Steve Machamer (timpani), who had a much more restrained part than he has had recently, in such works as Verdi’s Requiem and Christopher’s An Australian War Requiem. It was a great pleasure to have Amy Johansen back in the organ loft after a recent illness.

The orchestral musicians obviously revelled in Dvořák’s graceful instrumental writing; Robert Harris and the viola section found themselves in an unprecedentedly large six-person section, to permit them to do justice to the divided sections of the score by this viola-playing composer. The orchestra sounded marvelous, as usual.  Christopher Bowen consistently coaxes them into superb playing.

Despite the overcast, drizzly weather on concert day, the Great Hall was packed out. We were delighted that our Patron, Professor the Hon. Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO was present. Professor Bashir had recently graciously accepted our request to remain on in the role, after stepping down as Governor of New South Wales and Chancellor of the University. Miss Joan Carden, the Czech Consul, Mr Hani Stolina, and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ann Brewer were also in the audience.

The audience reacted with enormous enthusiasm to the performance, not surprisingly in view of the masterly way Dvořák moves from the generally restrained, sorrowful mood of most of the music into the triumph and tumult of the overwhelming Finale, surely one of the most exciting conclusions to any work. On the way to that conclusion, there were outstanding moments for Lucinda-Mirikata Deacon and David Hamilton in their duet ‘Fac, ut portem Christi mortem’, for Adrian Tamburini in his solo ‘Fac, ut ardeat cor meum’, and for Ashlyn Skye Timms in her solo ‘Inflammatus et accensus’.  As well, the singing of this solo quartet in concerted passages was of a very high standard.

It is extraordinary that a work of this quality, by one of the most popular and approachable composers, is so infrequently heard in Australia, particularly when we consider Dvořák’s complaint to his publisher in February 1886:

The Stabat Mater has become popular in England and has also been performed in America and Australia [it was performed in Melbourne in the early 1880s] to great acclaim, but what of Germany and Austria? Well, let’s hope for the best!

So it appears that Dvořák’s great work was heard in Melbourne before Vienna.  So much for the tyranny of distance!

Professor Bashir presents the Patron's Award to Marilyn Gosling

Professor Bashir presents the Patron’s Award to Marilyn Gosling

Before the performance began, President, David Moser, took the opportunity of Professor Bashir’s presence to arrange for the presentation of a Patron’s Award to Marilyn Gosling (soprano).  David spoke eloquently of Marilyn’s outstanding contribution to the Choir as President from 2009 to 2011, and subsequently. Professor Bashir warmly congratulated Marilyn, and spoke enthusiastically of the musical contribution of Christopher Bowen and the Choir, thus confirming how lucky the Choir is to have her in continued association with us

All in all, this was a brilliant start to 2015 for the Choir.


John Bowan

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Career Progress of Grads’ Soloists

Members may be interested in the promising career progress being made by a couple of our younger soloists.

Baritone Alexander Knight has sung with us on a few occasions: in Handel’s Messiah in the Sydney Town Hall and Saul; and most notably in the title role of Mendelssohn’s Paulus. He has made a fine impression with his cultivated voice production and artistry, an impression underlined by an outstanding performance of Schumann’s song cycle, Dichterliebe, in a recent Sydney recital at the Pitt Street Uniting Church.

Alexander’s career takes a step up at 6.30 pm on Tuesday 5 May, at the City Recital Hall, when, with the support of the SSO Sinfonia conducted by Richard Gill, he performs Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer, one of the iconic orchestral song cycles. It will be fascinating to see how Alexander rises to this challenge. Appearances suggest it will be a breeze for him.

Anna Dowsley and Christopher Bowen

Anna Dowsley and Christopher Bowen

Another favourite young soloist of the Choir’s is mezzo Anna Dowsley, who was honourably mentioned in the Joan Carden Award in 2012, sang in our Vivaldi and Zelenka concert in December 2013 and most memorably in our Town Hall performance of the Verdi Requiem in April of that year. As a young artist with Opera Australia, Anna has sung some small roles and will do so again in Elijah Moshinsky’s new production of Verdi’s great Don Carlos in July – August this year.

A big moment for Anna comes in August, when she takes the role of ‘Cherubino’ in The Marriage of Figaro, one of the major characters created in Mozart’s partnership with Lorenzo da Ponte. Anna sings the role in all performances except those on 14, 21, 23, 27 and 29 August.

It should also be mentioned that Eva Kong, who as Jinhee Uhm won the Joan Carden Award in 2008 and sang in the Choir’s performance of the Saint-Saëns Requiem in August of that year, is also singing regularly with Opera Australia. She has, for example, sung the role of ‘Pamina’ in The Magic Flute, and will sing ‘Barbarina’ in the upcoming Marriage of Figaro.

Our relationship with each of these young singers has largely developed through the Joan Carden Award, which we sponsor, and they have played a significant role in the Choir’s musical success in recent years.

John Bowan

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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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