Further news of Grads’ soloists…

Anna Dowsley

Anna Dowsley, following the Verdi Requiem at the Sydney Town Hall, 2013

A number of the soloists who have given great pleasure in their performances with the Choir are currently doing very well with Opera Australia (OA).

In particular, Anna Dowsley, the young mezzo-soprano who starred in our memorable Verdi Requiem in April 2013, after being highly commended by the judges in the 2012 Joan Carden Award), and who also was a soloist in our December 2013 concert of baroque music by Zelenka and Vivaldi, has begun to sing important principal roles. She has received favourable reviews for her performance as ‘Cherubino’ in the current production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro; in the words of Limelight magazine, Anna is ‘a singer very much on the rise’, and is proving ‘a firm audience favourite’. In the Sydney Morning Herald, Peter McCallum wrote that she sang ‘the character’s two magical arias with fresh bright-eyed colour’ and ‘brought credibility to the chemistry that must be ignited between her and the Countess.’ Having attended a performance of this production, your correspondent can attest to the fact that Anna belongs on the stage of the Opera House. She received a particularly warm curtain call and was an obvious hit with the audience.

Opera Australia clearly has great expectations of her. Writing in OA’s prospectus for 2016, Lyndon Terracini, the company’s Artistic Director, singles Anna out for special mention: ‘In 2016, we see Australian singers take on new roles, such as Nicole Car in Luisa Miller and Anna Dowsley in The Barber of Seville.’ Anna, in fact, is scheduled to sing the role of Rosina, the female lead in Rossini’s masterpiece, and will also be singing Dorabella, one of the two female leads in Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte. A singer very much on the rise, indeed.

In the light of this career momentum, it is great to be able to say that Anna will be singing in the Choir’s next concert, our performance of Handel’s Israel in Egypt on 6 December in the Great Hall. We can feel very gratified that, through the Joan Carden Award, we have established a strong relationship with this outstanding singer.

Adrian Tamburini

Adrian Tamburini: An Australian War Requiem, August 2014

The career of bass Adrian Tamburini is further developed than Anna’s. His excellent singing was very significant in our performances of Christopher Bowen’s An Australian War Requiem in August 2014 and Dvořák’s Stabat Mater in May this year. Adrian sings roles in a number of OA productions next year, including the important one of the Speaker in The Magic Flute. He sang the role of the Gardener in the production of Figaro mentioned above and made it into a memorable and central one.

Tenor Stuart Haycock sang in our performance of The Creation of Haydn in August 2009 and our Australian premiere of Beethoven’s Cantata on the Death of Emperor Joseph the Second in May 2006. He sings a couple of roles in OA productions in 2016, in Verdi’s Luisa Miller and Simon Boccanegra. Baritone David Greco, who sang with us in the December concert of music by Finzi and Vaughan Williams, has a small role in Prokoviev’s The Love for Three Oranges.

Former winners of the Joan Carden Award (JCA) are also represented in next year’s OA program. Eva Kong, who, as Jinhee Uhm won the JCA in 2008, also has a role in Verdi’s Luisa Miller, and sings the important role of ‘Liu’ in Turandot, OA’s Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour for 2015. Eva sang the role of ‘Barbarina’ in the recent production of Figaro, and brought out all the charm and loveable nature of this character. (Eva won your correspondent over by referring specifically to her performances with Grads, in our performances of the Saint-Saëns Requiem (2009) and Mozarts ‘Great’ C Minor Mass (2010) in her biographical note in the program.) Finally, Agnes Sarkis, JCA winner in 2012, sings Cherubino in the 2016 touring production of The Marriage of Figaro.

Beyond Opera Australia, it is a pleasure to record major success for another young singer, who has been a soloist with the Choir. Baritone Alexander Knight has sung with us on a few occasions, notably in the title role in Mendelssohn’s Paulus in May 2012. On 1 August in Melbourne, Alexander won the German-Australian Award for 2015, which carries with it a Principal position at the Wiesbaden Opera. It is very good to see this accomplished young artist recognized in this way.

John Bowan


Posted in Soloists | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Finals of the Joan Carden Award 2015

Ashlyn Tymms Photographer David Gross

Ashlyn Tymms

The music for our August concert, consisting of three secular works for chorus and orchestra by Brahms, the Australian premiere of Fanny Hensel-Mendelssohn’s cantata, Hiob (Job)and assorted arias sung by the three young finalists in the revamped Joan Carden Award, made for one of the most interesting events in the Choir’s recent history.

It was a major feat of organization, especially by Catherine Crittenden (alto), which made the new Joan Carden Award arrangements work. (Cath already has the Patron’s Award for service to the Choir. Unfortunately, the Choir does not have the Victoria Cross in its gift.) Since the Award’s inception in 2005, it has been run in close cooperation with the Conservatorium, which chose the contestants and provided the infrastructure for holding the event (venue, pianist, and an adjudicator to serve with Joan Carden and Christopher Bowen). By mutual agreement, this arrangement between the Choir and the Con was terminated in 2013, and we, or, rather, Catherine, found ourselves organizing the Award on our own. The complexity of the concert raised a series of challenges, which were ably met by Jackie Rotenstein (soprano-concert manager), Catherine O’Doherty (alto-front of house manager), and, in particular, David Moser (President), who coordinated the whole show.

Soonki Park

Soonki Park Photographer David Gross

In welcoming the audience, David announced that the concert would be dedicated to the memory of Joyce Jones, the much loved alto who died recently, and whose funeral had taken place a couple of days earlier, with a number of Grads singing and Christopher conducting.

Out of the semi-finals held in June, three finalists emerged: Morgan Balfour (soprano), Ashlyn Skye Tymms (mezzo), and Soonki Park (baritone). They were given the opportunity to contest the Final by singing with our orchestra under Christopher Bowen, in front of our Great Hall audience and adjudicators Joan Carden AO OBE, (who rose from her sick bed for the occasion), Anson Austin OAM, the distinguished, retired operatic tenor, and Christopher Bowen OAM.

Morgan Balfour Photographer David Gross

Morgan Balfour

This made for a veritable musical treat for the audience and the Choir, which had the privilege of listening from the risers. Ashlyn Tymms went first and sang Amour! Viens aider ma faiblesse! from Samson et Dalila of Saint-Saëns (smart choice, given Christopher’s predilection for this composer), and Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen, from the Rückertlieder of Mahler. Soonki Park offered Rivolgete a lui lo sguardo from Mozart’s Cosí fan Tutte, and O Carlo ascolta….Io morro from Verdi’s Don Carlos.(Soonki has been appearing in the chorus in Opera Australia’s recent production of this great work.) Morgan Balfour sang two Donizetti arias, Il faut partir from La Fille du Régiment and Ah tardai troppo…O luce di quest’anima from Linda di Chamounix.

The musical offerings at this concert were much appreciated for their variety, although it created some sometimes quite bizarre juxtapositions—most glaringly that of the jaunty frivolity of Donizetti with the black weirdness of Brahms’ and Goethe’s Gesang der Parzen.

The Great Hall audience and the Choir members were very impressed by the high quality of the three singers, all of whom sounded terrific. The adjudicators selected Ashlyn Tymms, who had sung in our performance of Dvořák’s Stabat Mater in May, as the winner. Given the chance to cast a vote, the audience chose Morgan Balfour. Ashlyn goes to London in a few weeks to take up a scholarship to undertake the Master of Performance program at the Royal College of Music. The Award’s prize of $6,000 should stand her in good stead. We congratulate Ashlyn, and wish her, Morgan and Soonki all the best for the future, and look forward to their singing in future concerts with the Choir.

Joan Carden Award finals 2015

Joan Carden Award finals 2015
L-R Anson Austin, Joan Carden, Christopher Bowen, Morgan Balfour, Ashlyn Tymms, Soonki Park Photographer David Gross

Not having had to do any of the work to organize the event, one can say that the new format of the Joan Carden Award has got off to an outstandingly successful start. From the point of those who do have to do the work, a major improvement is that the JCA will from now on, be held every two years, instead of annually.

Along with the glamour and tension of the singing competition (shades of Tannhäuser and Die Meistersinger), the concert included what we believe to be the Australian premiere of Fanny Mendelssohn’s cantata, Hiob (the German name for Job), sung by the Chamber Choir. The fine Australian pianist and writer, Anna Goldsworthy, who is a scholar on Felix Mendelssohn’s elder sister, kindly agreed that we could use some of her material in the program note, which helped to put Fanny and her music into historical context. Christoph Kaufmann (tenor) produced a beautiful program and made an important contribution to the program notes, in addition to his production of the vocal scores and translations. Clive Faro (bass), our new program editor, produced a finely focussed approach to the content.

Hiob turned out to be lively and entertaining, and challenging to sing. It was given a rousing performance by the Chamber Choir, to whose training Ros Moxham (soprano) once again made a valuable contribution. An initial judgment is that Hiob is probably not a great work, but interesting and well worth performing.

The full Choir’s vocal contribution to the concert was the performance of three rarely heard secular works by Brahms: Schicksalslied (‘Song of Destiny’), Gesang der Parzen (‘Song of the Fates’) and Nänie (‘Nenia’), to texts by Hölderlin, Goethe and Schiller respectively. These are all dark, somewhat obscure poems and Brahms’s music follows suit and we found some of the music elusive and difficult to learn. Hearing the works for the first time with the orchestration at the orchestral rehearsal the day before the performance, however, we began to appreciate their beautiful passages ‘(for example, the extended orchestral introduction to Schicksalslied, and much of Nänie) and their overall musical quality.

Mention of the orchestral writing is a reminder to acknowledge the splendid contribution of our 40 orchestral players, who played superbly across this wide variety of musical styles. Stan Kornel was back as orchestra leader, after missing our May concert. Our distinguished principal clarinettist, Deborah de Graaff, returned, joining a fine woodwind group which included legendary bassoonist, John Cran, oboist Duncan Thorpe, while Anna Rodger played the famous cor anglais part in the Mahler work, and flutist, Bronwyn Needham. Robert Harris led a six-player viola section for the second time this year, and John Benz the cello section, which had an especially important part to play in the Brahms works, while those two veterans of our double bass section, Paul Laszlo and John Ockwell, both played. Other notable instrumentalists on duty were Graham Nicholls (horn), Melanie McLoughlin (trumpet), and Steve Machamer (timpani). Azumi Lehmann (harp) played for us for the first time. Christopher Bowen again demonstrated his musical gifts by getting to the heart of the style required in all the music.

John Bowan

Posted in awards and competitions, Special Events, subscription concerts | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five minutes with this year’s Joan Carden Award finalists—Ashlyn Tymms

Ashlyn Tymms

Ashlyn Tymms

Ashlyn is a graduate of the University of Melbourne (with a Bachelor of Music). She shares a glimpse of her musical childhood, and hopes and plans for the future.

What influenced your choice to embark on a musical career? Do you remember the first time you performed in front of an audience?

I have always had a strong interest in singing and music making. From the age of seven I began classical singing lessons and my voice teacher entered me into my first Eisteddfod – I sang ‘Castle on a Cloud’ from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Les Misérables to my first real audience!

How would you describe your musical journey so far?

I followed an active music schedule throughout high school where I received scholarships in both percussion and voice and was Music Prefect in my final year. At seventeen I moved to Melbourne to pursue further vocal training and completed a Bachelor of Music at the University of Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. After a year of performance training at The Opera Studio Melbourne I then focussed on competitions and furthering my repertoire. I am now at an exciting stage and will be headed for London in just a few short weeks! I am about to commence a Masters of Music in Vocal Performance at the Royal College of Music.

Which role/piece of music have you enjoyed performing most, and why?

Each new piece opens up new opportunity to grow as an artist, this is the beauty of music and singing – it is limitless!

At the moment I am loving working on the piece I will perform for the first time with orchestra at the Joan Carden finals – Mahler’s Ich bin der Welt. I am also working on a lot of oratorio repertoire including Handel, Elgar and Bach which really moves me.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

Europe/UK travelling, amongst friends and family, exploring, creating and enjoying a career in vocal performance!

The finals of the Joan Carden Award will take place this Sunday, 16 August, commencing at 3pm, at the Great Hall, University of Sydney. Tickets are available from the Seymour Centre and Ticketmaster.


Posted in awards and competitions | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Five minutes with this year’s Joan Carden Award finalists—Morgan Balfour

Soprano Morgan Balfour graduated from the Queensland Conservatorium of Music in 2013, with a Bachelor of Music in Advanced Performance, Classical Voice. Morgan shares her memories with us of the start of her musical journey.

What influenced your choice to embark on a musical career? Do you remember the first time you performed in front of an audience?

Morgan Balfour

Morgan Balfour

Music has been a big part of my life from a very young age. My Grandmother was a Soprano and my Great-Grandmother was a Mezzo-Soprano. All of my family enjoy music and there were regular sing-alongs at Birthdays, Christmas and other gatherings. I also watched The Sound of Music almost weekly after receiving it as a birthday present.

I started singing lessons at age 9 for fun and I loved it so much that I auditioned for the Young Conservatorium (run through QLD Conservatorium) when I was 10. I heard one of the University students warming up in a room that later became my classroom and decided then and there that I wanted to be an opera singer. I have no idea what made me decide that but it has been all I’ve ever wanted to do since then.

My first performance was at my Primary School Music Night in year 5. I sang Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On to a backing track. I remember that I messed up the lines in the bridge and I was so sure that everyone would know. But afterwards no one mentioned it (either out of kindness or because they genuinely didn’t notice). I sang at every school event after that and have loved being onstage ever since.

How would you describe your musical journey so far?

The best way I can describe my musical journey so far is all encompassing. I recently realised that I would rather be ‘failing’ as a musician than succeeding as anything else. The joys of self-improvement, vocal discoveries, collaborating with other musicians and getting up onstage to perform far outweigh the trails of unsuccessful auditions, illness and poor performances. Every step is a challenge that I look forward to, and I am especially grateful for all the wonderful teachers, coaches and supporters that I have around me.

Which role/piece of music have you enjoyed performing most, and why?

There is no way I can pick a single role or piece of music as a favourite. Most of the music I sing is fulfilling in different ways, even when it’s used as a technical exercise. I love the Bel Canto repertoire and think that Russian Art Song is indescribably beautiful. However, I would say that Mozart is one of my favourite composers, and I am very interested in the strong and complex female characters that he writes. Performing ‘Susanna’ from Le Nozze di Figaro in my final year at University, and ‘Pamina’ from Die Zauberflöte this year in Hawaii was incredibly exciting for me, and I look forward to working on the role of ‘Zerlina’ from Don Giovanni for the Lisa Gasteen Summer School at the end of this year.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

In five year’s time I hope to be performing full time with a company in a FEST or Young Artist Position. I’m not sure where in the world I would most like to be, but as long as I’m singing, I’ll be happy.


The finals of the Joan Carden Award will take place this Sunday, 16 August, commencing at 3pm, at the Great Hall, University of Sydney. Tickets are available from the Seymour Centre and Ticketmaster.

Posted in awards and competitions | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Five minutes with this year’s Joan Carden Award finalists – Soonki Park

Soonki Park

Soonki Park

Born in 1983 in South Korea, Soonki Park studied Bachelor of Music Performance (voice major) at the National University of Busan. Subsequently he came to Australia to study Opera at the University of Sydney.

Soonki kindly answered questions about how and when he first decided to pursue a career in music.

What influenced your choice to embark on a musical career? Do you remember the first time you performed in front of an audience?

At the first time I used to be a violin player until I was 15 years old. I could not keep playing violin because I realised that I was not happy when I play the violin.

So, I entered into the normal school rather than the art school. After that, I joined one of the clubs which was a missionary boys choir. Over a year my senior recommended me to learn classical singing – then I started, finally.

How would you describe your musical journey so far?

I struggled with many hardships — I failed many competitions even including the university. Once, I decided to stop singing and I really worked the other job over a year.

Then, just before I came into Australia, I was supposed to go to the USA.

Having said that, I met the beautiful teachers Robert Gard and Barry Ryan.

They always sincerely taught me how to sing better and how to enjoy the music.

Which role/piece of music have you enjoyed performing most, and why?

My first opera was The Magic Flute by Mozart when I was in the second year of the university. It was such a great opportunity to study and perform ‘Papageno’ which made me to decide to be an opera singer.

Although it needed full concentration from in the morning to the late night, everyday, I got the indescribable feeling when I finished the show on the stage.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

I definitely want to be Opera House as a principal working with other companies through the world.

The finals of the Joan Carden Award will take place this Sunday, 16 August 2015, commencing at 3pm, at the Great Hall, University of Sydney. Tickets are available from the Seymour Centre and Ticketmaster.

Posted in awards and competitions | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Mozart’s Requiem – the Chamber Choir sings at Gosford

On Sunday 2 August, the Chamber Choir provided singers to supplement the Central Coast Chorale (CCC) for a performance of Mozart’s wonderful Requiem KV626 at Gosford.  This was only the latest example of cooperation between the two choirs, which have in common the musical direction of Christopher Bowen. The numerical split between the Chamber Choir and CCC was pretty well even.  Grads’ contribution was felt most obviously in the tenor Section, by adding five voices to CCC’s two.

The soloists in the Requiem were Elke Hook (soprano), a Central Coast artist, and Vice-President of CCC, who has frequently sung with Grads, Catherine O’Doherty (alto), a stalwart of Grads’ Alto Section, Richard Butler (tenor), who sang the role of the Evangelist in our 2012 performance of Bach’s St. John Passion, and Daniel Macey (bass), who had sung the solo in a cooperative Chamber Choir/CC performance, of the Michael Haydn Requiem, in 2014. Catherine was obviously completely in her element among this group and sang beautifully.

The small instrumental ensemble included a number of orchestral players familiar at Grads concerts: Inge Courtney-Haentjes (violin), Robert Harris (viola), John Benz and Margaret Lindsay (cellos), John Cran (bassoon), Deborah de Graaff (clarinet), Michael Wyborn (trombone), who played the famous solo in the Tuba Mirum, and Steve Machamer (timpani).

Under Christopher’s direction, these vocal and instrumental forces delivered a crackerjack performance of Mozart’s famous work.

The first half of the concert consisted of three sacred works from Mozart’s Salzburg period: Sub Tuum Praesidium KV 198; performed by the ladies of CCC; Ergo Interest, an Quis KV143; a cantata for solo soprano; and Litaniae Lauretanae KV 109, a liturgical text performed by the Chamber Choir. Christopher believes that these works were receiving their first performances in New South Wales.

Mozart Dies Irae

Dies Irae

Elke Hook was the soloist in Ergo, while the soloists in Litaniae were all members of the Grads Chamber Choir: Angela Lim (soprano), Catherine O’Doherty (alto); Dominic She (tenor) and Kirk Hume (bass). Sitting in the decent audience in St. Patrick’s Church, East Gosford, I was very proud, as a member of Grads, to hear their excellent performances—and they should be very proud of themselves.

The polish and energy of the musicians, vocal and instrumental, made for a splendid concert and a most enjoyable Sunday excursion to the Central Coast.


John Bowan

Posted in Chamber Choir, Concert reviews, Outside activities | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment