Grads to star in Sydney Harbour ‘Verdi Requiem’

In a bold move the Sydney University Graduate Choir has announced an epic new production of the Verdi Requiem, to be performed on Sydney Harbour next year. The conductor, soloists, orchestra and guest choir will perform from a floating stage on the waters of Sydney Harbour with dramatic views over the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The Grads themselves will be reserved for the final Dies Irae chorus, when the already breathtaking spectacle will be augmented with water-born and aerial effects to create what should be a triumphal climax to this much-loved work.

Whilst details are sketchy at this stage – there will, apparently, be surprises – both sopranos and altos are to sing from separate floating platforms that will move slowly from the Opera House wharf towards the stage near Mrs Macquarie’s Point. Since most of this journey will be in near-total darkness, the musical effect is expected to be magical, enhanced by the skill, experience and balance of the SUGC singers.

Balance will, indeed, be a theme running through the performance since any slight unscripted movements, or even talking, will result in sudden immersion and a consequent ‘subito piano’ for the female choral parts.

In contrast, balance is not likely to be top of mind for the tenors and basses, who will be contributing to an aerial spectacular, inspired by Magritte’s well-known painting “Golconde”. Lifted initially by a quartet of hot air balloons, the male sections will perform their brief but spectacular parts whilst dropping roughly 50 feet into the night waters.

Magritte's "Golconde" - 'inspired'

Requiring split second timing, all eyes will be on conductor Christopher Bowen OAM whose signal will result in either a musical highlight of Wagner-esque proportions or a collision of falling tenors and basses with the floating ladies to produce some suddenly flat soprano and alto parts.

Choir members interviewed by SingOn were thrilled at the news. “I’ve always enjoyed singing anywhere near the Opera House” said soprano Angie K, who is leading the swimming team who will propel the soprano raft towards the main stage “although singing whilst swimming will be a challenge”. Mary M, her opposite number from the altos had a slightly different focus “the alto raft will definitely reach the finishing line first” she assured SingOn.

“50 feet up is pretty high, even for a tenor” reflected tenor Michael R, patting his dog Millie, who may join him for the dress rehearsal “but I’d say that we’re pretty confident”.

Safety will of course be paramount. “I will definitely remember the first aid box” said OH&S rep and soprano Julia B, and Choir physio John A will be on hand to provide advice and reassurance. “I’m a bit concerned about the seating plan though”.

“I’m very confident there will be no mishaps” smiled Music Director Christopher Bowen “providing upper palettes remain raised”. Baritone and great-grandfather John T is not so sure “there are some tricky semi-quavers towards the end of the drop, and I’m concerned my bowler hat might blow off”. Ultimately, though, John has confidence in his wife, Bev, a founding member of the 60-year old choir. “Bev has looked after the choir’s traditional academic gowns for many years and is currently working with the University Aeronautical Engineering Department and the RAAF to ensure that we land safely. I’m sure it will be fine”.

Giuseppe Verdi was not available for comment.

NB Readers might wish to check the date of this article before enquiring further about this concert.

David Moser

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