In 1952 a small group of Sydney graduates, who had enjoyed performing choral music in SUMS, established this choir (then known as “The Graduate Group of the Sydney University Musical Society”). They met weekly after work with the SUMS conductor, Mr. George Faunce Allman, at his teaching studios in Ash Street.
I joined the Graduate Choir in February, 1964, when weekly rehearsals with about 30 members were held at Sydney Grammar School under David Barkla’s leadership. I had enjoyed exploring choral music with SUMS as an undergraduate, and I wanted to continue singing this amazing music.
My first concert with the choir, in September 1964, included the world premiere of ”Cantata Zoologica”, by Trevor Jones, a work commissioned by the choir!
When SUMS changed from lunchtime to evening rehearsals, recruiting new members became a continuing problem for the Graduate Choir. As a result, some of our concerts included members of other choirs, which gave us the opportunity to perform larger works.
From its earliest days the choir had a rich and active social life, which enabled friendships begun in SUMS to continue and deepen. Regular socials were held in members’ homes, and we shared subscription tickets for Sydney Symphony Orchestra concerts at the Town Hall.
For many years the Sim family invited us to their family holiday cottage at Toronto on Lake Macquarie for the January long weekend. Swimming, sailing, singing and feasting on group-cooked meals ensued . The children of choir members came along too and greatly enjoyed themselves.
Furthermore, we shared June long weekends in large old rented houses in Blackheath and Katoomba — again there was singing and feasting, punctuated by long walks.
In my first two decades in the choir, our concerts have included works by William Byrd, Bach, Britten, Handel, Purcell and Langlais. There was always a Christmas concert, with carols old and new. The 1980 performance of Henry Purcell’s “The Faery Queen” in the Great Hall included a mediaeval dance duo, with a large colourful kite suspended from the roof beams!
At the 30th Anniversary Dinner of the Sydney University Musical Society Graduates’ Group, on 3rd March, 1982, we celebrated three decades of survival and growth as a gradually expanding group of passionate choristers.
The choir has been part of the fabric of my life for 48 years, and I look forward to the 75th Anniversary!