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).
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.
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.
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.