Meet the 2017 Joan Carden Award Finalists!

This Sunday, 13th August, sees the Finals of the 2017 Joan Carden Award take place in the University Of Sydney’s Great Hall at 3pm. Details here. The 2017 Finals feature three wonderful young soloists – Haotian Qi, Joshua Oxley and Barbara Jin.

Baritone Haotian Qi began his music studies when he was 6 years old. He graduated with a bachelor degree from Nanjing university of Arts.

He has won numerous and awards to date, including: First Prize in the Theodor Leschetizky International Music Competition, Vienna (2015); First Prize in the Belloc International Opera Competition, China (2015); Special Prize in Jiangsu Art Performance for Undergraduates, China (2014); a Gold Award at the La Fenice International Opera Competition of Vocal Performance (2013); First Prize in the 4th Zhongke Cup Music Performance and Creation Competition, China (2013); Award for Creative Achievement in Nanjing University of the Arts (2013); Gold Award for Vocal Performance in the 3rd National Art Performance for Undergraduates, China (2012); and the Silver Award in the 5th National Opera Performance for Undergraduates, China (2011).

He is currently in the first year of a masters degree in Opera Performance at Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and is studying singing with Barry Ryan.

In the finals Haotian will be performing ‘Hai gia vinta la causa’ from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro and ‘Vision fugitive’ from Massenet‘s Hérodiade.

Tenor Joshua Oxley is based in Sydney, and has studied at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music where he won a full scholarship to the prestigious ESTIVO Summer School in Verona, Italy. Under this scholarship he studied singing with Lella Cuberli and Fabio Centanni. He has been tenor soloist for St. Andrew’s Cathedral (Handel’s, Messiah; Bach’s, Cantata Nos. 4, 80 and 115), and other solo concert performances include Mozart ‘s Requiem; Bach’s St John Passion; Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle, and Bernstein’s Mass.

Joshua has performed with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in the role of TCHAPLITSKY in Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame under Vladimir Ashkenazy, and as a member of the ensemble for Wagner’s Der Fliegende Holländer under David Robertson. Other appearances include: a concert performance of Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust  with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra under Sir Andrew Davis; ALFREDO (La Traviata) for Opera New England; the role of MOZART in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart and Salieri; REMENDADO (Carmen); and FREDERIC in the Pirates of Penzance.

At the Sydney Eisteddfod, Joshua has twice been the recipient of the Ronald Dowd Memorial Prize, Finalist in the Opera and Arts Vocal Final, and Semi-finalist in the Opera Scholarship. Currently he is studying with Rowena Cowley, completing a postgraduate diploma at the Sydney Conservatorium, and is an associate artist with Pacific Opera.

Joshua will be performing ‘Un’ aura amorosa’ from Mozart’s Così fan tutte and ‘Ah! Lève-toi, soleil!’ from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette.

Mezzo-soprano Barbara (Yuanyuan) Jin graduated from the Opera Studio at the Sydney Conservatorium of music, where she studied with Maree Ryan. She is a recipient of the Diane Wishart and Quin Quin Foundation scholarships, and is in the 2017 Young Artist Program with Pacific Opera.

Barbara’s opera credits include: MERCEDES (Carmen): LA BADESSA, LA SUORA ZELATRICE and LA SUORA INFERMIERA (Suor Angelica); MISS FITZHENRY, LADY JERSEY and SECOND NUN (Williamson’s English Eccentrics); and DAWN’S ATTENDANT, MOPSA and SECRECY (The Fairy Queen). Barbara has also appeared in the ensemble for Adamo’s Little Women, Bernstein’s Mass at the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall, and in the premiere of Geoffroy Colson’s opera Ui no Fa’aoe.

In 2016, Barbara performed the role of DORABELLA in performances of Cosí fan tutte at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music conducted by Stephen Mould. Other more recent roles have included MRS MCLEAN in Susannah (Floyd) with Opera New England and the lead role of ANGELINA (La Cenerentola) with Lyric Opera Studio Weimar.

Barbara’s concert repertoire includes: The ‘Nelson’ Mass (Haydn), Messiah (Handel), Symphony No.9 (Beethoven) and Stabat Mater (Rossini).

In the finals Barbara will be performing ‘Nobles Seigneurs, salut!’ from Les Huguenots by Meyerbeer and ‘Parto, parto’ from Mozart’s La Clemenza Di Tito.

For full details of the concert, during which the Sydney University Graduate Choir will perform Mozart’s Requiem, please click here.

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Anna Dowsley and Andrew Goodwin Star at Coriole Music Festival

Anna Dowsley

Two of the Grads’ favourite soloists, Anna Dowsley (mezzo) and Andrew Goodwin (tenor) recently played starring roles at the annual Coriole Music Festival in McLaren Vale, South Australia.  Anthony Steel, who has directed a number of Adelaide Festivals, reprised his role as Director of this year’s festival.

Anna starred in our memorable Verdi Requiem in April 2013, after being highly commended by the judges in the 2012 Joan Carden Award, and has sung with us on several other occasions, most recently in the von Suppé Requiem in May 2016.  Andrew has performed with us on several occasions, including Handel’s Messiah and Haydn’s The Creation in late 2016, and our most recent concert, ‘La Belle Ėpoque’ on 21 May.

At Coriole, Anna sang Mahler’s Rṻckert Lieder, while Andrew performed Ravel’s Histoires Naturelles, among other solo numbers. Together, they performed Janáček’s fascinating unstaged drama, The Diary of One Who Disappeared. This was the first time that these two fine young singers have performed together.

They both received good reviews for their performances at Coriole.

Andrew Goodwin

On the Janáček, The Australian commented that “tenor Andrew Goodwin gave this with the most intimate emotion, but the high point was when mezzo-soprano Anna Dowsley joined with total conviction to sing the role of the gypsy seductress who leads a farmer’s son to despair.”

The Adelaide Advertiser wrote that the Ravel songs were “beautifully sung” by tenor Andrew Goodwin” and that Anna “impressed” in the Rṻckert Lieder.

Andrew’s Russian wife, Maria Timofeyeva, who sang the mezzo solo in our performance of Mendelssohn’s Paulus in May 2012, was also at Coriole for the festival.  The Australian reported, “to cap off a superb weekend of music-making, the audience was treated over lunch to an impromptu Russian duet sung by Goodwin and his wife, mezzo-soprano Maria Timofeyeva.  This was one of those special moments that make small festivals such as Coriole really shine”.

John Bowan


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Meet the Composers of La Belle Époque, Part 2

The golden age of French artistic creativity, ‘la belle époque’, is the setting for the first concert of the 2017 season for the Sydney University Graduate Choir on the 21st May 2017. In this final instalment in a two part series, we’ll meet the composers Franck, Bowen and the poetic genius Rimbaud.

La Belle Époque, the first Sydney University Graduate Choir concert for 2017 offers a French themed programme drawing on the time between the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 and the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. Marked by optimism, prosperity and technological, scientific and cultural innovation, this period came to be regarded as a Golden Age when artistic pursuits flourished.

At the end of our first instalment we met the composer Gabriel Fauré, whose Racine Canticle was dedicated to the third composer on our program, César Franck. Franck composed a setting of Psalm 150 (in French, Psaume CL), the piece to be performed in the La Belle Époque concert.

Franck (1822-90) became a French citizen and artist, having been born in Liège, now the largest French-speaking city of Belgium.  There is an established tradition of Belgian artists achieving fame and fortune in France (Georges Simenon, author of the series of novels about the archetypically Parisian Maigret is  a good twentieth century example, as are the popular singer Jacques Brel, the  artist René Magritte and cartoonist Prosper Remi, known as Hergé, creator of the marvellous Tintin comics). By the later part of his life, Franck had achieved a successful career as a Frenchman and became an influential figure with younger French composers.

In the last decade of his life, Franck produced several masterpieces, which represent the best part of his legacy: the piano solo, Prelude, Chorale and Fugue, the Piano Quintet, the Violin Sonata, the Symphony in D Minor, the symphonic poem, Le Chasseur Maudit, the Variations Symphoniques for piano and orchestra and the oratorio, Les Béatitudes.

The Psalm 150, to be performed in concert by the Grad Choir, was composed in 1883 but published posthumously. It conveys a sense of joyous celebration, appropriate to its text, and has something of the spirit of La Marseillaise about it.

The final work of the concert is not by a French composer.  It is a setting of the hair-raising prose poem, Démocratie, one of the constituent parts of Les Illuminations, the major work of the teenage evil genius, Arthur Rimbaud, and is composed by the Choir’s Music Director, Christopher Bowen OAM. This work was premiered by the Grad Choir in 2002, and now finds itself in the La Belle Époque concert programme given the text and its author.

Rimbaud (1854-1891) lived one of the most astonishing lives of any figure in world literature.  He had written his entire body of work by the time he was twenty-one and spent the rest of his short life travelling in Southeast Asia and Africa, where, among other things, he became a gun-runner.

In Démocratie, Rimbaud imagines a political world that reflects many aspects our modern political landscape, which is an amazing achievement for a French teenager writing before 1900.

Bowens’ musical imagination is clearly ignited by this remarkable text and the score is marked by frequent changes of tempo, syncopation, swinging rhythms and a choral part that ranges from whispered injunctions to shouts of defiance.

Sydney based composer/conductor Christopher Bowen OAM, is one of Australia’s most prolific composers and versatile musicians. As an orchestral/choral conductor he has an enormous repertoire, embracing all genres of music. He is also known for his skills as an expert arranger, pianist, vocal coach and clinician, and is proficient in languages.

Over the years, his striking and thought provoking compositions combined with innovative concert programming have introduced both audiences and performers to a unique and inspirational world of music.

The Choir is delighted to be performing his stirring composition, and importantly, the performance marks the 25th anniversary of Christopher Bowens’ appointment as Musical Director of the Sydney University Graduate Choir.


Enjoy La Belle Époque with the Sydney University Graduate Choir!

WHEN:  3:00pm, Sunday, 21 May 2017

WHERE:  The Great Hall, Sydney University

Music Director:

Christopher Bowen OAM


Elke Hook (Soprano)

Barbara Jin (Alto)

Andrew Goodwin (Tenor)

Simon Lobelson (Bass)


Peter Kneeshaw


Démocratie – Christopher Bowen

Requiem – Camille Saint-Saëns

Psalm 150 – César Franck

Pavane – Gabriel Fauré


$50 Adults

$45 Full Pensioners (Not seniors cards)

$25 Full time students and children under 16 years.

TICKETS: Seymour Centre Box Office – ph 02 9351 7950 or online

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Meet the Composers of La Belle Époque

The golden age of French artistic creativity, ‘la belle époque’, is the setting for the first concert of the 2017 season for the Sydney University Graduate Choir on the 21st May 2017. In this first instalment in a two part series, we’ll travel back in time to meet the composers, delving into the period when music, literature and painting flourished, leaving a lasting legacy of beauty for future generations to enjoy.

La Belle Ėpoque, the first Sydney University Graduate Choir concert for 2017 offers a French themed program referencing the time between the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 and the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. Marked by optimism, prosperity and technological, scientific and cultural innovation, this period came to be regarded as a Golden Age when artistic pursuits flourished.

There were great achievements in French music during ‘la belle époque’,including those by the composers on our program – Saint-Saëns, Faure and Franck.

Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) was the most influential figure in French music in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His active musical life spanned almost the entire Romantic era and ended early in the period of musical modernism.  In his long composing career, he was a great organist, pianist, as well as a masterful composer.  Saint-Saëns wrote major works across the gamut of forms – opera, symphony, concerto, symphonic poems, sacred music, chamber music, and song.

Saint-Saëns’s Requiem Op. 54, which will be performed by the Choir, was composed in 1878. Requiem is written on an imposing scale, combining grandeur with moments of tenderness and poignancy. The composer’s mastery shines throughout the work, so much so that we can describe it as a masterpiece, albeit unfortunately a neglected one.  The Requiem deserves to be heard more frequently and the Choir is delighted to be performing it.

One of the greatest contributions of Saint-Saëns to music and posterity was his lifelong friendship and support for Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924), the composer of two works on the La Belle Epoque concert program, the Pavane Op 50 and the Cantique de Jean Racine Op. 11.

They met when Fauré, a young man from a provincial family in the far south west of France, was a student at a music school in Paris for those contemplating a career in religious music. In 1861, Saint-Saëns arrived to teach piano and composition, and introduced Fauré to contemporary music outside the school syllabus, notably that of Liszt, Schumann and Wagner. Fauré graduated in 1865 with the first prize in composition for the famous Cantique de Jean Racine Op. 11, a piece still very popular with choirs around the world, which will be reprised by the Grads’ Chamber Choir at the La Belle Epoque concert.

Fauré remained close to Saint-Saëns, through whom he made contact with all sections of Parisian musical society.  The Société Nationale de Musique provided a platform for the first performances of a number of his works, including the one we perform today, the  choral version of the famous Pavane  Op. 50, which dates from 1887.

Fauré went on to become teacher of composition, and  later head of the Paris Conservatoire, where he positively influenced the careers of a number of important composers, including Maurice Ravel. During the 1890s, Fauré’s music started to become known and he won the support of important private patrons, including Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the international Olympic movement.  In 1896, he became chief organist at the Madeleine Church, following in Saint-Saëns’s  footsteps (Olivier Messiaen was a subsequent holder of this post, as was Naji Hakim, teacher of the Sydney University organist, Amy Johansen).  Later the same year, Fauré succeeded Massenet as the composition teacher at the Paris Conservatoire, where his pupils included Nadia Boulanger, Georges Enescu and Ravel. In 1905, he became the Conservatoire’s Director, where he made important reforms and opened the institution to new ideas and new music. In the 1890s, he continued to revise his most famous work, the superb Requiem Op. 48, originally composed in 1887.

Fauré retired from the Conservatoire in 1920, a revered figure but with a cloud of impending deafness and declining health. To the end Fauré, who was born when Chopin and Mendelssohn were alive, continued to encourage younger musicians such as Arthur Honegger and other leading figures of French twentieth century music.

Fauré’s music is marked by melodic and harmonic originality, tempered by restraint and exquisite sensibility. There is a recognisable Fauréan musical language, subtle, refined and distinct.  One of his particular gifts is a mastery of the art of unfolding long melodies, which retain a sense of organic logic and naturalness, despite taking unexpected turns.

These qualities are present in the Pavane, which, like the Requiem, also dates from 1887.  Fauré originally composed it as a purely orchestral work, in which guise it remains quite famous.  He subsequently dedicated it to a noble patron, Elizabeth, comtesse Greffulhe, and to set it to the words of her cousin, Robert, comte de Montesquiou (model for the decadent des Esseintes in J-K. Huysmans’s novel, A Rebours, and for the sinister Baron de  Charlus in Proust’s A la Recherche du Temps Perdu).

Faurés Racine Canticle was dedicated to another composer on our program, César Franck. In the next post we’ll meet Franck, and explore the most controversial piece of the concert programme, a modern setting of the hair-raising prose poem written in the 19th century, Démocratie, one of the constituent parts of Les Illuminations, the major work of the teenage evil genius, Arthur Rimbaud. Composed by the Choir’s Music Director, Christopher Bowen, and premiered by the Choir in 2002, this exciting composition is sure to pique interest, given its uncanny reflections of the tensions and drama of our current world politics.

Enjoy La Belle Époque with the Sydney University Graduate Choir!

WHEN:  3:00pm, Sunday, 21 May 2017

WHERE:  The Great Hall, Sydney University

Music Director:

Christopher Bowen OAM


Elke Hook (Soprano)

Barbara Jin (Alto)

Andrew Goodwin (Tenor)

Simon Lobelson (Bass)


Peter Kneeshaw


Démocratie – Christopher Bowen

Requiem – Camille Saint-Saëns

Psalm 150 – César Franck

Pavane – Gabriel Fauré



$50 Adults

$45 Full Pensioners (Not seniors cards)

$25 Full time students and children under 16 years.

TICKETS: Seymour Centre Box Office – ph 02 9351 7950 or online



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Interview With Janine Newell

One of the choir’s valued volunteers is second soprano Janine Newell who has supervised refreshments for the Orchestra and Soloists at rehearsals and concerts for more than  five years This is no easy task as it involves the purchase of provisions and the carrying of equipment to and from the venues. Janine’s busy life is catching up with her so she is putting the tea towel away and handing the baton to alto Giselle Cooke who will be assisted by Sue Capon who has always been Janine’s little helper.

Q. Where were you born and do you come from a musical family

A. I was born at Sydney’s Crown Street Women’s Hospital and yes, my parents and sister all sang and my 2 uncles attended The Sydney Conservatorium of Music. There was always music in our home.

Q. What school did you attend and did they have music

A. I attended high school in Sydney , but sadly, in the 1950’s, Music and Art were classified as ‘half subjects’ but I was a member of the School Choir and sang in the Choral Concerts at The Sydney Town Hall and on two occasions as a soloist which led to Lindley Evans asking me to sing on his segment of The ABC Children’s Hour. Meanwhile I studied piano lessons, privately.

Q. What career path did you follow.

A. When I left school I did secretarial studies and became a legal secretary.

Q. Was your husband musical and what of your daughters.

A. My husband did not perform music but had a great appreciation of good music and our daughters did learn music and were also involved in School Bands and  Choirs.

Q. Your involvement with the Welsh Choir . Do you have Welsh blood or do you just like the music they sing.

A. My parents and sister were born in Scotland but I was asked to join the Welsh Choir in 1997 by a friend from a former choir and I have enjoyed the challenge of learning and memorising Welsh but consider music is the universal language and have enjoyed this experience.

Q. Tell us about your travels or perhaps what place gave you the greatest pleasure.

A. Most of my travel has been with The Sydney Welsh Choir and we have sung in many wonderful Cathedrals in Europe and castles in Wales. It is very hard to choose between the many wonderful places in Europe but a workshop in Vienna was memorable.

Q. What led you to the Sydney University Choir and what music do you enjoy singing.

A. When The City  of Sydney Choir disbanded in 1990, Devon Szentkuti, a fellow chorister of that Choir encouraged me to join Sydney University Choir, so after my husband died in 1993, I rang Devon and she accompanied me to join in 1994 where I have been privileged to learn so much from Christopher Bowen, learning the music he selects and enjoying the camaraderie of fellow choristers.

Interviewer: Dawn Plasto

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Joan Carden Award 2017 – Applications open

Applications are currently open – closing April 28th – for entries for this year’s Joan Carden Award.

Conducted with the gracious support of Miss Joan Carden AO OBE, this Award aims to:

  • identify and encourage young singing talent
  • strengthen the Choir’s relationship with the University of Sydney and the Sydney music community, and
  • honour the contribution of Joan Carden to music in Australia.
Ashlyn Tymms Photographer David Gross

Ashlyn Tymms

The last winner of this biennial event, in 2015, was mezzo-soprano Ashlyn Tymms. Ashlyn is currently a HF Music Scholar at the Royal College of Music, London, undertaking a Masters of Performance. Her numerous exciting recent engagements in the UK and elsewhere have included performing as a soloist within Vaughan Williams Serenade to Music with the Royal College of Music Symphony Orchestra at Buckingham Palace hosted by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales in February. She returned to Sydney to perform the alto solo parts for the CPE Bach Magnificat and J D Heinichen’s Mass no.9 in concert with SUGC last August, and we look forward very much to welcoming her as soloist for the Sydney Sings Verdi Requiem concert in Sydney Town Hall this November.

This year on August 13th, the finals of the 2017 Joan Carden Award will be held in the Great Hall of the University of Sydney, accompanied by a full orchestra. The audience will once again participate in the judging through a ‘Peoples’ Prize’.

If you enjoy the performances of the soloists at our concerts, this is definitely a date for your diary. And if you are – or have a friend or relative who is – a young professional soloist, then this could be your/their chance to perform and to win a prestigious Award with a significant cash prize.

Young singers aged between 22 and 35 years are invited to become part of this exciting event! 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. Apply here – the closing date for applications is Friday April 28th 2017.

David Moser

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Adrian Tamburini – Bass-Baritone Extraordinaire

Adrian Tamburini

In recent years, Adrian Tamburini has become one of the Choir’s favourite soloists. Adrian first sang with us as bass soloist in the premiere of Christopher Bowen’s An Australian War Requiem in August 2014, and returned for Dvořak’s Stabat Mater, von Suppé’s Requiem and, most recently, Haydn’s Die Schöpfung, the brilliant recording of which I am listening to, as I write. Those performances were all outstanding and Adrian contributed significantly to their success. We look forward to future engagements for him with the Choir.

As a Principal with Opera Australia, Adrian is a splendid asset. He plays Zuniga in the current production of Carmen on Sydney Harbour.  His performance in this small role drew the following striking comment from the SMH’s music critic, Peter McCallum who stated “As the officer, Zuniga, Adrian Tamburini creates a persona of imperious entitlement.”

His talent is further evidenced as the recipient of the 2017 Opera Award, a prestigious prize which will allow him to continue his studies in Europe.

We congratulate Adrian on his successes and look forward to the time when we have the chance to see Adrian in a robust role, such as King Philip in Don Carlos or Germont père in La Traviata. That too would surely be a brilliant performance!

John Bowan

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Noah Peres – The Interview

noah-peresWe are delighted to welcome our new accompanist Noah Peres. Not only is he a great musician but he  understands our fearless leader’s political sense of humour which makes for happy rehearsal periods. Noah is studying advanced maths at the University of Sydney so we asked him  to tell us a little about himself

Where were you born and do you come from a musical family?

I was born in Sydney and raised on the Central Coast in Forresters Beach. No one in my family that I know of has ever laid hands on a musical instrument, I guess I just had the talent from birth.  I played the piano since I was four.

What did you play and when did you discover the classics

Oh well after about a year of learning from teaching books, the first piece i really studied was Clementi’s Sonatina 1 in C major, which I performed at the Schools Showcase at Laycock St Theatre. Ever since then I have had a passion for music from the Romantic era as well as the classics of Beethoven and Bach.

Where were you educated and did you attend a Conservatorium?

I started school at Wamberal Public, then finished year 5 and 6 at Knox Grammar since i won a scholarship there. I then studied at Gosford High, graduated in 2016. As for piano, I initially had private lessons with Tibor Szakos, then Ross Hamilton, Alexey Yemtsov and finally Carl Schmidt at the Central Coast Conservatorium.

Living on the north coast do you enjoy swimming or what interests to you have?

I guess I go swimming occasionally. As for other hobbies I love maths and Science and I am a sucker for board games.

You are studying advanced maths at Sydney University –  where are you hoping this will lead you?

Yes I am, in all honesty I am hoping my passion will guide me to a career I will love.  I have no idea where I’ll end up.

 What composers do you enjoy playing and why?

My personal favourites would be those of late 19th-early 20th centuries, the work of Rachmaninoff, Ravel and Liszt. I love their piano music because of the number of forms which they employ to express their passion, beautiful lyrical melodies sometimes, other times heavy intense chords and drama. There is beauty to be found in all their music.

Are you enjoying the life at Sydney University?

Well I’ve only just graduated, but I’m eagerly awaiting beginning my Usyd adventure.

 If you were to make music your career what form would it take?

I doubt I would be a solo performer, perhaps an accompanist or part of a chamber group or orchestra. I believe collaboration allows musicians to get the most out of themselves and their instruments.

Do you play another instrument?

I have played the oboe for 3 odd years and have studied clarinet for about 9. I also dabble in guitar and like to think I’m a pretty good singer myself.

You have an unusual name. Is Noah a family name with an interesting history (or perhaps you were born in a flood)?

Haha –  very funny, never heard that one before… anyway the name Noah was just a personal choice on my parents part, though my father did come from a Catholic background. My surname Peres however comes from the mountain in Ithaca, Greece – Mt Peristeris where my ancestors grew up. Or that is what I am told anyway.

Interviewer: Dawn Plasto

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Farewell to Roger Bartrop

roger-bartrop-for-blogOn 3 February, the Choir lost one of its most highly regarded members, when the bass section’s Roger Bartrop died of cancer.  He was 78.

Roger’s funeral was held on 13 February at a packed Roseville Uniting Church, where he and his Swiss-born wife, Sue, had been members of the congregation for many years. Sue is well-known within the Choir as a result of her frequent work as a front of house volunteer at Great Hall concerts. At Sue’s request, a group of some 25 Choir members attended the funeral and sang Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus, under Christopher Bowen’s direction.

Tributes to Roger were given by Sue, Roger’s son and daughter, Philip and Clare, and two academic colleagues from the medical profession, Dr Peter Zelas and Dr. Patrick Concannon.  Rev. Laurel Barr officiated.

The comments about Roger at the funeral mirrored the high regard in which the Choir held him.  Everyone talked about his willingness to be helpful and sympathetic and, in particular, of his concern to help troubled young people. Roger’s popularity in the Choir was not based on social gregariousness or ingratiation.  Rather, it reflected his gentle and generous personality and the good vibes he emitted.  I well remember the extraordinary efforts he made to offer comfort to Joan Whittaker, when she died in some misery in October 2006.

Roger Bartrop joined the Choir in 1994 and, while not a singer of outstanding gifts,  he loved music and was an enthusiastic chorister.  Without being in any way judgmental or sanctimonious, Roger ignored the whingeing and mischief-making practised regularly by the peanut gallery in the back row of the basses. Instead, he focussed on singing as well as he possibly could.

I shall carry with me one special memory of Roger.  In 2007, I suffered a stroke and was taken by ambulance to RNSH. On arriving at the parking area of the Emergency Department, the first thing I saw through the ambulance window was the wonderfully sympathetic and reassuring face of Dr Bartrop, who was on duty that day (the Sunday of a long weekend), with the task of keeping up patient morale..  I decided then and there that I was destined to survive.

Thank you, Roger!  God speed!

John Bowan

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Concert report – Die Schöpfung 4th December

For the final performance of its 2016 subscription series, the Sydney University Graduate Choir and orchestra, conducted by Music Director, Christopher Bowen, gave a Great Hall performance of Joseph Haydn’s Die Schöpfung (The Creation).

Three outstanding soloists were engaged: Penelope Mills (soprano), Andrew Goodwin (tenor) and Adrian Tamburini (bass).  They sang brilliantly as individuals but also made an exceptional team in the numerous concerted items Haydn had given them.

The orchestral playing demanded by the Austrian master is frequently complex and virtuosic. Fortunately, our excellent orchestral players were well up to the task. In the absence of our new Concertmaster, Kirsten Williams, who was on Porgy and Bess duty with the SSO, Lizzie Jones deputised with splendid results. The brilliant rendition of the Representation of Chaos, which opens the work, indicated that this was to be a special performance of Die Schöpfung. The violins and violas played with great dash and accuracy throughout. John Benz (cello) and Paul Laszlo (double bass) made some fine sounds at the lower end of the strings. The woodwinds have a prominent role in Haydn’s score and Principals Jacinta Mikus (flute), Duncan Thorpe (oboe), Deborah de Graaff (clarinet) and Gillian Smith (bassoon) were terrific.  There was fine playing in the brass with splendid sounds coming in particular from the trombones (Michael Wyborn, Ros Jorgensen, and Mitchell Nissen) and the trumpets (Melanie McLoughlin and David Pye).  Steve Machamer’s timpani were given a good workout, whilst continuo was provided by Diana Weston on harpsichord.

On a hot, sticky day, with conditions in the Great Hall less than ideal, the performance was received enthusiastically by the audience, which included our strong supporter, great soprano Joan Carden AO OBE.  Our Patron and recent fellow-chorister Professor The Hon. Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO was unable to be with us in person on this occasion but was represented by the impressive portrait painted by Jiawei Shen and exhibited among those of earlier university leaders on the wall of the Great Hall. Joan Carden mentioned, as she had in August 2007, when we last sang Haydn’s great work, that she had sung the soprano solo on a number of occasions but never in German.  She felt that the work benefitted from being performed in German.

Final judgment must await Greg Ghavalas’s recording but, from inside the Choir, this seemed to be one of our best performances.  The professional musicians and the Choir appeared to respond very well to Haydn’s combination of awe-inspiring grandeur and warm humanity.  David Moser, our President, spoke for many, when, in his post-performance message, he commented that the performance had increased his respect for Haydn’s music and floated the idea of performing Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons), the composer’s other late, great oratorio, which we  had performed and thoroughly enjoyed in August 2009, again in the next couple of years.  To which, as van Swieten and Haydn might have said:  “Und Gott sah dass es gut war.Und es ward so.”

The Choir’s rehearsal period for the concert was shared with Handel’s Messiah, which was performed three weeks earlier.  This led to concern among some of us that we might be a little underdone, particularly in some of the complex passages, where Haydn has the chorus accompanying the soloists. But Christopher Bowen’s disciplined, focussed rehearsal work in the final couple of weeks and a valuable, if rather gruelling session with the orchestra the day before the concert served to clear out the cobwebs (the fact that a good number of us had also sung Die Schöpfung in 2007 was another plus factor).

The Choir’s performance was the subject of favourable comment immediately following the performance.  A member of the audience, whom I had invited, commented:  “I do envy your being able to be part of the creation of such glorious sound.  I’m not sure whether to say the soloists were great and didn’t let the Choir down, or vice versa’.(Given the terrific quality of the soloists, this is a huge, hyperbolic compliment to the Choir!). ‘And the orchestra was so good too.’

This was an uplifting event and a splendid ending to an excellent year, in which Christopher Bowen had introduced the Choir to unfamiliar composers in von Suppė and Heinichen, as well as giving us the opportunity to enjoy the familiar with Handel and Haydn.  Characteristically, he did not allow us to rest on our laurels, by emulating the quite decent “Schöpfung” performance of August 2007 but aimed for, and apparently succeeded in eliciting, a higher quality outcome.  Christopher “ist gross in seiner Macht und ewig bleibt sein Ruhm.”  But don’t tell him!

John Bowan

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