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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Grads to perform The Creation by Joseph Haydn

After the high of singing Messiah with a massed choir in the Sydney Town Hall on 13 November, the Choir will be returning to its usual performance space, the Great Hall of the University of Sydney, to perform The Creation (Die Schöpfung) of Joseph Haydn, on Sunday, 4 December at 5.00 pm.  A fine trio of soloists will sing:  Penelope Mills (soprano), Andrew Goodwin (tenor) and Adrian Tamburini (bass).

After Messiah, Haydn’s great work may well be the most popular oratorio in the repertoire.  There are strong connections between the two works. Haydn’s interest in  oratorio was kindled by his attendance at a Handel Festival in London in 1791, which included performances of Messiah with enormous forces.  While in England, he was given a text based on Genesis and Milton’s Paradise Lost, which he took back to Vienna with him and gave to the music-loving Habsburg court official, Baron Gottfried van Swieten, to translate.  Van Swieten translated the text into German and translated his own translation back into English (the original English text having disappeared).  So Haydn’s work was published simultaneously in German and English.

The Creation is marked by a wonderful combination of the sublime and the human.  For example, the spectacular effect Haydn achieves on the words, “Let there be Light!”, exceeds in grandeur anything in Handel. At the other extreme, Haydn’s depiction of the relationship of Adam and Eve is warm and charming. Overall, the work is an outstanding product of the Age of Enlightenment. It promises to bring the Choir’s year of concert-giving to an uplifting close


John Bowan

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An apology to those followers of this blog who just received a post entitled ‘Sydney Sings Messiah 2016’. Due to an error in the publication process this post had appended to it several unreviewed and unedited paragraphs that appear to date from a similar performance several years ago.

Please ignore them – they have no relationship with last Sunday’s performance.

On the blog web site itself, the SSM 2016 post has been edited correctly, and stands.

We hope you enjoy the – correct – article!

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On 13 November, the Choir organised its seventh Sydney Sings concert, a massed choir performance of Handel’s Messiah in the Sydney Town Hall, under the title, ‘Sydney Sings Messiah’ with support from the City of Sydney  This was the fourth time we had presented Handel’s popular masterpiece  in this format, the others being in December 2007, November 2010 and December 2012.This major undertaking will no doubt be the subject of audience reviews, not to mention internal reporting by our management team.  The present report is merely an impressionistic account by a participant, writing in the immediate aftermath of the event itself.

It was very noticeable that a real feeling of familiarity has grown up around the Sydney Sings events.  The Choir has come to regard the great old building as a home from home and the guest singers have developed into an informal wider community of the Grads.  They came from as far afield as Victoria, Canberra, the Southern Highlands, the South Coast, the Blue Mountains and the Central Coast. Many of them had sung with us before and the fact that they continue to return is a tribute to the musical experience provided by Christopher Bowen, the friendly welcome extended by the Grads, and the conscientious technical support offered from 2007 to 2012 by Catherine Crittenden (alto) and now by Marilyn Gosling (soprano).  The Joubert Singers of Hunters Hill, to whom I also belong, provided ten members of the guest choir, and they once again enthused about the experience. We have built up a reservoir of goodwill with our guests and it should stand us in good stead, as we look ahead to next year’s Verdi Requiem and An Australian War Requiem by Christopher Bowen on Remembrance Day 2018.

The guest choir numbered some 320 and, from inside the performance, seemed to do an excellent job, given the limited rehearsal time (on the morning of the performance – Christopher Bowen had, however, directed a program of detailed rehearsals for the Grads themselves over the prior 8 weeks) and the technical problems set by Handel’s score, with its long semi-quaver runs, so tough for a large body of singers.  There were many favourable comments from both members of the audience and choristers on the clarity of the choral sound and, in particular, the way in which the wide distribution of the choir all across the stage and up into left and right balconies allowed Handel’s choral lines to move around the hall in a strikingly stereophonic manner. Perhaps most dramatic during the final ‘Amen’, this was also most apt in ‘For we like sheep’ where we were not far short of needing  volunteer shepherds at the exit doors.

It is unusual to single out individual choristers but one member of the complement of Grads must be mentioned on this occasion: our music-loving Patron, Professor the Hon. Dame Marie Bashir AD CVO, had from time to time over the years expressed an interest in singing in a performance of Messiah.  Having laid down her responsibilities as Governor of New South Wales and Chancellor of the University of Sydney, she felt able to take our President’s invitation to join the Choir for this performance and did so with evident relish.  She was assiduous in attending rehearsals and studious in the concentration and effort she put into them. It was an honour and pleasure to have Professor Bashir sing with us and we look forward to her doing so again in the future.

An excellent quartet of soloists was engaged:  Anita Kyle (soprano), Tim Chung (alto), Andrew Goodwin (tenor) and David Hidden (bass). Anita had sung in our Israel in Egypt performance in December 2014 and our “Saxon Baroque” concert in August this year.  Tim had sung in an earlier Sydney Sings Messiah with us. Andrew had sung in our 60th Anniversary performance of Mendelssohn’s Paulus in May 2012, while David had also sung in Israel in Egypt.  These four singers sang beautifully and made a splendid contribution to the success of the performance.

A small but expert orchestra was engaged for the performance.  Kirsten Williams (Concertmaster) played with us in the Town Hall for the first time and she was joined in the first desk of the violins by the SSO’s Stan Kornel.  Michele O’Young and Inge Courtney-Haentjes completed an excellent First Violin section. Regulars, John Benz and Margaret Machamer (cellos) and Paul Laszlo (double-bass),  played once again, as did Duncan Thorpe and Anna Rodger (oboes).  Stan Kornel’s wife, Monika, played the harpsichord, while Peter Kneeshaw was the organist.   The Last Trumpet was sounded challengingly and faultlessly by Colin Grisdale.  Once again, the orchestral players gave an outstanding performance.   The Town Hall showed itself again to be an excellent performance space.

Christopher Bowen put in a heroic display on the podium. He was on duty from about 8.30 am until 6.00 pm and maintained a cheerful humour throughout, while he worked to obtain the sort of singing he required and went through points of detail with the orchestra.  And nary a cross word or a dark look.  And he conjured up what seemed like an outstanding performance.  Speaking personally, this was one of the most satisfying Messiahs with which I have been associated.  Bravo Christopher!

These ‘Sydney Sings’ concerts in Sydney Town Hall require an enormous amount of organisation, almost all carried out by SUGC volunteers. Over the months leading to Sunday the guest choristers were organised with characteristic friendliness and courtesy by a team led by Marilyn Gosling. Much of the logistics of the big day fell to Concert Manager Jackie Rotenstein and her large team of volunteers, with an extended Front of House team (including many from outside the choir) ensuring that the audience were properly looked after. A further team spent many hours over the preceding weeks ensuring that the program was of a suitably high standard. In fact there were far too many contributors to name. Overall at least 50 SUGC volunteers worked together to  make this event the success it undoubtedly was.

In this large space, the audience was modest but decent.  The Town Hall was more than half-full and those present clearly enjoyed the performance.  A number of our leading benefactors were present.  The indications are that Messiah will continue to attract singers and listeners for many years to come.

John Bowan

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News from our Orchestra

In addition to the engagement of Kirsten Williams as Concertmaster, another recent development serves to underline the exceptional quality of our orchestral players.

In May, when a cellist had to drop out late and at short notice from the orchestra for the von Suppé Requiem, our Orchestra Manager, Pamela Traynor was able to engage  Hyung Suk Bae, an SSO Fellow for 2016.

In the past few days, the great violinist, Pinchas Zukerman, has been in Sydney, playing a series of concerts with the SSO.  On 11 November, your correspondent went to the Opera House to hear Zukerman lead a performance of chamber music, including Mendelssohn’s Octet. The other performers included Andrew Haveron, the SSO’s Concertmaster, and Roger Benedict, the viola Principal.  Hyung Suk Bae was one of four SSO Fellows who joined this stellar group to play Mendelssohn’s  masterpiece, probably the greatest piece of music composed by a teenager (Felix was 16 at the time!)   The young cellist was clearly in his element in this company and we may hope that he will grace another of our performances before too long.


John Bowan

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Handel’s Messiah – An Interview with Christopher Bowen

It’s easy to imagine performing Handel’s Messiah as a routine venture. After all, nearly all of the 450 choristers will have sung it before, most of them many times. The orchestral players are professional musicians with impeccable credentials – SSO, Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra – and Messiah is a standard part of the soloists’ repertoire.

That is not how Music Director and conductor, Christopher Bowen, sees it though. “Messiah is the best known classical choral work, which means that audience expectations are that much higher. Basic competency is simply assumed and tuning is scrutinised as listeners anticipate each melody.”

The choristers of Sydney University Graduate Choir – one of whom claims to have publicly performed Messiah over 100 times – have therefore been practicing the work hard since late August. “Part of my role is to renew singers’ commitment to this great work,” says Bowen, “whilst not allowing its sweeping emotional and spiritual power to ever shift their focus from very, very tight technical delivery. Ultimately it’s the audience who are paying for a great musical and emotional experience, whilst the choir should feel just enough to inspire.”

And how will Bowen be judging the success of the performance? “Well, I’m delighted with the soloists we have been able to secure, and it’s always a privilege to conduct musicians of this calibre. Sydney Town Hall is a tremendous venue that has heard many Messiah performances in its 125 years and I would like this to be one that the audience feels is fresh and full of vigour. It is in many ways a universal work, deserving of all of the energy that we can provide. I hope that is what our audience takes home with them.”

Christopher Bowen OAM will be conducting the Sydney University Graduate Choir and Orchestra with guest choir and soloists Anita Kyle (soprano), Tim Chung (alto), Andrew Goodwin (Tenor) and David Hidden (bass) in ‘Sydney Sings Messiah’ at Sydney Town Hall on Sunday November 13th at 3pm. Tickets from the Seymour Centre Box office or on the door $45-$25.


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SSO Plays Mahler at the Sydney Town Hall

As an organization, which in recent years has staged concerts in the Sydney Town Hall, and will do so again with Handel’s Messiah in November, the Grads  took particular interest in the news that the SSO and Philharmonia Choir, under David Robertson, were to perform Gustav Mahler’s Second  Symphony “Resurrection” in two performances in this grand old building in August.  Your correspondent was interested enough to attend the first of these on Saturday evening 27 August.

The instrumental forces on show were considerable, with some 120 players involved, including 65 strings and 17 woodwind.  There were also 10 horns and 10 trumpets, a good number of whom spent considerable time playing offstage. So this was a much larger orchestra than we deployed in our Verdi Requiem and Christopher .Bowen’s Australian War Requiem performances. The Mahler chorus, at 110 was smaller than ours for Verdi, but the large orchestra imposed a big space problem.

The solution was probably quite expensive but quite ingenious: the first dozen rows of seating in the stalls were removed and replaced by a temporary stage, on which the bulk of the orchestra was seated.  This temporary structure adjoined the choir stalls, which accommodated the chorus and the large timpani/percussion battery.

This temporary arrangement worked very well. The old building’s acoustic is outstanding and the performance looked spectacular. Back in the early 1960s, when Pamela Traynor (sop), the Choir’s Orchestra Manager, and I worked as very young officers in the ABC’s Concert Department and the SSO was an ABC body, the orchestra used to give all its Sydney concerts in the Town Hall. So this Mahler performance was like a pleasant trip down Memory Lane. The orchestra and chorus were excellent and the two female vocal soloists, Kiandra Howarth (sop) and Caitlin Hulcup (mezzo) outstanding.

The performance enabled one to imagine that evening in 1950, when the SSO and the Hurlstone Choral Society (from which the Philharmonia Choirs developed), with Valda Bagnall (sop) and Florence Taylor (alto), gave the Australian premiere of this symphony in the same venue, under the legendary Otto Klemperer. This might appear a little belated for a work that had existed since 1895 but it should be remembered that Mahler’s music, so fashionable these days, was little known until the 1960s. It was kept alive by the efforts of conductors like Klemperer and Bruno Walter, both of whom had worked as assistants to the composer. Leonard Bernstein was a major force in popularising Mahler’s music. Bernstein described his experience of having to promote it to an uncomprehending and unsympathetic Vienna Philharmonic, who had lost connection with it during the Nazi era, when it was banned because of Mahler’s Jewish origin.

The the SSO  Mahler concert confirmed that the Sydney Town Hall is acoustically, visually and historically an outstanding venue for concerts and that the Grads are fortunate to have established a foothold there.

John Bowan

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