Graduate Singers’ new Director of Music, Andrew Close, came to the choir with a background in music performance (clarinet, South Australian Police Band) and teaching/conducting (Pembroke School orchestras and choirs). The year started at Christ Church with a choral evensong for Queen Elizabeth II’s 71st birthday, before the first major concert, ‘Music to Die For’. This concert’s program included works by Brahms, Allegri, Barber, as well as Fauré’s Requiem. A fine line-up of soloists included a new member of the choir, Greta Bradsen. The mid-year concert reprised the successful approach from 1996 of featuring South Australian Artists, this time all composers: Percy Grainger, Harold Wylde, James Govenlock, Martin Wesley-Smith, Matthew Atherton, Duncan McKie and Jack Peters, with pianist Cheryl West. The choir was invited to sing at the Memorial Service for Lady Jessie Bradman at St Peter’s Cathedral on 28 September at which it performed Mozart’s Ave Verum and Barber’s Agnus Dei. The final Grads concert for the year (18 October), sponsored by the Pembroke School Music Department, was entitled ‘Gems and Eggs’ and held at St David’s Anglican Church, Burnside. An eclectic mix of the serious and the humorous (to perform and listen to) featured: Vivaldi’s Gloria and Britten’s Choral Dances from ‘Gloriana’, Martin Wesley-Smith’s Who Killed Cock Robin? (Trudie Austin as Flora the Fly, Louise Tunbridge as Freddie the Fish and Peter Watt as The Caterpillar) and two pieces by P.D.Q. Bach: Toot Suite and The Seasonings. The year finished in a festive way with the choir participating in the Army Band’s Christmas concert at the Keswick Barracks.
In 1998, Graduate Singers showcased Greta Bradsen, Trudie Austin, Penny Dally, Martin Penhale and Phil Lock from the choir, and composers Matthew Atherton and Andrew Close in ‘South Australian Artists in Concert III’. The works were all from twentieth-century repertoire (Tavener, Britten, Pärt) and saw the premiere of Close’s Alleluia and a reprise of Atherton’s Requiem to the Unknown (1996). There were three collaborative performances that year: ‘Kaleidoscope’ at the Pembroke School Chapel and the World Aids Day Mass at St Francis Cathedral, both with the St Francis Xavier Cathedral Choir, and the Army Band Christmas concert (unfortunately rained out!). The ‘Tudor Rose’ concert saw Grads back at St Peter’s College with an array of works from the Tudor era, and assisting artist Professor Graham Nerlich again providing complementary readings (see 1993). African Sanctus by David Fanshawe was the major work in the December concert. A multi-media work interweaving a range of belief systems, it featured taped African tribal music, an operatic soprano (Angela Black), a rock band and choir, and made for an extraordinary evening.
‘To Soothe the Savage Breast’ was the title of the first concert for 1999, held at the Tynte Street Baptist Church. Featuring Duruflé’s Requiem, Gorecki’s Totus Tuus and Tavener’s The Lamb, the program gave the choir the opportunity to focus on some fundamentals in terms of sound production and repertoire. Grads then invited potential audience members for their Methodist Meeting Hall concert, ‘Of Wine, Women and Song’, to ‘take a small vessel of Vaughan Williams [In Windsor Forest], add a cup of Copland, two measures of Monteverdi, a pinch of PDQ Bach, whisk with wistful words, season with soloists, marinade in mulled wine and add your own culinary delights’! And then it was onto the major fare of the year, Rachmaninoff’s Vespers (All Night Vigil) on October 30 at St Francis Xavier Cathedral. This was a most successful concert in all ways. Another Christmas concert with the Army Band finished the ‘singing year’.
The initial rehearsal program for 2000 included Grads’ involvement in two performances of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (Choral) with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra (ASO), and a People’s Messiah for Easter. Andrew Close’s final concert (except for a Peoples’ Messiah in December) with Graduate Singers was also at St Francis Xavier Cathedral on 3 June, 2000, with Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater and Handel’s Dixit Dominus. This too was a great success. The committee decided to appoint a guest conductor for the remainder of the year and then consider the appointment of a new Director of Music. This saw Timothy Marks, a professional violist, singer and conductor, step into both roles. Tim’s first concert with Grads, ‘The Venetians’, showcased composers from that evocative city: Vivaldi, Gabrieli and Monteverdi. Bruce Stewart, South Australian oboist, composer, arranger and Grads chorister and occasional rehearsal conductor, played Benedetto Marcello’s Oboe Concerto in D Minor. To finish the year, ‘Infant Holy’, a concert of seasonal music, was performed at Christ Church, North Adelaide.
As the days of State Government Arts grants were well and truly over, Grads had to continue to put effort into fundraising. The most usual were singing at weddings and quiz nights, as well as ticket sales. The first concert for 2001, ‘With Rapture and Delight’, featured music of Purcell and early English music, whilst the second, entitled ‘Life and Death’, encompassed music of Spain. Performed at Our Lady of Sorrows Church, Kingswood, the first half consisted of songs and dances, whilst the second half was devoted to Victoria’s Officium Defunctorum or Office of the Dead. Tim introduced two strategies to rehearsals that took a little getting used to but became appreciated: rehearsing without a piano (Grads had bought their own piano in the 1990s, which was then hired out before being sold in 2004) and singing in a mixed formation. The year finished with a joint Christmas concert with In Unitate (Pembroke Old Scholars of which Tim was Director of Music) at Cabra College Chapel.
In 2002, the Graduate Singers Committee implemented some new ideas: communicating via email, using PDF attachments to deliver music, allowing members to purchase their music and computerising the choir’s finances (a website followed the next year). To mark Graduate Singers’ 25th anniversary, there was a Silver Jubilee Supper at the Wellington Hotel for current and past members. Four concerts were held that year: ‘The Dance of the Muse’, featuring works by Pärt, Tavener and Glass, which was under the auspices of the Australian National Choral Association (ANCA); an infomal mid-year ‘pop’ concert including songs by, amongst others, Paul McCartney, The Kinks, The Monkeys and Billy Joel; ‘Madrigalia’(ANCA), which paired Elizabethan composers with Ralph Vaughan William’s Mass in G Minor; and a Christmas collaboration with In Unitate at Cabra Chapel entitled ‘From Highest Heaven’ (ANCA).
The title for the first 2003 concert, ‘Morning Star’, took its name from JS Bach’s Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern (How beautifully shines the Morning Star), with all performed pieces containing a reference to light: JS Bach’s O Jesu Christ meins Lebens Licht; Biber’s Requiem in F Minor and Der Nachtwächter (Nightwatchman’s Serenade); Tunder’s Dominus illuminato meus. Choir members Linda Brugman and Bruce Stewart also played viola and oboe respectively in the orchestra. This was followed in August by ‘Roots to Rock’, using the ASO’s Grainger Studio for the first time, and spanning spirituals to Rodgers’ Blue Moon (1934) through to contemporary pieces written, for example, by Billy Joel and Neil Finn. Joel Fitzmartin’s Concert Mass, with Teresa La Rocca as soprano soloist, was also held in the Grainger Studio on 25 October. The year finished, again with In Unitate, at St Patrick’s Church with traditional Christmas choral music and more contemporary pieces, including Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium.
‘Lavish’ was an appropriate name for the repertoire in the April 2004 concert, which included sacred motets by Lottie, Gabrieli, Biebl, Schubert, Bruckner, Duruflé and Lauridsen, and Allegri’s Miserere. And then for something completely different, it was off to the movies with the ‘Silver Screen’ in July. Again in the Grainger Studio, there was a ‘silver screen’ backdrop and popcorn to accompany music from ‘Empire of the Sun’, ‘Cold Mountain’, ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Mission’, just to name a few. Graduate Singers then marked the 300th anniversary of Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s death. An orchestra accompanied the choir in works by this composer of the French Baroque period in ‘Windows to Heaven’, this title being inspired by the glorious stained glass windows of Sainte-Chappelle where Charpentier was Master of Music. ‘Cristemas’ rounded out the year, featuring works by Praetorius, Goldschmidt, Warlock Handel, and Vodňanský.
The first concert for 2005 was ‘Kings and Queens’, showcasing music composed for Royalty, for Royal occasions and by Kings. Grads was joined by soprano soloist Emma Horwood and organist Peter Kelsall. The concert was bookended by grand works, Parry’s I was Glad and Handel’s Zadok the Priest. Concert two, ‘Lion of Scotland’ involved a collaboration with the Adelaide Pipe and Drums contingent who stirred the hearts of audience and choir alike. The choir performed Robert Carver’s (born c.1484-7, died after 1567) Missa Felix Namque and many Scottish favourites, and Emma Horwood added to the atmosphere by singing whilst accompanying herself with the harp. There was a standing ovation as the Pipes and Drums marched out of St Peter’s Cathedral. The Scottish theme continued into the post-concert party! October saw the first of four annual ‘Hymns of Praise’ concerts. This was held on a Sunday afternoon to help entice as many hymn and anthem lovers along as possible. It again featured Emma Horwood, organist Peter Kelsall and the wonderful sounds of the Brass Quintet, created by members of the ASO. The annual ‘Cristemas’ concert allowed more seasonal repertoire to be explored, including Victoria’s O Magnum Mysterium, Mendelssohn’s Heilig, heilig, heilig, Sibelius’ En etsi valtaa, loistoa and Peter Maxwell Davies’ The fader of heven.
The 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth was an event much celebrated in 2006. Graduate Singers marked it in St Peter’s Cathedral with Mozart’s Regina Coeli, Te Deum, Lacrimosa (from the Requiem), Ave Verum Corpus and Solemn Vespers. The next concert, ‘Twilight’s Last Gleaming’ saw the first collaboration for Grads with a visiting overseas choir, the Fullerton Chamber Singers from California State University under the direction of John Alexander. Each choir did its own bracket—Grads included Bruce Stewart’s The Ninth Hour and Tavener’s Song for Athene—and then came together for John Alexander’s Musica which used text, made famous by the Renaissance madrigalist Orlando di Lassus, praising the soothing and restorative powers of music. ‘Hymns of Praise II’ followed in August, with Philip Satchell again as MC. Other events included two Evensongs for St Peter’s Cathedral (as part of the arrangement for using their Cynthia Poulton Hall for rehearsals) and two movie fundraiser evenings, before further exploration of Christmas music, this time featuring another choir member’s composition, Rachel Sag’s Behold a silly, tender babe.
Compiled and written by Alison McDougall
1997 – 2006