2007 – 2017
In 2007, with Graduate Singers continuing under the directorship of Tim Marks, the choir presented five concerts. The first, on 24 March, was devoted to the French composer Gabriel Fauré, and particularly to his Requiem Op.48. It was performed using the rarely heard 1893 scoring, which featured the rich sonority of the lower strings, horns and organ. The program included a quote from Fauré to his son Phillipe in 1908: ‘For me … music exists to elevate us as far as possible above everyday existence’. Then, for a complete contrast, St Peter’s Cathedral rang out with African music, from traditional tribal and hunting songs to lullabies and string quartets. Grads was joined by the Liberian Women’s Dance Group, Adelaide Symphony Orchestra (ASO) percussionists Steven Peterka and Amanda Grigg, and the Vivente String Quartet (also ASO players). ‘Hymns of Praise III’ followed in August, as did a compilation CD of favourite hymns produced by the committee. Graduate Singers’ 30th anniversary was marked by a party at the Kensington Hotel which was attended and enjoyed by some 60 former and current choristers. ‘A Glass Darkly’ in October, which coincided with the St Peter’s Cathedral Art Show, saw the choir explore the theme of light and reflection in all its forms. As well as works by Philip Glass, Benjamin Britten and Morten Lauridsen, there were two premieres of works by choir members: Bruce Stewart’s Ring out, ye crystal spheres (with tuned wine glasses) and Rachel Sag’s Through a glass darkly. ‘Cristemas’ featured traditional Christmas favourites alongside some new and seldom performed works including Media Vita arranged by Michael McGlynn, Bruckner’s Virga Jesse, Poulenc’s Magnum Mysterium and Adelaide composer and choir member Ian Carrig’s Hodie: A boy was born.
Grads offered another five-concert season in 2008, using St Peter’s Cathedral as a concert base. The first was a successful performance of Monteverdi’s Vespers of the Blessed Virgin of 1610 with soloists from the vocal group Syntony. The South Australian Pipes and Drums returned in June for a ‘Celtic Celebration’ which included music from Ireland, Wales and Scotland. The next ‘Hymns of Praise’ took place in August and fortunately Bruce Stewart was able to step in at short notice to conduct the performance when Tim Marks became ill. ‘Lavish II’ was the next offering, with works by (amongst others) Byrd, Victoria, Brahms and Gibbons, together with Barber’s Agnus Dei and Allegri’s Miserere mei, deus. The choir was joined by organist Shirley Gale, who played J.S. Bach’s Tocata and Fugue in G Minor, and soloists Greta Bradman, Emma Horwood, Matthew Rutty and Bruce Stewart (oboe). Among some of the lesser-known seasonal works in the ‘Cristemas’ concert were Hans Leo Hassler’s Verbum Caro Factum Est, Johannes Eccard’s When to the Temple Mary went, Frank La Rocca’s O Magnum Mysterium and the spiritual Jerus’lem in the mornin’ arranged by J. Jennings/T. Marks.
In 2009, the choir continued with a busy schedule that included a lot of music new to many choristers, thus making greater demands on their time and learning. However, the year started with a very familiar work: Handel’s Messiah, performed in the Festival Theatre with the ASO under the baton of Graham Abbott. This marked the 250th anniversary of Handel’s death. Then it was on to learning three Bach cantatas (Nos. 36, 131 and 140) for the June concert which was held in St Peter’s Cathedral. A concert entitled ‘Requiem’ followed in August and featured requiems by Herbert Howells (1932) and Tomás Luis de Victoria (1605). For this, the choir enjoyed joining with the Australian Youth Choir. ‘Revelation’ in October saw Graduate Singers’ most unusual collaboration to that point. Swedish-born former bassist Andy Salvanos had become well known to Adelaideans through his playing of a less familiar instrument from the guitar family, the Chapman Stick. As well as performing solo, he combined with the choir in several pieces, including the African-inspired Wodaabe Nights and Bruce Stewart’s arrangement of La Folia. The evening also featured soprano soloist, Louisa Perfect, who sang in Stewart’s There is a light and J.J. Hutchings Homage to Tallis. ‘Cristemas’ again allowed for the almost-infinite seasonal repertoire to be explored further. And, as ever, the choir continued to enjoy Post-Concert Parties and post-rehearsal gatherings at the pub.
Mahler’s Symphony No.8 in E flat major (Symphony of a Thousand) was a thrilling way to start 2010, marking the 100th anniversary of this monumental work’s premiere in Germany. Some Grads were lucky enough to participate in two performances at the Sydney Opera House in February with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra before more choir members joined the Adelaide Festival of Arts production. This took place on 13 March at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre. Carl Crossin was Chorus Master and Arvo Volmer conducted the combined Adelaide and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras, eight soloists and hundreds of singers from South Australia and interstate to great acclaim. Graduate Singers’ first concert for the year was in June and featured Vivaldi’s Gloria and Magnificat, with the former being sung from memory. This was followed in October with Beethoven’s Mass in C major Op.86 and Schubert’s Mass in G major D167. It was reported at the November AGM that new publicity strategies had resulted in audience numbers increasing from only 326 over three concerts in 2009 to almost 700 in the three concerts since the previous AGM. The ‘Cristemas’ concert presented many and varied realisations of In dulci jubilo (‘in sweet rejoicing’) for choir, and included one piece for brass quintet and another for organ.
Durante’s Magnificat in B flat major and Handel’s Dixit Dominus started 2011’s choral year. The choir again enjoyed working with an orchestra. ‘Celtic Colours’ renewed the choir’s association with the South Australian Pipes and Drums and singer Siobhan Owen. As well as traditional fare, contemporary composers were included with works by Michael McGlynn from Ireland (Geantraí) and American Eric Whitacre (Sleep). Purcell was the featured composer for ‘The Sparrow and the Gentle Dove’ held at the end of October with Blow up the trumpet in Sion, I was glad, Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary and Come, ye sons of art (Ode for Queen Mary). ‘Cristemas’ was the final concert for the year and the final concert for Graduate Singers with Tim Marks as its Director of Music. This brought to the end a twelve-year association with Tim during which the choir performed a wide variety of works from the choral repertoire and ventured into some unusual territory, often with surprising results.
Graduate Singers’ committee decided to engage guest conductors for the first two concerts of 2012. The first conductor was Karl Geiger, a graduate of both the Elder Conservatorium of Music and the University of Melbourne, who had worked with a number of ensembles as conductor and accompanist. ‘Faire is the Heaven’ at St Peter’s Cathedral in May featured Rutter’s Gloria (with organ, brass and percussion) and Britten’s Te Deum in C (Peter Kelsall, organ), with other works by Walmisley, Harris, Whitacre and Gjeilo. Peter Kelsall, Organist and Director of Choristers at Pilgrim Uniting Church and Musical Director of Adelaide University Choral Society (AUCS), took the choir for an Evensong service at the Cathedral and conducted the second concert for the year, with Karl Geiger as the organist this time. ‘Deus Ibi Est’ was a celebration of 20th-century sacred music and included works by Duruflé, Howells, Stanford, Langlais and Jackson. Karl Geiger was appointed as Graduate Singers’ seventh Director of Music, and led the choir in its final offering for the year, ‘Cristemas’, again at St Peter’s Cathedral. Members of Graduate Singers also joined the Elder Chorale for ‘Carols on Campus’ at the University of Adelaide.
May 2013 saw Grads perform at St Augustine’s Anglican Church, Unley with a small orchestra, organ, soloists Georgina Gold and Branko Lovrinov, and a semi-chorus from the choir. The featured work was Haydn’s Heiligmesse in B flat major with Palestrina’s Stabat Mater Dolorosa and Holst’s Two Psalms forming the first half. Then it was a celebration of the music of Benjamin Britten as a way of marking the 100th anniversary of his birth. Held at Pilgrim Uniting Church in August, this concert featured performances of Hymn to St Peter, Hymn to St Cecilia, Hymn of St Columba and Hymn to the Virgin as well as works by other 20th- and 21st-century composers, Tippett, Pärt and Whitacre. The ASO also celebrated this anniversary with a performance of Britten’s War Requiem. Members of Graduate Singers joined the Elder Conservatorium Chorale in this monumental work with Carl Crossin as Chorus Master and Arvo Volmer as conductor. It was decided to offer the ‘Cristemas’ concert twice, and appreciative audiences at St Peter’s Cathedral and St Augustine’s Church heard Finzi’s In Terra Pax, Vaughan William’s Fantasia on Christmas Carols and other favourites. The committee’s publicity strategies focussed on the wide circulation of media releases and the creation of Facebook concert events, and an audience survey showed that these brought in new audience members. The website was revamped, and on the social side, the Grads annual dinner was reintroduced and enjoyed.
The 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War One saw Graduate Singers invited to perform, with Cheryl Pickering as soloist, at Elder Hall on ANZAC Day as part of the Lunchtimes at Elder Hall concert series. The hall was full, and the music (Elgar For the Fallen; Twist Do not stand at my grave and weep; Daley For the Fallen, In Remembrance) created a moving tribute for all. Grads then commenced its 2014 series in June with a new collaboration in which the choir performed the Bruckner Mass in E minor with the recently-formed Adelaide Wind Orchestra (AWO). Another collaboration, this time with St Peter’s Cathedral choir, saw a performance of ‘Hymns of Praise’ in September. ‘Lux Aeterna’ in October was the first ‘Grads only’ concert for the year and featured music inspired by light: Gjeilo ‘Sunrise’ from the Sunrise Mass, and Northern Lights; Stroope ‘Lux Aeterna’ from Missa; Whitacre Lux Aurumque and Lauridsen Lux Aeterna. ‘Cristemas’, in rather trying heat, was again performed twice and received a good reception.
What a way to start 2015, with the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular in January! With Karl Geiger as Chorus Master, Graduate Singers and the Elder Conservatorium Chorale joined the ASO and conductor Ben Foster in a multi-media extravaganza that is still talked about. More reflective performances followed for Grads with an ANZAC Day performance for the Repat Foundation, and its own concert entitled ‘Requiem’ at Christ Church, North Adelaide in May. This featured the South Australian premiere of Canadian composer Eleanor Daley’s Requiem and the Duruflé Requiem. ‘Proms!’ in June saw yet another change of pace. It was another collaborative occasion. It had been many years since Grads had joined with AUCS and just the second time with AWO. Each ensemble presented its own works with their respective conductors: Graduate Singers with Karl Geiger, AUCS with Peter Kelsall and AWO with Peter Handsworth. They then joined in works by Brahms, Stewart and Parry, and finished with traditional rousing Proms fare with soloist Patrick Power and the audience. Evensong at St Peter’s Cathedral in June was followed in July with a concert entitled ‘Sunrise’ in September at Concordia Chapel. Another South Australian premiere, Gjeilo’s Sunrise Mass, was performed with other contemporary works by Tavener, MacMillan, Barnum and Corlis. ‘Nativity’ finished the year with a third South Australian premiere, Four songs of the Nativity by Howard Blake, which was paired with Respighi’s Lauda per la Natività del Signore. Ian Carrig’s Hodie: a boy was born was performed in memory of Ian and his contribution to Graduate Singers and the music and cultural life of Adelaide. This program was repeated as part of the Christ Church, North Adelaide Concert Series.
Elder Hall became the concert venue for Graduate Singers in 2016, and the committee engaged publicist Neil Ward to assist in marketing the choir’s concerts. Publicity also included live segments on Peter Goers’ ABC Radio Adelaide show. The year began with ‘Of Love and Nature’ in May and featured two major works: Whitacre Five Hebrew Love Songs and Chilcott The making of the drum. Another ‘Last Night of the Proms’, this time with the Elder Conservatorium Chorale, the ASO and conductor Guy Noble, was followed in August by ‘Across the Dark’. The contemporary music in this program explored how darkness can be a time of peace, contemplation and renewal. The choir was joined by Aurora Strings and Michael Ierace on piano. Grads’ new sponsor, ‘Top Note’ Winery (co-owned by former Grads chorister, and opera singer, Cate Barr), provided their wines for interval. Before the final concert of the year, Grads, along with the vocal group Aurora from Young Adelaide Voices, was invited to assist a fund-raising event for Beach Energy which involved an unusual performance venue: Z Ward at Glenside. The choir had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a workshop taken by Stephen Layton, one of the world’s leading choral conductors. ‘How shall we sing?’ finished the choral year and included Vaughan Williams’ Mass in G minor, Britten’s Te Deum in C, and Carl Crossin’s Mater Dolorosa and Night Prayer.
Graduate Singers has now entered its 40th year, beginning with Holst’s The Planets with the Adelaide Summer Orchestra and Aurora, ‘Scotland the Brave’ with the ASO, a Proms concert with the Band of the South Australian Police and two performances of Mozart’s Requiem in D minor. This 40th anniversary provides a time for acknowledgement, reflection and celebration. The choir, from its ambitious beginnings in 1977, along with its conductors, has provided its members and audiences with countless exciting choral moments, and will continue to do so for many years to come.
Compiled and written by Alison McDougall