1977 – 1986
In early February 1977, a small number of former and current members of the Flinders University and Adelaide University Choral Societies (FAUCS) met at the home of Joan Juniper to discuss the formation of a new choir that would provide musical satisfaction and social contact
for those choristers who had left university but wished to continue to sing together.
This meeting resulted in the formation of what became known as Graduate Singers. Rehearsals commenced on Monday 28 March at Margo Tamblyn’s home at Sefton Park with about 15 singers. Names considered included Chanticleer, I Musici di Sefton Park and Margo’s Old FAUCS! But it was Martin Dooland, first conductor and elected president, exclaiming words to the effect, ‘Come on, you can do better than that! You’re all graduates!’ which saw the choir named as it is. A Committee structure was also instituted, which continues to today.
The first official performance by Graduate Singers was a soiree-style concert at an Education Department building on Barton Terrace, North Adelaide on 29 October 1977. Martin Dooland conducted a performance of Benjamin Britten’s Hymn to St. Cecilia with choir members Deanne Dooland, Rob Ranzijn and Phil Lock as soloists. Prior to this a number of members had sung in a musical evening in aid of Burra Red Cross on 9 July, making this the first of a number of enjoyable weekends away.
1978 saw Graduate Singers develop strongly. In association with Music Restoration (a music promotion company initiated by a small number of Grads members), the choir presented a Bach double bill (conductor, Ann Hoban) on 7 April at the Adelaide Town Hall. Why start small? They performed J.S. Bach’s Magnificat and a selection of P.D.Q. Bach’s works including The Seasonings, the latter featuring an array of unusual instruments such as a shower hose, fog horn, helium-filled balloons and slide whistles, all to great acclaim. There were two other major concerts that year: 'Chamber Concert' at Edmund Wright House on 29 July (conductor, Ann Hoban) and '20th Century European Music' at Pilgrim Church on 16 December (conductor, Jon Draper). The choir had, in September, also sung under Draper’s baton for the second Adelaide Italian Festival, combining with the Italian Chorale and other choirs to sing Rossini’s Stabat Mater.
The first Graduate Singers’ New Year’s Eve party was also held in 1978 at the home of Phil and Cathy Lock and saw the initiation of a tradition that continued for some years – the singing of one of the great choral works to welcome in the New Year. Vivaldi’s Gloria rang out through Prospect! In addition to this social occasion, there were always the important and much enjoyed PCPs (Post-Concert Parties), which are still a feature of the choir’s social life.
There were further developments in 1979 with the first Musicale in January and the first of a number of cake stalls to raise funds. Additional funds were sought by advertising Graduate Singers’ availability to sing at weddings and functions. At this stage there was no long-term Musical Director, so each concert featured a different conductor: Carl Crossin conducted a performance of English music including Byrd’s Mass in Four Voices (April/November), Ann Hoban conducted a more serious performance of Vivaldi’s Gloria (September) and Joannes Roose conducted ‘Music from the 16th–20th Centuries’. Carl also directed a recording of Christmas Carols for Radio 5DN, and the year finished with a progressive dinner.
In 1980, the Choral Union, an organisation initiated by Adelaide Chorus to assist the promotion and development of choral music in South Australia, presented two concerts at the Adelaide Town Hall, both of which included Graduate Singers. The first was with Professor of choral music and conductor Rodney Eichenberger (University of Southern California; Musician-in-Residence at Salisbury College of Advanced Education June–August 1980) and featured Foss’ Parable of Death and Rutter’s Gloria. The second was a performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana with Jon Draper as conductor. Ann Hoban prepared Graduate Singers for both, and also conducted a performance of ‘Songs and Seasons and Poetry’ (at Carclew), a country tour to Loxton and Christmas carols at the War Veterans’ Home. Social activities continued with a Grads v FAUCS cricket match (with Grads winning) and a walk in the Adelaide Hills.
In the following year, Graduate Singers took the step of appointing a Director of Music. This saw the beginning of the choir’s six-year association with Carl Crossin in this role. Carl had arrived in Adelaide in 1978 as a graduate of Sydney Conservatorium (Classical Guitar and Music Education) and had undertaken further study in Musicology whilst conducting a number of Adelaide choirs. Concerts included performances of English choral music, Jesu Meine Freude (with the Brighton High School Orchestra) and one in the newly renovated Methodist Meeting Hall. On the social scene, the inaugural houseboat trip on the Murray River was much enjoyed.
In 1982 there were two concerts at Pilgrim Church: ‘Music in Praise of Music’, and Handel’s Israel in Egypt. The latter was the first for which the choir applied for—and received—a grant from the State Government’s Arts Grants Advisory Committee. Five hundred dollars paid for the orchestra! Over the next years, Grads made a number of successful applications; for example, to cover hire of a venue (Elder Hall), to pay for the Director of Music and Accompanist Honoraria, and to employ guest artists. Many hours went into these applications, but the outcome was more than worthwhile. The Committee also put together sponsorship submissions with variable outcomes. Also in 1982, the choir auditioned and was accepted as an ABC choir, and gave its first public Christmas concert on 27 November, at St Peter’s Cathedral for the first time.
The choir continued at St Peter’s Cathedral in April 1983 with a concert of Gabrieli, Tallis and Britten. While Carl Crossin was on leave, Dean Patterson took the choir in Elder Hall for a performance of Stravinsky’s Les Noces and Vaughan Williams’ In Windsor Forest. The Adelaide College of TAFE School of Music Orchestra, conducted by Richard Hornung, also played Saint Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals. Stephen Whittington, in his review, commended Graduate Singers ‘for their imagination and courage in programming such a challenging work [Les Noces] and for the standard which they achieved in their performance’ (‘Worthy struggle’, Advertiser, August 1983). The choir was treated to a workshop in October with Jürgen Jürgens, the director of the Monteverdi Choir of Hamburg. The year finished with performances for the Soroptimists Society and St Paul’s Church, Port Adelaide and with an ‘Afternoon Seranade’ at the Hartley Concert Room featuring Colin Brumby’s Four Romantic Choruses, a selection of spirituals and folk songs, and pianists Graeme Quinn and Robyn Hayley.
A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity started 1984, and the year continued to be marked by performances of significant works from the choral repertoire. Many members of the choir participated in the Festival of Arts’ thrilling performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (Choral) with Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Philharmonia Orchestra. The year continued with Carl Crossin and the choir’s performance of Vaughan Williams’ Mass in G Minor and Purcell’s Come Ye Sons of Art, using Christ Church, North Adelaide as a venue for the first time. Grads then joined with Adelaide Chorus to perform Carmina Burana for the ABC under the baton of Piero Gamba. On November 17, again with Carl Crossin, Graduate Singers presented what was probably its most ambitious concert to that date, Bach’s Mass in B Minor, made even more challenging by the illness of one soloist and the last-minute arrival of another! The aim was to have a significantly different performance from the ‘big choir’ renditions of more recent times through utilising a choir of 40 singers and 24 instrumentalists—a scale much closer to that of Bach’s own time—and stylistic features such as the use of the Baroque principle of concertino/ripieno contrast in both choir and orchestra. According to Rodney Smith’s review, ‘it was a performance of constant challenges and well worth the considerable effort ... and from the Sanctus to the Dona Nobis Pacem singers and instrumentalists gelled into a musical whole under the well-directed guidance of Carl Crossin … the counterpoint glided and the genius of the old Leipzig Cantor truly began to shine’ (Advertiser, November 1984).
To start 1985, Grads presented a concert in Pilgrim Uniting Church entitled ‘Music of four nations’; these nations being New Zealand (David Hamilton’s Lux Aeterna), England (John Gardner’s Seven Songs), Germany (Heinrich Schütz’s Five Motets) and Italy (Antonio Vivaldi’s Magnificat). In August there was another first: the combining of Graduate Singers and the Adelaide and Flinders University Choral Societies to celebrate AUCS’ 25th anniversary. Peter Deane prepared and conducted the concert which included Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem and Mozart’s Vespers. The year ended with Carl Crossin, back from study leave, conducting a concert of French Christmas music that included Charpentier’s Midnight Mass – ‘a lovely piece, almost radiant with a calm joy that is entirely appropriate to the event it celebrates’ (Advertiser, December 1985).
The following year, in another series of firsts for Graduate Singers, the choir presented its inaugural Fringe Festival concert entitled ‘Premieres’, namely the World Premiere of local Adelaide composer Artis Danckops’ Moon Canticles and the Australian Premiere of Francisco Valls’ Missa Scala Aretina. And to continue the conductor and choir’s flexibility, the July concert featured American Modern Music. Early November saw Graduate Singers pay tribute to Carl Crossin’s six years as Musical Director with a farewell performance of Duruflé’s Requiem and Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, and Life Membership. Both works featured Hilary Weiland, a recent arrival in Adelaide, along with her husband Douglas (the founding second violinist for the Australian String Quartet), as organist. Hilary was subsequently contracted by the Committee to take over as Director of Music upon Carl’s retirement from the position.
Compiled and written by Alison McDougall with the aid of the 10th anniversary overview by Deborah Tranter.