Photograph by Keith Saunders
Over the last few years, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs have gone from strength to strength. We have tackled some of the most ambitious and challenging music in the choral repertoire – from Beethoven to Bernstein, from Brett Dean to Harry Potter. The choir has consistently received critical acclaim for its performances, recordings and broadcasts which are a testament to the singers passion and professionalism.
In a nutshell, Sydney Philharmonia is an ensemble of singers up for anything and diversity of programming and challenge is at the heart of many of the decisions I make as Artistic and Music Director. There is, after all, more than eight hundred years of repertoire to draw on and some of the most interesting music being written today is for choirs. It feels like there has never been a better time to either sing in a choir or be in the audience to experience the immediate physical presence of a team of highly trained singers bombarding you with vocal power.
The 2019 season explores a broad range of music that calls for both massive forces alongside the most intimate of chamber performances. At the heart of the program are three concerts that showcase the sheer beauty and power of the human voice: Brahms Ein deutches Requiem with the Symphony Chorus, In the Mood with the Chamber Singers and Wonders with our young adult choir, VOX.
The “human requiem” is conducted by my good friend Simon Halsey who could walk into any choir in the world and transform them – such is his knowledge, technique and charisma. He will join us for rehearsals with our Symphony Chorus in the early part of the year and the resulting concert, our season opener at the City Recital Hall, is not to be missed.
In the Mood is a love letter to Sydney between the wars – the music, the ads, the poetry and prose of a city experiencing both the joys and woes of both prosperity and depression. Come and hear our Chamber Singers tackle some of the most well known music from the American Song Book.
Wonder is a program of music that tells a story – communication through song – focusing the lens on the specialness of childhood with music from Rutter to Sting. It is the sort of programming that confirms my view that there is no such thing as pop music or classical music – there is just good music and this program is full of it!
All three programs are designed with the view of getting up close and personal with the choirs – intimate settings and immediately touching.
At the big end of the spectrum are our two Festival Chorus performances – a tribute to the human voice in the genre of film scores and a well-known text in a less familiar setting with Dvořák’s movingly reflective Requiem. If you love the Faure Requiem, you will adore this.
Our Festival Chorus is, in many ways, at the philosophical heart of the organisation – a large group of diverse individuals who are all part of a big 350-piece choir who come together for the sole reason of making music and finding connection with others. Art and friendship.
A great deal of choral music was written with a particular purpose in mind and so Easter and Christmas are always fun to program. This year we present Bach and Mozart on Easter Saturday (which I know is a dream come true for many of the singers) alongside the world premiere of a new work by one of the most insightful of today’s composers, Antony Pitts. Antony’s ability to write for the human voice comes from a life-long connection to choirs and singers.
Christmas is naturally Messiah – hallelujah! But don’t miss the chance to join over 800 singers at the Sydney Opera House to sing Beethoven’s visionary Ode to Joy in ChorusOz. Anyone and everyone should sign up to ChorusOz and find out what all the fuss is about. Why is this the piece that is performed nearly every year by the choir and at other significant times in history, such as when the Berlin Wall came down in Germany. What was it about this work that prompted Bernstein to stage his now legendary performance at the Brandenburg Gate? Come and find out!
It is an ambitious season that will be tackled by a choir that is about to turn 100 and looks to the future – not just the future of music but the future of singing together and the joy that it brings.
Brett Weymark – Artistic and Music Director