Archive for category: Highlights

Back-To-Day

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2014 Co–Captains Austin Haynes & Caleb Beilharz lead the singing

Fifty years may provoke many memories for hundreds of young men who have passed through our doors, but to the 180 boys currently singing with the National Boys Choir of Australia it means celebrating with a party!

That’s exactly what we did on Sunday 12 October – at the Ringwood premises of the Choir. The day was primarily a celebration for the current families and friends to share a little history of the organisation. There was a pictorial recap of 50 years running on the big screen, with a display of memorabilia including past choir uniforms, concerts, tours and copious newspaper clippings that have been amassed over the years available for guests to peruse in the Bird Studio.

BackToDay4The younger training choirs – the Elementary and Junior boys – and the older Performing boys all had a sing during the day. There was an assortment of refreshments and entertainment for all including a giant slide – popular with young and old! A balloon-ologist kept the younger folk amused. And of course a birthday party needs a cake! The occasion was acknowledged by over 300 voices joining to sing Happy Birthday.

We congratulate everyone who has contributed – from Kevin Casey who had the foresight to start the Choir and to all the people along the way who have supported the Choir’s development, creating the internationally recognised organisation we see on stage today.

We look forward to the next 50 years.

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Artistic Directors Peter Casey (L) and Philip Carmody, with Prefect Will Dixon and Co-Captain Caleb Beilharz catching up on 50 years of history

WA Tour

As has become the custom, the Choir headed off during the September school holidays to begin their annual tour. This year offered the added excitement of it being the 50th Anniversary – so many years, so many tours, and so many kilometres!

In their 50 years, the Choir has travelled overseas to Austria, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Philippines, Taiwan, United Kingdom and United States of America. The have visited every state of Australia – singing in Cairns to the NE and Albany in the SW – cities and regional areas, sound shells and opera houses – anywhere there is a stage to spread the choral word.

WATour3This year the boys went west to commence their 2014 50th Anniversary Tour in the coastal city of Bunbury, a couple of hours south of Perth. The boys were lucky to catch their breath and adjust to the time difference by spending their first full day exploring the Ngilgi Cave – first discovered in 1899 and so named because of its association with Aboriginal legend describing the battle between a good spirit (Ngilgi) and an evil spirit (Wolgine).

The boys were particularly impressed with the story that Dame Nellie Melba had her grand piano lowered into the Cave’s ‘amphitheatre’ for a performance she gave in the early 1900’s! Aesthetically the boys’ performance at the Bunbury Entertainment Centre may not have been as unusual as Dame Nellie Melba’s but musically it was equal to any that had preceded them. It was a confident beginning to a tour of the south west corner Oz.

Of course travelling regional Western Australia means covering thousands of kilometres in a coach, but the long days were worth the musical rewards of the evening concerts. The boys had wonderful audiences, receptive not only to the difficult repertoire but also to the light-hearted banter from Mr Carmody encouraging the audience to interact with the boys.

The WA government has thrown some serious dollars into their regional arts programmes over recent years and the concert venues at Bunbury, Albany, Esperance, and Mandurah all offered state of the art facilities. The jewel in the crown for the boys was the venue at Kalgoorlie, well actually Boulder. The original town hall completed in 1908 is a fabulous example of classical Federation Free style, with pressed metal ceilings, wraparound upstairs gallery supported on cast iron columns and stunning red gum polished floor boards. The acoustic was beautiful. The pièce de résistance was the Goatcher curtain – the painted three dimensional effect is believed to be the only surviving theatre curtain of its kind in Australia.

The boys had a day with students at Trinity College in Perth. The morning was spent with Junior School students. Boys from Xavier, Christ Church and Wesley Colleges joined us after lunch to attend a workshop together with the Trinity boys. To listen to 350 teenage boys singing heartily and joyously reminded us that it really is ‘cool’ to sing!

Other activities enjoyed along the way included a visit to the Perth Bell Tower – built as part of their Centenary celebrations – eight of the bells were donated by St Martin in the Fields, London. And yes, every boy saw himself as either Quasimodo or the Mad Monk as they all had an opportunity to ring the bells – what a cacophony! But lots of fun.

A trip to the Perth Mint had the boys ogling at the largest coin minted in the world – 1,000kgs, solid gold and approximately $50,000,000! They toured the Collins Class Submarine Ovens at the Maritime Museum, checked out the Fremantle Prison ‘facilities’ and polished off any remaining pocket money at the markets.

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Elementary Junior Concert

This concert, similar to the ACCord concert, offers performance experience to the two NBCA training choirs, the Elementary and Junior boys. With just a sprinkling of solo items, these boys presented a 90 minute programme to an enthusiastic audience.

Two of the four soloists were drawn from the training ranks – Raphael Cahyono and Enda Han gave impressive performances on piano (Fantasia in D Minor by Mozart) and violin (Hungarian Csãrdãs, by Vittorio Monti) respectively. We have some talented musicians moving through the Choir.

The highlight of the programme was a medley of songs from the musical Oliver. The two groups combined, singing with great enthusiasm and humour but more importantly, controlled and focused performance under the leadership of Alexandra Boemo.

Waratahs Super Rugby Final

The boys had a surprise visit to Sydney when the Waratahs Super Rugby team made it to the finals. They were to face the Crusaders in the Grand Final on Saturday 2 August. Twenty boys sang at the ANZ stadium as part of the pre match entertainment – those inspirational vocals did the trick as the Waratahs won over the Crusaders 33 to 32.

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Mid-Year Concert

July seems so long ago – but the wonderful concert that was held at the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall, Melbourne Recital Centre should not go unnoticed.

Perhaps a Sunday evening in the middle of winter is not the best time to hold a concert – but despite the size of the audience, those who attended were privileged with an outstanding performance that included Missa Sub Titulo Sti Leopoldi (Mass in honour of St Leopold) with a professional chamber orchestra, the world premiere of Songs of Aristophanes by former chorister Daniel Riley, and a medley from Fiddler on The Roof.

“. . . As expected, the performances under various conductors impressed for discipline, freshness of response and clarity.” Clive O’Connell, Age Newspaper

Accord Concert

The Elementary, or youngest NBCA training choir, joined the Australian Children’s Choir (ACC) for their 25th Anniversary ACCord concert in June. The ACCord Concert offers training ensembles of leading Victorian choral organisations from Bendigo to Berwick, and many in between, a performance opportunity without the ‘competitive pressure’ of the older, more seasoned performers.

The NBCA boys did us proud, performing the last set of the concert before all performers joined forces for the grand finale.

Wallabies V France

WallabiesvFrANCEAs a wintry Melbourne wind whipped around Etihad Stadium – the boys sang their hearts out to see the Wallabies win 6-0 over France in the second of the three game test series. The Wallabies went on to win the series 3-0.

Anniversary Dinner

Fifty is a lot of years. And the span of years from 1964 to 2014 was always destined to be acknowledged.

A dinner, held at the Boulevard in Kew, was an ideal function to celebrate the occasion. With a guest list boasting original choristers and staff to OAM’s and many Choir friends, an evening of nostalgia was enjoyed by all who attended.

Mrs Lynnette Casey-Brereton, former wife of the founder Kevin Casey, was called on to share memories of the early days of the Choir, when rehearsals were held in the living room of the family’s Chadstone home and the first concert was held on the front veranda of the home with family and friends spilling across the garden – and the intervening years as rehearsal venues changed to suit the growing number of choristers. She spoke of the early repertoire and development to what the boys sing today – classical, contemporary, staged children’s operas, musical comedy, art songs and folk songs from around the world.

Lynnette’s reflections offered a little insight into the dedication and passion of the people who drove those early days of development, leading to the internationally recognised organisation we see on stage today.

Mrs Yvonne Bird OAM – the longest serving Treasurer and driving force behind the purchase of the current Ringwood premises – spoke of early Choir Music Camps, how, why and where they started – ten days during the (then) extended January school holidays. Camps were initially held at Mirboo North in country Victoria and later at Scots School, Bathurst, central NSW.

These early annual music camps consolidated repertoire preparation in the mornings, followed by fun in the pool or on the volleyball courts in the afternoons, with vaudeville style concerts in the evening but most importantly – the lolly shop – the highlight of every chorister’s camp experience!

Three school terms were extended to four in the late 1980s and ten day January camps changed to three or four weekend camps during the year held a little closer to home in Bayswater. With the purchase of the current premises in Ringwood and the luxury of three studios on site, the overnight camps became three to four weekend workshops.

Cutting the cake - L-R Lynnette Casey-Brereton, Rex Wenn, NBCA President, & Yvonne Bird OAM

Cutting the cake – L-R Lynnette Casey-Brereton, Rex Wenn, NBCA President, & Yvonne Bird OAM

Choristers, old and new, were able to reminisce and recall their own special memories, browse an amusing display of archival material and dance to the music of the Pearly Shells, all in the company of families and friends.

Qantas acknowledged the 50th milestone with a short 60 second inflight video (see below) shown as part of their inflight programme during the month of May. Their Inflight magazine also ran an article on the occasion.

The Dinner

Peter Brereton, Samantha Casey, Christine Casey, Rick Casey, Janelle Casey, Kieran & Tania Casey, Lynnette Casey-Brereton, Kathleen Casey, Peter Casey, Jacquie Casey & Damien Casey

Peter Brereton, Samantha Casey, Christine Casey, Rick Casey, Janelle Casey, Kieran & Tania Casey, Lynnette Casey-Brereton, Kathleen Casey, Peter Casey, Jacquie Casey & Damien Casey

The Dinner

Paul Thomas, Heather Thomas, Peter Chen, Julia Zhu

Paul Thomas, Heather Thomas, Peter Chen, Julia Zhu

The Dinner

Kerry Blake, Ben Namdarian, Paul Bateman

Kerry Blake, Ben Namdarian, Paul Bateman

The Dinner

Kerrin Hancock, Mark Casey, Gwen Casey

Kerrin Hancock, Mark Casey, Gwen Casey

The Dinner

Harold and Yvonne Bird

Harold and Yvonne Bird

Chris Rankin, Nelson Choy, Peter Casey, Alex Lytas, Nick Hughes, Rory Hutchinson

Chris Rankin, Nelson Choy, Peter Casey, Alex Lytas, Nick Hughes, Rory Hutchinson

The Dinner

Back, Carmel Trecate, Lauren Gates, Julie Holliday Front, Pam Yee, Anne-Marie Smith, Melissa Astbury

Back, Carmel Trecate, Lauren Gates, Julie Holliday Front, Pam Yee, Anne-Marie Smith, Melissa Astbury

The Dinner

Andrew Paterson, Daniel Riley and Chris Rankin

Andrew Paterson, Daniel Riley and Chris Rankin

Kevin Casey – Choir Founder

Kevin studied singing and piano at Melbourne University’s Conservatorium of Music and he went on to take prominent parts in television operas such as Simon Boccanegra, Martha, Peter Grimes and School for Fathers for the ABC. He also performed as a soloist and ensemble singer in many ABC radio programmes. He appeared in a Master Class with French baritone Gerard Souzay and later moved into a teaching career at Kostka Hall and then Burke Hall, both junior schools of Xavier College.

He taught singing from home in his ‘spare’ hours outside of school commitments and always had an enthusiastic band of students. Kevin became an examiner for the AMEB and was in demand as an adjudicator for eisteddfods in Melbourne and country areas. He returned to Melbourne University to join the vocal teaching staff and continued to teach privately for almost all of his adult life.

You may have heard Kevin’s voice more than you realise – he was always proud of the fact that he was one of a small group of men who recorded the VFL team songs (now AFL) for all of the teams in the 1960s. His voice can still be heard blasting out at the MCG when the ‘traditional’ team songs (some clubs still use these original versions) are played!

Back to – Sunday 12 October 2014

For people who were unable to attend the recent Anniversary Dinner, or indeed anyone who would like to see our Ringwood home, there has been a Back To day arranged for Sunday 12 October. This promises to be a day of fun for our current choristers as well so that they can join in the celebrations. We will have more news on this in coming months.

The National Boys Choir of Australia has been fortunate to be one of the few (if not the only) choirs in the country to own their own premises, due to the sensible and thrifty management of funds during those early years. Unit 3, 9 Pilgrim Court was purchased 1993 and after 12 months of parent volunteer working bees the building opened for rehearsals in 1994.

A working relationship with Qantas began in 1998. The profile of the Choir increased, prompting the introduction of another training level -the Elementary choir. It wasn’t long before the building became too small and expansion was on the horizon. The adjoining unit was purchased, walls knocked out and two more studios, wardrobe and storage added to the premises.

Our friends at ConnectEast have shared the following….

ConnectEast, the owner and operator of EastLink, congratulates the National Boys Choir of Australia on its fiftieth anniversary celebrations, which will include the Back to Ringwood Day on 12 October. EastLink opened in June 2008 and has contributed to quicker and easier travel to and from the Choir’s Ringwood location in the six years since.

ConnectEast’s involvement with the National Boys Choir of Australia began as a sponsor of the children’s opera, Lost to the Music, performed on 23 July 2009 at the Melbourne Recital Centre. The performance was created by Calvin Bowman and featured a libretto by acclaimed Australian children’s author John Marsden. ConnectEast’s contribution assisted with costs such as librettist’s fee, director’s costs in creation of design and direction for the production, sets and props, and costumes. ConnectEast has since provided sponsorship funding for the annual Christmas concert between 2010 and 2013 and we have increased our support in 2014 to help celebrate the Choir’s fiftieth anniversary.