There are many special memories and big steps forward after dreaming of possibilities in the Choir’s early years. Rehearsals in the Casey family home and performances on the front verandah after wheeling out the piano, conducting alongside my father for the first time, the first time we hired Hamer Hall, our first performances with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, our first tours of Europe and the United States, our new building and the first time we put up the choir sign above the door, the first time we opened our office and had a Secretary in place to answer the phone, many wonderful Summer camps at Mirboo North and later Bathurst, shared performances and exchanges with choirs from Sydney and Canberra, exchanges with choirs from overseas over many years, and performing new commissioned works and staged works.
There have been many photos of myself and the Choir taken over the years at some exotic locations, such as with the Pope on the steps of St Peter’s in the Vatican City in Rome. However, there’s one photo I keep returning to time and time again. This photo was taken at one of our camps at Bathurst in 1978/79. The photo represents the Choir as being all about the boys; helping them to develop personally and musically. This is a favourite photo of mine as it shows the boys’ engagement and enthusiasm during their time at Choir.
A few special memories
When I was about 16 or so, I took over preparations of our sheet music each December in readiness for our Bathurst Summer Camp. On Boxing Day, I would start my week’s work with a Gestetner machine, a stencil scanner and the cricket on the radio to keep me company. By week’s end there would be two large trunks packed with music ready to make the trip with us on the train.
Meeting the Pope on the steps of St Peter’s in Rome was very memorable. I remember that it was very hot but the boys insisted on wearing their robes as we were at the front of the assembly as one of the ‘special’ groups. Some boys had robes over their heads to keep them cool, quickly pulling them back into shape as the Pope was led in our direction. Singing Mass in St Peter’s was also very memorable, with Mr Philip Carmody at the organ. In London, we were asked to sing in Westminster Abbey for a school service (after the Music Director heard the Choir in a recital at St James Piccadilly). A very exciting addition to our itinerary.
We have been involved in many recordings over the years, but one of the most exciting was recording two segments for the Sydney Olympic Games Opening Ceremony in 2000. After months of keeping quiet about our involvement, we sat back and watched the opening with great pride as our boys’ voices were beamed all over the world.
The Qantas commercials brought some amazing opportunities. Highlights included incredible wildlife in Tanzania, filming in an isolated area of the Great Wall in China, being at the Statue of Liberty in the early morning with only our small film crew and choristers, and of course all of the wonderful ‘big shots’ involving hundreds of boy and girl choristers.
Of the works we have performed, big projects such as the opera Lost to the Music, which we commissioned from composer Calvin Bowman, stand out; wonderful new works by Todd McNeal, Rutter’s Gloria and many other Christmas Concert works.
There have been many wonderful times in rehearsals and at camps or workshops – working with our staff and boys – and many fun times with games and activities. It is always a delight to see boys develop as performers and young men during their time here, and a real thrill to see some go on to professional music careers as performers, conductors and composers in Australia or internationally.
It might take 50 pages to go through 50 years of memories. This snapshot covers just a few aspects of my incredible journey, over which time I have had the privilege of working with many wonderful young boys and men, as well as devoted family, staff, Board members and volunteers. Thank you to all who have been involved in the Choir, past and present, who have contributed to these special memories.