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.
This 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.