Choral@Montsalvat

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Published: 24th April, 2017

For many years, Music in the Round was a wonderful event which occurred in Melbourne every year and the Faye Dumont Singers were among the regular participants in this feast of music. When it unfortunately folded, Faye Dumont decided to test a new choral-in-the-round, and thankfully the management at Montsalvat were willing to provide the venue for the event. Thus, 14 years ago, Choral@Montsalvat was born. Unlike the original music-in-the-round, whose ensembles were all adult, Faye felt it would be good to have mixed ages from children through youth to adult choirs performing in the festival. In this way children could experience people of varying ages singing in choirs and so know they could sing in ensembles throughout their lives; that parent and grandparent singers could delight in seeing that children and youth were training to foster the choral art in future years.

People who sing in choirs learn a skill, as shared music-making and belonging to an ensemble means learning to enjoy the sum of the parts – human and harmonic – and to thereby gain great joy in co-operative music making. This giving-over of the individual to the whole is fundamental to the choral art.

It is in this spirit that the festival, Choral@Montsalvat, presents a great forum for sharing across choirs. Choral@Montsalvat is a festival held over one day, in which choirs perform and then attend and appreciate the performance of others, as well as sharing their pleasure in music making with audience members.

The first Choral@Montsalvat, in 2004, was hosted by the Faye Dumont Singers, with work on the day carried out by members of the Melbourne Chamber Choir and the Melbourne Women’s Choir. These two choirs, plus Greenhills Primary School Choir and Yarra Valley Singers, have performed every year since the beginning. Other choirs such the Majellan Singers, the Australian and Victorian Welsh Male Choirs, La La La Chorale Francaise Melbourne, Cranbourne Chorale, Casey Choir and Watsonia North Primary School Choir have also been frequent attenders. Regular choirs are the first invited each year, as Choral@Montsalvat has become a loved early event in their choral year.

Choral@Montsalvat in 2017

The 16 choirs at Choral@Montsalvat in 2017 are the Australian Welsh Male Choir, ARCappella, ARCappella Children’s Choir, Casey Choir, Cranbourne Chorale, Grace Notes Singers, Greenhills Primary School Choir, Haileybury Magenta Choir, La La La Chorale Francaise Melbourne, Majellan Singers, Melbourne Chamber Choir, Melbourne Women’s Choir, Mentone Girls Secondary College Choirs, Watsonia North Primary School Choir, Yarra Valley Singers and the Young Voices of Macedon.

Audience members can go to a different concert in each of the five hours or they can listen awhile and move on to another concert to take in even more performances. The range of music sung is from classics to national works, Welsh and French, arrangements of folk and gospel songs, theatre music and contemporary songs. They are sung in three art galleries, each of which has a fine acoustic for choral singing.

The last hour at Choral@Montsalvat has often incorporated shared music-making across the choirs. There has been an all-choir Vivaldi Gloria, choruses from Messiah, Faure Requiem, a homage concert to composer Wendy Morrissey, and a concert of music by Percy Grainger; and now, for the eighth year, a Showcase of Australian Choral Works.

This commenced when Faye was on staff at Monash University and had many composition students singing in the choirs she conducted. The opportunity for young composers to write music specifically for performing ensembles was taken up and has continued. The composers are each allocated a choir willing to partner them and they visit a rehearsal or performance to hear the choir and understand its style and voice parts for writing.

Each choir premieres the work at Choral@Montsalvat. The music is firstly sung in the choir’s own programme and then again at the end of the day for a Showcase of Australian Choral Works. Four of the five young composers in 2017 are students at Melbourne Conservatorium of Music and one is an ex-student of Monash University. The composer is also interviewed by Dr Katy Abbott, composer and lecturer at Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. This way the audience can then listen to the work with informed thinking. Examples of music to be heard this year are Hush, by Jessica Smith, a contemporary lullaby in up to 8 choral parts, with solo and some spoken word, to be performed by the Melbourne Women’s Choir; and She Shines by Michaela Murphy, for four parts and piano, to be sung by the Melbourne Chamber Choir.

This choral festival is a wonderful day of live choral music for all ages and for people of all levels of music interest. There will also be food and coffee stalls on the day.

Choral@Montsalvat is on 30th April from 12 noon to 5 pm at Montsalvat, 7 Hillcrest Avenue, Eltham.

Bookings can be made via www.trybooking.com/OUTW, Remit cheques to: The Faye Dumont Singers Inc. PO Box 456, Richmond Vic 3121 or people can pay at the box office on the day.

More information: www.fdsingers.com or phone (03) 9818 1296.

 Editor’s note: This information was provided to Classic Melbourne by Faye Dumont Singers.