Australia’s choral scene has a lot to offer, from the talented composers, to the high quality choirs and the brilliant opportunities for choristers to develop both musically and socially.
This month we celebrate Australia Day, so we thought we’d praise the Aussie composers, by highlighting some of Birralee’s favourite songs the ensembles have performed over the years.
We must begin with one of Birralee’s favourite composers, Paul Jarman. Paul has been involved with Birralee for many years and his involvement has included working with various ensembles, particularly on how each choir can get the best outcome when performing his stunning pieces.
His involvement with Birralee has been with its choirs both in Australia and during overseas tours and in 2010 this included Paul conducting the Brisbane Birralee Voices (BBV) during their European tour. In Hradec Kralove BBV sang one of Paul’s extremely moving compositions, Shackleton, a tribute to the Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton.
On the same tour, BBV performed Magnetic Island – Suite II, composed by Paul, with Simon Self. This piece was conducted by Voices of Birralee’s Artistic Director and Founder Julie Christiansen OAM.
Another favourite piece of Paul’s is Pemulwuy – in fact we loved it so much we named our triennial male voice festival after it – Pemulwuy! National Male Voice Festival. This clip shows just how powerful the piece is, performed at the 2014 festival finale.
Another great composer Birralee worked with was Harley Mead, and when both Harley and Paul joined forces, their choral music was taken to an even greater level. Here’s an example of their great work with Voices of Birralee singing This Golden Land at the 2014 end of year concert.
We also love this piece composed solely by Harley, Mother Earth, which BBV sang in 2011, conducted by Julie.
For our younger choirs, the Aussie composer that has stood out is Brisbane-based Sherelle Eyles. Her music celebrates Australia and features some of our more unique animals and places, while being designed to be fun and educational. Some favourites include, Crocodile, Kakadu, The Barrier Reef, The Bilby, The Carpet Python, The Dugong, The Gecko and The Great Australian Bight, with the latter performed here by our Birralee Kids and Piccolos at the 2013 Cup Cake and Cushion concert.
Another example of a standout Aussie composer is Mark Puddy. Last year Birralee Blokes Conductor Paul Holley chose to teach his choristers Mark’s Here You Lie.
The song, which pays tribute to a speech by WW1 Commander and the first president of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, was explored during our State Library of Queensland Q ANZAC 100: Memories for a New Generation Historypin project. Check it out here.
Another great composer is Elena Kats-Chernin with her piece The Gardens Symphony, which we performed as our mass choir grand finale piece at last year’s 20th Anniversary Concert.
Throughout Birralee’s history, we have also honoured well-known Australian songs, including Advance Australia Fair (written by the Scottish-born Peter Dodds McCormick), which in this clip is performed by our Anzac Commemoration Choir in Villers-Bretonneux, France in April, 2015.
And Waltzing Matilda (words by Banjo Paterson), with renditions including by our Anzac Commemoration Choir on the steps of Amiens Town Hall, France, with the second version performed by BBV in the Piazza San Marco in Venice, Italy in 2014 (this arrangement by Ruth McCall).
The list could go on with our other favourite Aussie pieces! If you have a favourite song that Birralee has sung over the years by an Australian composer, let us know by commenting below, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy Australia Day!