Tobias takes on a real biggie

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“IT’S been great,” singer Tobias Cole says of the Canberra Choral Society, with the infectious enthusiasm that has made him one of this town’s most appreciated musicians.

Tobias Cole… “There’s something so special about resounding together.”
Tobias Cole… “There’s something so special about resounding together.”
He’s artistic director of the society, participated in the Canberra International Music Festival, hosted a nostalgic concert and a 1940s dance in Albert Hall and staged a blockbuster concert called “The Best Choral Music Ever Written by an Australian (with a Canberra Connection)”.

Now he’s embarking with them on one of the biggies, Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana”, part of a Centenary gift program from the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany that also features works by Beethoven and that 200th birthday boy, Richard Wagner.

Cole’s job, as chorus master, is to ensure that his huge chorus of 230 singers has the language, the intonation and the rhythm right.

But there’ll be five percussion players on stage under the baton of the exacting Nicholas Milton and, given that “Carmina Burana” will be the finale of the evening, he needs to ensure as big a sound as possible.

To that end, he’s brought in the Llewellyn Choir, the Turner Trebles and the Canberra Children’s Choir, directed by Rowan Harvey Martin.

But there are also moments of extraordinary tenderness, as in soprano soloist Leanne Kenneally’s rendition of “Dulcissime”.

Cole, as one of Australia’s premier counter-tenors, will also take centre stage for the haunting “Olim Lacus Colueram – The Roasted Swan”, while Canberra-raised baritone, Jeremy Tatchell, gets the “killer” piece of music in the oratorio, “Estuans interius”.

Perfection is Cole’s aim.

Some choristers have said to him: “I’ve done it before, can I come in for the last few rehearsals?”

“No” is the answer.

Cole has distributed “rehearsal discs” to choristers, or they can get it online. There’s also hardcopy, but these “technological aids,” he says, offer a new way in for those whose reading skills are average.

To him, choral singing should be open to all.

“There’s something so special about resounding together,” he enthuses, telling me he’s a great fan of the choral section of the Australian National Eisteddfod, which he sees as “the perfect opportunity to bring all our choirs together to sing”.

And why does this celebrated counter-tenor base himself in Canberra?

“A big part of my life is my family.” he explains, “My children enjoy a series of activities – dance, soccer, music, and are served beautifully in Canberra, which is also extremely convenient for a family that doesn’t drive.”

As for the accusation that nothing ever happens in Canberra, he puts it down to ignorance – “That’s just a case of not knowing where the party is,” Cole says.

“Carmina Burana”, Llewellyn Hall, October 30-31, bookings to 1300 795012 or

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Helen Musa
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