Review / So much joy from youthful voices

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Choristers from the Woden Valley Youth Choir.

Music / “50th Anniversary Concert”, Woden Valley Youth Choir at Llewellyn Hall, August 24. Review by IAN McLEAN

A JOYOUS atmosphere prevailed in a crowded Llewellyn Hall foyer as cheerful audience members viewed the extensive photographic exhibition that detailed the 50-year history of the Woden Valley Youth Choir.

The laughter associated with this happy reunion continued as all filed in to hear the aural representation of that great history.

Media personalities (and ex-members of the choir), Craig Allen (ABC TV) and Cathy Dinn (2CA) undertook MC duties and they set the tone for a memorable evening with easy, relaxed banter as they described the general musical landscape of the world in 1969.

It was fascinating to learn from them that, at the first ever WVYC concert in September of that year, admission to the Pearce Primary School Hall was 40 cents for adults, 20 cents for children and a whole dollar for the entire family.

The senior ensemble, Australis Voices (for choristers aged 11 to 25) opened the concert with a Kate Miller-Heidke work, “Our Song”. Conductor Olivia Swift (artistic director of WVYC who cleverly crafted the entire program to appropriately portray the path travelled by the choir) ensured the youthful vigour and enthusiasm of her singers was captured in this unaccompanied piece, which was well balanced and rhythmically solid. More complex harmonies followed throughout the bracket that featured a Korean folk song and two movements from the “Ancient Cries Suite” by gifted Australian composer Stephen Leek, who was present for the concert.

The junior choir, Nova Voices (7 to 10 years), followed with beaming faces, wide open mouths, solid and true pitch and a pleasing ability to change musical mood. The cute factor was present in spades but there was much more as well.

All up some seven different choral combinations make up the current choir and all displayed the sound vocal training they are receiving from their dedicated and devoted musical staff. Centauri Voices (for young men with changing or changed voices) were stilted in delivery and presentation during their initial appearance but stole the show with an excellent rendition of “The Drunken Sailor” when they returned in the second half.

Borealis Voices (the 9 to 13 age group) had great fun with “Just Clowning Around” then adapted well to the varied emotional requirements of “Southern Sky” and “Growing into Me”. There was difficulty projecting sufficiently to fill the huge space of Llewellyn Hall, which made words somewhat difficult to fully capture. This was evident with numerous of the ensembles during the night.

Not so with the Alumni Choir, some 40 odd ex-choristers brought together by founding director Don Whitbread to present a gentle, reflective and most appropriate “The Way We Were”. Alpha Gregory, for 20 years the dynamic director of the choir following Don’s retirement, guided the alumni through “Black Swans”, another Stephen Leek work, and the ex-members showed they had lost little of the excellent musical grounding they had initially received. Harmony, blend and balance were wonderfully to the fore.

Two ex-members were featured as soloists. Lainie Hart and Kylie Higgins are accomplished actors and musical theatre performers, each with an impressive list of credits. Both displayed their extensive experience with passionate interpretations of their songs and both spoke deep from the heart explaining how the joy of singing in their youth had guided and shaped so much of their lives.

The concert ended, as all WYVC concerts do, with the stage completely full of current and ex members who joined together in the choir anthem, “Let There Be Peace on Earth”.

Founding Director Don Whitbread was invited to conduct this finale, he was surely swelled with pride as this simple, yet stunningly beautiful and moving anthem fittingly acknowledged fantastic achievement.

During the night there had been some small musical imperfections along the way but these had no negative effect on the overall enjoyment of the concert. And rightly so!

The WVYC has sung in Westminster Abbey, Washington Cathedral and Disneyland, has undertaken seven overseas concert tours, released numerous albums and delighted all from senior royalty to little babies in prams. Members loudly praise the life lessons learned during their time in the choir. So much joy to so many has been delivered via those youthful voices; well done to all for a fitting night of celebration.

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