TWENTY-TWO choristers from the Australian Rugby Choir are packing their bags for the 2019 International Male Choral Festival, the largest event of its kind in the world.
Around the cathedral city of Truro, Cornwall, in the UK’s south west, between May 2 and May 6 there’ll be more than 59 choirs performing, totalling some 2000 voices, with visitors from nearby Wales, and further afield – the Atlantic Boychoir from Canada, the MM Male Voice Choir from Finland, the 60-strong Cenestra Male Choir from South Africa and, of course, “our boys”.
About half of the active strength of the Rugby Choir are going, with an equal number of partners, making it 44 all up, and all paying for themselves.
Committee member and project manager for the Cornwall festival trip Frank Bergersen says a donation from Beyond Bank of $5000 will go towards meeting the $10,000 cost of taking the musical director Rachel Campbell and accompanist Karen Da Silva, the balance to be made up by the choir, which also receives financial support from the Brumbies and the Australian War Memorial for whom, since its foundation in 1996, they’ve performed regularly.
It’s the third overseas visit for the choir that performed in a male-voice choir concert at Carnegie Hall during 2008. Welsh operatic bass-baritone Bryn Terfel was the guest artist.
“What a special thing that was,” Bergersen says.
In 2012, as part of the combined Oceania/World Choir established in the lead up to the London Olympics, it performed in London’s Festival Hall, where Terfel dragged them all out on to the riverbank to sing with him.
Springtime in Cornwall sounds pretty good to Bergersen and the other choir members, who will start arriving in London in late April and then take a bus to the Cornish seaside town of Newquay on May 1.
The choir will give seven performances over five days, with night-time concerts in Penzance, Liskeard and Truro Cathedral and daytime concerts in the Tate Gallery at St Ives, Truro Cathedral and The Eden Project, two enormous biosphere domes constructed in a disused china-clay pit to house all plants collected from across the globe.
Once back in Truro for the finale, it’ll participate in a big choral seminar and the choir has also entered the festival competition to be held in the cathedral.
Although the Australian Rugby Choir has a huge repertoire of popular songs, they’ve prepared three special ones for the competition, the American spiritual “Dem Dry Bones”, “Festival Sanctus” by Eph Ehly and performed in Latin, and the a cappella number, Kurt Bestor’s “Prayer of the Children”, composed for the children in war-torn countries.
If it all sounds like an exercise in pure pleasure, it is.
“If you’ve got a love of music, you’re able to indulge it by singing in a choir,” Bergersen says.
“It helps get the blood flowing and there’s the camaraderie element. Individually, we might be average, but together, there’s a warm blend – it just makes you feel good.”