A couple weeks back, Sydney Eisteddfod announced the Winners of the Australasian Open Choral Championship, NEWCASTLE CHAMBER CHOIR!
We caught up with the winning choristers to hear more about their experience submitting an online entry in 2021, the first year we've ever held this event online.
YOUR CHOIR took out the Sydney Eisteddfod Open Choral Championship 0f 2021! How did yoU feel when you found out you HAD WON?
Anna Ryan - President and Alto:
"When the news came through that we had won I must admit I had a little squeal of joy. The Newcastle Chamber Choir only formed at the beginning of 2019.
We rehearse once a week and obviously with COVID-19 being such a disruption to live music and the arts it was a real boost and lovely to have the recognition of the quality of the music we are producing."
Keira Linde – Secretary/Treasurer and Mezzo Soprano
"It was such a highlight in the middle of lockdown gloom to hear of the win. I was working from home and checking the clock quite frequently that morning, at announcement time I headed to the SE website and let out a loud “Woohoo!!”, scaring the cat and getting a look from my husband who was on a work video meeting nearby.
Sharing with the rest of the choir and committee the good news I was running on adrenaline for quite a few hours. We had been able to look at the videos of a few of the other finalist choirs in the competition and didn’t know if we’d done enough. We’re just elated with the win."
Sam Donovan – Assistant Director/Composer-in-Residence and Bass
"It was such a thrill to read the announcement of the win. I was filled with pride and admiration for all the members of the choir who, even in the midst of the hardships and uncertainties of lockdown, are able to rise to the challenges with flexibility, focus and diligence.
[Watch a short clip above of the Newcastle Chamber Choir's First-place performance in the 2021 Open Choral Championship!
This year, the Choral Championships took place online due to the lockdown. How did you find this experience?
"Being able to perform is always a preference. The intense rehearsing that goes into preparing and performing is bonding and there is something about being able to deliver ‘in the moment’ to a live audience. While disappointed not to perform live - on a practical level it suited us well, not having to travel.
"We were just thankful the competition was able to go ahead at all and recording was a good challenge for us!"
The Newcastle Chamber Choir also won the Open Choral Championship in 2019, an amazing achievement to have maintained such a high standard of performance for two years running!
What sorts of things do the choir do to prepare for performance events in Sydney Eisteddfod?
"Entering Sydney Eisteddfod each year has been a priority in our calendar... being able to deliver high quality choral music that is loyal to the composer or arranger’s work is really important to us.
We work on musicality, intonation and overall performance of the piece at each rehearsal, year-round. We’re always on the hunt for pieces that suit our choir, challenge us and also provide the interesting and varied sets to use in the Eisteddfod."
Over the past year and a half, what has it been like for newcastle chamber choir, practising and performing in a COVID-19 world?
Benjamin Lambert – Artistic Director and Conductor:
"What a bizarre time for the Arts.
Music is vital nourishment for the soul. As choristers we get this. Planning and booking performances has been a nightmare. We have vacillated between Zoom and in-person rehearsal, but luckily our group is tight-knit and we’ve held on during our forced hiatuses!
We have a team who has gone the extra mile, planning, postponing and re-booking concerts. Somehow, between Covid lockdowns, we managed a tour to Tasmania in July where we satiated our long overdue wanderlust by performing in the Festival of Voices.
Phillippa Miskiewicz – Committee Member and Tenor/Alto:
Not being able to sing in person for parts of the last 18 months have been a struggle for me, both musically and mentally. Meeting on Zoom in those lockdown times has meant we could build on the community and family that our choir has become for most of us.
Looking into the future in a hopefully in a post-lockdown world, what are your hopes and dreams for the Newcastle Chamber Choir?
We are just aching to get back to rehearsing and being able to perform live. We’ll be performing in our hometown as soon as restrictions allow. From a mental health perspective, I think all our choir members are missing being able to lose ourselves for a couple of hours a week singing as a group and working towards producing high quality music together.
Performing in other places nationally and at international choral festivals and competitions will always be on our agenda. It is our mission to bring interesting and high-quality choral music to live audiences to enjoy.
"We’re really hopeful our November 7 concert at Babylon Newcastle will go ahead, and the venue has been amazing with postponements and discussions about holding the concert over a few dates to ensure all our ticket holders are able to attend."
Our most sincere congratulations once again to the Newcastle Chamber Choir for taking out the Sydney Eisteddfod Open Choral Championship!
We are hanging on for restrictions to ease for our choirs so that our wonderfully talented choral groups can get back to doing what they do best - practising and performing together LIVE and in unison!
Choral performances have always been such a staple in the musical calendar of performing arts enthusiasts across the globe, and we are glad that even in these times we have still been able to celebrate their outstanding talent.