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22 Jun: our famous Workshop

at Canberra Girls' Grammar School chapel




Lock in 17 Nov for our final concert at CGGS


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Recorded Nov 2016 at:

-- thanks to Artsound FM


Oriana Chorale in Gunning

Focus Group members and guests at the recent Sunday afternoon concert in the Gunning Courthouse by the Oriana Chorale were treated to a wonderful session of unaccompanied singing.  Larger than life conductor Tobias Cole provided an introduction to the various items on the program before launching enthusiastically into the conductor's role.  He made a carefully toned down translation of the piece "Matona mia cara" in which a German soldier serenades his love below her window, promising that his manly prowess would bring her a night of sensual delight!

The "Hymn to St Cecilia" was most beautifully wrought by the nearly thirty strong a cappella choir.  St Cecilia is the patron saint of musicians and each voice had the opportunity to shine.  The words were from a poem written by W H Auden who met the composer Benjamin Britten in the US during WWII.  Britten started composing this piece in 1942 and finished it aboard the ship MS Axel Johnson as he returned to England.  In a curious twist that perhaps reflects our current disquiet with terrorism, on an earlier attempt to return to England, all his manuscripts were confiscated by Customs officials because they thought it could all be in code, a wartime concern.

The rather sombre black attire of the choir members formed a sharp contrast to the satorially splendid striped shirt and enormous cuffs of the charismatic conductor Tobias Cole.  A treat for the ear and the eye!  The encore was a fantastical delight with no words, just a series of musical sounds that rippled along interspersed with loud shouts of "Hey" - the audience delighted in it.  If the choir returns to sing for us again - make sure you don't miss the treat.


Carolling chorale caresses a land of dewdrops and spiderwebs—The Canberra Times

By Sarah Parkes

Christmas in Australia brings cackling kookaburras, cool drinks and hot sticky days, but we still sing about dashing through the snow and Frosty the Snowman.

Now it's time for Australia to come into its own and celebrate its own traditions, according to the Oriana Chorale.

A crowd full of children gathered at the National Museum yesterday to hear the chorale unveil four carols adapted from Australian poems by Australian composers. The result was catchy melodic tunes that represent the warm weather, native wildlife and national traditions.

Two of Michael Leunig's poems feature in the carols - What Did You Get on Christmas Morn? and Christmas – to settings by Melbourne composer with organist Calvin Bowman.

Sydney composer Matthew Orlovich adapted a James McAuley poem for the carolNativity.

" McAuley's Nativity is a world of dewdrops and spiderwebs, tender snails' horns and a bare attentiveness of the heart, a world where everyday things become breathtaking and extraordinary," he said.

Orlovich's second carol opens with the familiar laughter of kookaburras. Adapted from a Pat Edward poem, it is called If Christ Had Been Born in Another Time.

Oriana music director Tobias Cole said he wanted to see the songs become a part of Australia's Christmas identity. "We need to think about what is the Australian style and what captures the expanse of Australia.

"In Matthew's work there's a kind of continuum, it's very evocative, it creates an atmosphere, a spell, a kind of timelessness just by a repetition of certain things and subtle changes – maybe as the cloud is moving towards the sun or there is a change in the colour of the sunset."

Mr Cole believes the melodies will get stuck in people's heads. "Audiences will find these pieces refreshingly accessible in harmony, rhythm and meaning. They just call out for participation.

"It's just a gradual process and it is Australia growing up and just trusting our own."

The songs will be recorded and played on ABC radio around the country.


Oriana will return—The Goulburn Post

“We’ll be back” was the conclusion of members of the 30-strong Oriana Chorale who visited Gunning on Sunday afternoon for a superb concert of unaccompanied sacred choral music called The Romantics.

“And we’ll have you back any time” was the response of the capacity audience in the Court Room.  It was an afternoon of utter delight; the Chorale was a pure musical instrument under the direction of its effervescent conductor Tobias Cole.

As good as the music was, it was the history that went with each piece that doubled the afternoon’s pleasure.  The choir began with the tradition of the German chorale, starting with baroque church music and going on to the 19th century German romantic composers Mendelssohn, Brahms and Bruckner, which built on that tradition, especially when they rediscovered the music of J S Bach.  After the interval, the musical tradition switched to the Orthodox-inspired Russian romantics Glinka and Tchaikovsky and the Italian operatic tradition of Rossini and Verdi, before a touch of semi-modernism from Reger.

The final, telling, music was a return to Bach.  The chorale from the St Matthew PassionO Haupt voll Blut und Wunden (often translated into English as Oh Sacred Head sore wounded) would have brought tears to a stone statue for its ineffable beauty.  A truly wonderful concert.

One couple visiting Gunning as part of a car rally were so impressed by hearing the Chorale’s rehearsal of Verdi’s Ave Maria that they stayed for the concert – there can be no better advertising than knowing the treat that’s in store for you.

After the concert the members of the Chorale and the audience continued our tradition of afternoon tea at the Bentley Café.  Once more the choir was most impressed with what Gunning has to offer.

Oriana’s visit was a triumph of musical networking and the Court Room’s pure acoustics.  Oriana contacted the Focus Group in March following the successful recital by Arnan and Uzi Wiesel and asked to come and play in Gunning.  After ten years the Focus Group is well equipped to respond to such an offer and Tobias Cole’s words at the end of the concert after the applause had died down were a tribute to the Gunning organisation.


Top ten concerts hit all the high notes—The Canberra Times

By W.L. Hoffman

The Oriana Chorale, conducted by former Canberran Tobias Cole, provided a concert of superior unaccompanied choral singing, titled An Australian Summer, which most effectively matched music by Australian composers with readings of poems by Aust ralian poets.

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