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Recorded Nov 2016 at:

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About the Choir

The Oriana Chorale is one of Canberra's leading a cappella choirs.  It was founded in 1977 by Roger Wellman who directed it until 1988.  Its directors since then have included some of Canberra's most distinguished musicians such as Christopher Lyndon Gee, Bengt-Olov Palmqvist, Piroska Varga, Richard McIntyre, Sally McRae, Rowan Harvey-Martin, Tobias Cole, David Mackay and its current director Peter Young.

The Chorale normally presents three major concerts each year, often with associate artists.  Oriana's other engagements have included performances from time to time at the Australian War Memorial, several live broadcasts for ABC FM and the memorial service in 2001 to commemorate the victims of the terrorist attacks in the US.

Oriana maintains a high reputation in Canberra and has won particular acclaim for its innovative programming, recognised by a Canberra Critics' Circle Award in 1991.  It has given the Australian première performances of several works:  Schnittke's Requiem in 1991, his Concerto for Choir in 1993, and Pärt's Miserere in 1992.  In 1994, the Chorale performed the première of The Lunar Hare by Stephanos Malikides with the Canberra New Music Ensemble.  The Chorale's première Australian performance of Rachmaninov's The Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom in 1998 was widely acclaimed, and later repeated for ABC FM's Sunday Live.  Under the direction of Piroska Varga, Oriana recorded this work on CD.

In 1998, the Oriana Chorale presented The Century of the Republic, an imaginative presentation of choral music and the spoken word from seventeenth-century England.  A similar program in 2001, Vale Victoria – A Commemoration of Queen Victoria's Reign through Music and the Spoken Word, marking both Australian Federation and the Queen's death, drew in part on rarely performed Australian works held in the National Library.  In 2003 At the Court of Elizabeth I commemorated through sung and spoken performance the 400th anniversary of the end of the Queen's long reign.  More recently, in November 2005, Oriana commemorated the end of the Second World War with music written to reflect on war, including Australian music and Pärt's Berliner Mass, and with spoken works by Australian and other war poets.

On Anzac Day 2000, at the reopening of the Hall of Memory of the Australian War Memorial following its restoration, the Oriana Chorale gave the première performance of They are here by Anthony Briggs, commissioned for the occasion by the ABC.  The ceremony was broadcast live by ABC FM.  The Chorale has sung They are here at the Memorial on several subsequent occasions.

In August 2005 Oriana presented a choral workshop conducted by the prominent Sydney conductor Brett Weymark and its own director at the time, Sally McRae.  Attended by singers from Oriana and many other Canberra choirs, the workshop culminated in a concert, Voyage to the New World, whose varied program included Bernstein's Chichester Psalms, Lauridsen's Lux Aeterna, and Barber's Sure on this Shining Night, as well as works by the Australian composers Butterley and Orlovich.

In 2006, the Oriana Chorale took part in a joint concert with the choir of California State University Fullerton and gave three concerts, Kings’ Musick – choral music from the English court, Northern Lights – choral music from Finland and Scandinavia and A Venetian Christmas – choral music for the Christmas season from the Venetian school.

The Oriana Chorale celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of its foundation with a concert comprising a selection of music from past concerts including favourite works by Victoria, Palestrina, Brahms, Rachmaninov and Vaughan Williams.  Later in the year it gave highly-acclaimed performances of Vigilia by the Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara and An Australian Summer, a program of recent Australian choral works and poetry.  The latter concert was chosen by W.L. Hoffmann of The Canberra Times as one of the “top 10 music performances in Canberra in 2007”.

In 2008, our concert of music from the Renaissance was presented in association with two other Canberra choirs and our performance of Messiah at the end of the year was in association with the University of Canberra Chorale.  In addition, the Oriana Chorale commissioned Australian composers Matthew Orlovich and Calvin Bowman each to compose two Christmas carols.  The four new carols were premiered in the National Museum of Australia.

In 2009 Oriana Chorale presented concerts with notable variety. In March, it took a new approach, singing a Choral Cabaret in Gunning Court House, the National Portrait Gallery and the Pialligo Estate Winery.  In May it participated in an outstanding performance of Peter Sculthorpe’s Rites of Passage for the Canberra International Music Festival, which took place in the excellent acoustics of the Fitters’ Workshop, Kingston in the presence of the composer. This wonderful piece, first performed at the opening of the Sydney Opera House, was conducted by Roland Peelman. In September, Oriana Chorale was joined by The Resonants for a brilliant matching of Handel’s Dixit Dominus and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, both conducted by Tobias Cole. The year finished on a high note, in combined performances with the University of Canberra Chorale, conducted by Tobias Cole. The program consisted of Venetian Christmas Music, including works by Giovanni Gabrielli, Heinrich Schütz, Claudio Monteverdi and Antonio Vivaldi.

In 2010, Oriana presented a varied season of music under its new Music Director David Mackay. In March, Songs of Sundrie Natures explored the world of Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, and their contemporaries through music and the spoken word. As part of the Canberra International Music Festival, Oriana appeared with the Song Company under Roland Peelman to perform Monteverdi's Vespro della Beata Virgine. In its October program, Alabaster, the choir performed 20th and 21st-century repertoire by Copland, Barber, Jackson, Howells, Pärt and others. In reviewing this concert, the Canberra Times described Oriana's performance as 'disciplined, courageous and joyful.'

The music in David Mackay’s three 2011 programs ranged from 20th century English and American (One Foot in Eden) - Finzi, Britten, Whitacre - through renaissance Spanish (Offertorium) - Victoria, Lobo, de Cabezón - to modern Australian (A Poet’s Christmas), with carols by Sculthorpe, Orlovich, and composers with Canberra affiliations: Calvin Bowman, Peter Campbell, Judith Clingan, and Mackay himself.  In addition, the Chorale participated in the Requiems of Victoria and Sculthorpe in the 2011 Canberra International Music Festival, and in the inaugural Voices in the Forest concert at the National Arboretum, with international guest star Anne Marie van Otter.

The first concert of 2012, produced in conjunction with the ANU School of Music, was Bach’s St John Passion, the world première of a translation by tenor (and ANU alumnus) Christopher Steele, who sang the role of the Evangelist.  In the Canberra International Music Festival the Oriana Chorale sang the Australian première of Mozart’s little known oratorio Davide Penitente, with solists from The Song Company and the Wallfisch Band, conducted by Roland Peelman.  In August David Mackay’s concert Death & Desire took the Chorale back to renaissance England with works by Tallis, Purcell and Morley; Before Bach in November explored 17th century German Christmas music from Praetorius, Schütz and Buxtehude.  The year concluded with the second Voices in the Forest, with Korean soprano Sumi Jo.

In 2013, Oriana participated in two world premières: Andrew Schultz's Symphony No. 3 - Centenary, celebrating the Centenary of the foundation of Canberra, and Great South Land, a dramatic oratorio by Peter Sculthorpe, premièred at the 2013 Canberra International Music Festival; and also in the Canberra première of Howls in the House, a satirical cantata by Tim Hansen and Hal Judge commissioned and presented by The Song Company.  In October the Chorale collaborated with the ANU School of Music to host The Tallis Scholars in the Canberra leg of their 20th Anniversary world tour, and joined with the Scholars in a performance of Tallis's 40-part motet Spem in alium. In November the Chorale presented a concert in memory of JF Kennedy featuring Herbert Howells' memorial cantata Take Him, Earth, for Cherishing, together with the Duruflé Requiem. It also participated in the third annual Voices in the Forest concert at the National Arboretum, featuring the Australian sopranos Emma Matthews and Greta Bradman.  The year concluded with a highly successful performance of Handel's Messiah for the South Coast Music Society at Batehaven.

Oriana’s first concert for the 2014, Mirrors in Mirror (see review), conducted by Brett Weymark, featured composers from Victoria and Schütz to Pärt and Whitacre. In May the Chorale took part in the 2014 Canberra International Music Festival's final concert, Brahms' German Requiem, and in November in the third Voices in the Forest, with sopranos Emma Matthews and Greta Bradman.  Peter Young took over the baton in August to direct a concert of renaissance music from Spain and Mexico, The Golden Age, and in December directed The Rising Sun - Christmas music from the Messiah and from Holst, Britten, Vaughan Williams.