The Armidale Music Foundation

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The Armidale Music Foundation is celebrating its 20th Annual Choral Weekend in 2017. we find out a little more about this wonderful event and its partnership with the Armidale Symphony Orchestra.

What is the Armidale Music Foundation (AMF)?

The Armidale Music Foundation was founded in 1991 by a group of enthusiastic musicians, educators and community members. In the past, through regular fundraising activities, the foundation supported instrumental and vocal workshops, music tuition, concert series, community ensembles, and the purchase and loan of musical instruments. Now, Armidale Music Foundation focuses its energy on the AMF Choral weekend, which is in its 20th year this year! A small and devoted committee comprising Bruce Menzies, David and Helen Gee, Inge Southcott, Maurice Anker, Kevin Burkett and Peter Maddox still run the AMF. While I coordinate the weekend, it wouldn’t happen without the help of these wonderful people.

Tell us more about the 20th Annual Choral Weekend?

The choral weekend is an annual choral and orchestral workshop and concert. Each year many choristers from all over Australia come to Armidale to workshop a large choral work accompanied by the Armidale Symphony Orchestra and Friends. The weekend welcomes singers of different abilities, from amateur to professional. Last year was our biggest year, with over 100 choristers! This year’s workshop begins with an optional rehearsal on the afternoon of Friday 10th March, followed by registration and first full rehearsal that evening. After workshopping all day Saturday and half of Sunday, the work is presented with orchestra in a public performance Sunday afternoon at 2:30pm. All events are held at the Multi-Purpose Centre at the New England Girls’ School.

Paul Holley is the 2017 choral director; tell us more about him …

Paul Holley has been the choral director for the past few years. He is the Associate Director of Voices of Birralee and conducts two ensembles within this organisation, the Birralee Blokes and Resonance of Birralee. Both of these ensembles have toured nationally and internationally, representing Australia at festivals and competitions, performed with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and made numerous recordings. Paul is known for his personal warmth and passion for choral music and has inspired many singers to discover and develop their skills and achieve personal fulfillment as choral musicians. In 2016, Paul was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for service to choral music, particularly in Queensland.

How do you choose which works to do?

The aim of the AMF Choral Weekend is to provide an opportunity for choristers to rehearse and perform a large-scale choral masterpiece that is relatively unknown. In the past we have performed works by Orff, Handel, Berlioz, Holst, Elgar, Brahms, Cherubini and Gounod. We try to mix it up each time by performing both early and contemporary works; so far no one composer has been repeated. This gives the choristers a chance to perform works of different styles, genres and difficulty.

What work are you doing this year?

This year we are working on Dvorak’s Mass in D Major, also known as the Luzany Mass. The wealthy architect and patron of the arts, Josef Hlávka commissioned the work in 1887 for a new chapel built at his summer residence in Luzany. In only three months Dvorak wrote the Mass for solo voices and small choir. Later, the Novello publishing company arranged the piece for choir and symphony orchestra.

What is this year’s image for Choral Weekend?

For the past couple of years, the image for the AMF Choral Weekend has been something specific related to the work itself. This year is an artwork by American artist Daniel Bonnell called The Dove and the Eucharist #1. Daniel Bonnell is known throughout the United States, England and Israel as one of the few noted sacred painters of the 21st Century.

The Armidale Symphony Orchestra is performing again at the Choral Weekend; what is its involvement?

The Armidale Symphony Orchestra begins its concert series with the AMF Choral Weekend. The orchestra provides the accompaniment to these wonderful works and is given the opportunity to work with Paul. The orchestra has been involved since the inception of the weekend, rehearsing and working with the soloists and choristers. In the past few years, the orchestra has had an opportunity to also perform a special work on its own as part of the weekend’s concert.

The Armidale Symphony Orchestra has been active since 1943, so next year is the 75th anniversary. In preparation for next year we’re continuing to provide opportunities for orchestral musicians to perform iconic (and unique) orchestral works, while exposing local audiences to an orchestral experience. In 2017 there will be works by composers Mozart, Vaughan-Williams, Saint-Saens and Brahms, as well as local composer Paul Marshall and a special event with the Armidale Drama & Musical Society – An Evening with Rogers and Hammerstein. Robert Jackson, Bruce Menzies and Graham Maddox will conduct these concerts. Without the support of the ASO, the Choral Weekend wouldn’t be possible.

What’s in the future for AMF?

The Armidale Music Foundation hopes to continue its work presenting new work opportunities for choir and orchestra; we’re in the process already of thinking of the next big work, and we’re always open to suggestions!

To register for the AMF Choral Weekend, go online to

• Alana Blackburn

AMF Choral Weekend Coordinator.

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