1. Can you tell me a little bit about the Sydney Chamber Choir and how it came to be?
Sydney Chamber Choir was formed in 1975 from a group of enthusiastic young singers at the University of Sydney by Nicholas Routley, our first Musical Director. Since then, there have been three directors; Paul Stanhope, the late Richard Gill AO, and Sam Allchurch, our current Artistic Director. From its inception, Baroque and Renaissance music has been a strong focus of the choir, as well as commissioning and premiering works by emerging and established Australian composers. The choir has performed and toured extensively overseas and nationally, most recently for Musica Viva in a program titled The Art of Choral Harmony, showcasing choral works from the 12th to 21st century. We collaborate regularly with many leading Australian ensembles including Synergy Percussion, Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra, Orchestra of the Antipodes, The Muffat Collective and Continuum Sax. Outside the classical sphere, unconventional collaborations with artists such as the Hilltop Hoods and the Idea of North have enhanced our exploration of the capabilities of the human voice. We are committed to inspiring future generations of choral singers and are proud to work regularly with youth ensembles such as the NSW Public Schools Singers.
2. This March, Sydney Chamber Choir will be performing Handel's Messiah — what draws you to this epic work?
As a singer who has performed this work a number of times, what will always fascinate me is how popular it continues to be. I have often wondered why that is, and I think that the answer lies in how it elicits a deeply personal response in each individual. Handel had an expert understanding of the human psyche. The Messiah is about the Christian belief in God's redemption of humankind through Christ, but it is written as a meditation on life, death, sacrifice and faith - all universal, personal and deeply human themes. My own personal response to these themes is what keeps me coming back again and again to this work.
3. Messiah is one of the most famous choral works of all time. How will Sydney Chamber Choir's performance differ from others?
In deliberate contrast to the large choruses usually associated with renderings of this work, Artistic Director Sam Allchurch has chosen a balanced ensemble of only 24 voices in the choir. There is a clarity, sensitivity and responsiveness that can be achieved with a group this size that will allow for a more nuanced, personal exploration of this work. The City Recital Hall is an ideal acoustic for the intimacy of a chamber rendition.