Jubilee Speeches, Maclaurin Hall – President

Your Excellency, Vice-Chancellor and Reverend Spence, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am Evelyne de Clercq, President of the Sydney University Graduate Choir. On behalf of the Choir, I should like to welcome you to this evening’s reception. This year we are celebrating our sixtieth anniversary, having established ourselves as the Graduate Group of the Sydney University Musical Society (SUMS) in 1952.

The choir is now in the process of finalising our incorporation as an independent body affiliated with the University. I take this opportunity to thank the University of Sydney and in particular the Alumni Office, under the direction of Tracey Beck, for their guidance and assistance in this endeavor. I look forward to continuing a close co-operation between us and the university through the Alumni office.

We have been performing most of our concerts in the Great Hall at this outstanding university. I know that the Great Hall has its shortfalls as a concert hall, but it is a beautiful space, unique in Sydney, and it is our home and a symbol of our relationship with the University.

The Graduate Choir, or “Grads” as we are known, is also marking this evening the twentieth anniversary Christopher Bowen, as our Music Director.

The SUGC presented Christopher Bowen for the conferring of the title of Honorary Fellow of the University . In 2008 Christopher Bowen was given that title. We also, as a choir, nominated Christopher Bowen as a condidate to receive the medal of the Order of Austalia, and in 2009 Christopher was awarded this honour .

Christopher is our longest-serving conductor and it is largely thanks to him that singing in the Choir and coming to our concerts is such a rewarding experience.

He is also a composer of distinction and we have had the pleasure of singing a number of his compositions throughout the years , the last one being performed at our December concert, Poetic Inspirations. His “Songs of the heart” setting of the verse of Christopher Brennan was dedicated to our Patron, Professor Marie Bashir.

Christopher continues to explore interesting repertoire, to discover what its secrets are and to reveal them to us as choristers and to our audience. Today’s performance of Mendelssohn’s Paulus is just the latest example of his genius as an explorer of little-known territory. This was yet another work we have given in German for which we have received valued support from the German Consulate General. Special thanks to Deputy Consul-General Ms Wohlleben for her contribution to our celebration this evening.

Other well known conductors have been part of this choir along our journey through the years We have tonight amongs us David Barkla who was our conductor from 1960 to 1971

One of the Choir’s major priorities in recent years has been identifying and encouraging young singing talent. The choir established a memorial Fund to honour Joan Whittaker, who was a beloved member of the choir and past president. That money is primarely going towards the Joan Carden Award, which was established in 2004. We hope that in another couple of years this fund will alone sustain the Joan Carden Award into the future.
Agnes Sarkis is this year ‘s J.C.A winner and she is here with us tonight.

The Choir derives enormous pleasure from our association with the young singers encountered through this Award, which has substantially justified our hopes in establishing it. Several are now persuing their careers in the great opera houses of Europe.
Unfortunately, Joan Carden is overseas and cannot be with us tonight. I would nevertheless like to place on record how grateful we are to Joan for her continued enthusiastic involvement and to the Vocal and Opera Studies Unit of the Sydney Conservatorium, for their support in organising the auditions.

One major initiative as the choir has grown has been the establishment of the Chamber Choir in 2004. It increases the choir’s performance flexibility and choral repetoire, as in tonight’s concert. Last year the chamber choir released its first CD featuring the of music of Saint-Saens.

Another of those major initiatives has been the ‘Sydney Sings Messiah’, an example of a university arts body reaching out into the wider community. Thanks to the support of the City of Sydney and Westfield Sydney, this year again we will perform in the Town hall under the batton of our Music Director Chritopher Bowen. I hope many amongst our guests here tonight will consider joining us in that event.

Tonight I want to thank all who have contributed to the building of this organisation: music directors, past presidents, committee members, but most crucial to the health of any organisation such as ours , the members who are willing to take on any job that is needed.

Particular thanks to our 9 Patron’s Award winners who have gone “above and beyond” over many years for the benefit of our choir. I will just mention our first Patron’s Award winner, Margaret Davidson, whose contribution continues unabated.

People here tonight are representing all decades of the Grads. Several of our current members were among the founders. We also would like to thank all our supporters, past, present and future.

In 2002 the graduate choir was honoured by Professor Marie Bashir’s acceptance to be our Patron. May I take this opportunity to thank Professor Bashir for her inspiring passion for music and close interest in and support for the activities of the choir . It is deeply appreciated.

As we celebrate the vision and energy of all those Grads members, who have gone before us, we would like to look forward to many more years of singing, thrilling our audience with great music under inspiring leadership.

Thank you

May I invite The Governor Professor Marie Bashir to say a few words
[the Governor’s speech followed].

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