Opera has claims to be the greatest of all art forms, combining music, drama, and narrative together with dance and the plastic arts into a unified, collaborative artistic expression. On Friday 23rd June at the Sydney Town Hall the entire College community came together to both celebrate and enact this multi-dimensional art form in the 2017 Concert, A Night at the Opera.
The College’s well-drilled instrumental ensembles performed a number of pieces from operas, both traditional and contemporary. These included the College Orchestra combining with the Sydney Youth Orchestra under the baton of Mr Brian Buggy to present Rossini’s Overture to The Barber of Seville; the Senior Concert Band performing ‘Te Deum’ from Tosca and ‘Witches’ Sabbath’ from Le Villi (both composed by Puccini); and the combined forces of the Intermediate and Junior Concert bands playing a medley of songs from The Phantom of the Opera.
Other ensemble pieces featured the College’s professionally trained singers. Under the direction of Mr Thomas Wilson the Cathedral Choir sang Handel’s famous ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ from The Messiah; and in Act II, accompanied by the Town Hall Organ, the largest in the southern hemisphere, they gave a wonderful performance of Britten’s setting of Rejoice in the Lamb. The College’s Vocal Ensemble performed the most famous song from Rent, ‘Seasons of Love’, and Year 12 students Kendall Kim and Jarrod Houbert evoked favourable comparisons with Simon & Garfunkel in their impassioned reading of ‘Sounds of Silence’.
The quality of the College’s brass players was much in evidence. Patrick Benfield and Nicholas Mooney (trumpets) soloed powerfully in the Stage Band’s swinging renditions of ‘Cool’ from West Side Story and Gershwin’s deathless ‘Summertime’ from Porgy and Bess. Trumpeter Sergio Barca demonstrated the control and clarion tone that have won him membership in a number of prestigious youth ensembles in ‘Prelude En Rondeau’. And Paolo Franks, 2017 music captain, joined eleven other trombonists on stage in the world premiere of a piece to honour Mr Michael Wyborn’s twenty-five years of service to the College: ‘The Knights of Wybornia’. Other displays of instrumental virtuosity included Valentin Estrella’s ‘The Ride of the Valkyries’ on the organ, and a number of shorter pieces featuring percussionists wringing music from a variety of instruments under the direction of Mr Luke Robinson.
The Concert’s traditional crowd-pleasers—the Primary and Year 7 items, and the Hip Hop dancers—were typically engaging and polished. The Primary students sang and danced ‘A Policeman’s Lot’ from The Pirates of Penzance and the Year 7 students summoned hippy chic in ‘Superstar’ from Jesus Christ Superstar. Throughout the evening Drama students from Year 10 provided entertaining commentary on the night’s proceedings and reminded the audience that the Marx Brothers also enjoyed A Night at the Opera.
The traditional finale, the Massed Choir item, was this year preceded by a second world premiere, a fascinating amalgam of choral singing, harp-playing, and Italian neo-realist cinema. Composed by Ms Sharon Calcraft, ‘Yeshua Calls his Talmidim’ featured scenes from Pasolnini’s The Gospel According to St Matthew accompanied by Mr Rowan Phemister’s harp, the Primary Choir, and the astonishing solo voice of Blaize Farah (Year 10). The Massed Choir had already displayed their power and commitment, delivering a rousing ‘Anvil Chorus’ from Verdi’s Il Trovatore early in Act I. But they outdid themselves in ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, which also showcased singers from Year 12 and the guitar pyrotechnics of Damien Ha, and Patrick Doyle’s ‘Non Nobis Domine’, where the overlapping voices of the younger and older students eventually came together in a wave of sound that shook the Town Hall.
Hundreds of hours of preparation are required to stage such an event. Particular thanks must go to the Musical Director, Ms Mirella Di Giorgio, and her colleagues in the Music Department, Ms Miranda McHattan and Ms Liliane Cooley; to Mr Michael Wyborn and Mr Thomas Wilson; and to the various peripatetic music and other teachers, all of whom were intimately involved in the development of individual items.