Three Conductors & One Concert – 'Dance | Chant – Celebrating Ross Edwards'

In the lead up to Sydney Chamber Choir’s next concert: Dance | Chant – Celebrating Ross Edwards, we asked the three conductors involved in the performance – Nicholas Routley, Paul Stanhope & Sam Allchurch – to share
their thoughts on the great man himself.

Nicholas Routley is the founding Music Director of Sydney Chamber Choir, being involved from 1975 to 2005. Paul Stanhope sang with the Choir for many years, to later became its second Director from 2005 to 2015. It is much to be regretted that Richard Gill, the current Director, is unable to conduct this upcoming performance celebrating the life, music and inspiration of Ross Edwards' music. Richard is a staunch admirer of Ross’ work, as well as a personal friend. He conceived and devised this program in honour of him. His place will be filled by his successor-to-be, Sam Allchurch, who will take over the choir's musical direction in 2019.

 Ross Edwards at work. Photo by Michael Mortlock

Ross Edwards at work. Photo by Michael Mortlock

Each of the conductors recounts their introduction to with Ross Edward’s music. Founding Artistic Director Nicholas Routley first met Ross when he arrived at the Music Department of Sydney University in 1975, where he also taught back in the day. Given his association, it was natural when the Sydney Chamber Choir formed in late 1975, for them to have a crack at his early set of carols “Quem Quaeritis”. Ross enjoyed the performance so much that he then wrote four of the five songs in “Ab Estatis” for the Choir (the fifth was added later for Roland Peelman’s Song Company).

Paul Stanhope and Sam Allchurch both have a personal association with Ross as well as being involved in recordings of his music. Paul first encountered Ross’s choral works when writing his Masters thesis. He got to know much of his repertoire by listening to old, grainy tape recordings. In an echo of this, Sam Allchurch remembers recording the piece Dawn Mantras as a member of the Sydney Children's Choir. Both Paul and Sam came to know Ross’s music in their conducting careers, performing in premiers and commissioned works with Sydney Chamber Choir and Sydney Children’s Choir respectively.

 Left to right: Nicholas Routley, Paul Stanhope, Sam Allchurch

Left to right: Nicholas Routley, Paul Stanhope, Sam Allchurch

When discussing how Ross has influenced other composers, Nicholas talks in great length on Ross’s precision in notating his music, as well as the rapport he builds with performers. He has written many pieces for Nicholas to perform. The greatest influence he exerted is summarised by Sam Allchurch: “He sets a very high standard for choral writing - the music is rigorous and beautiful and takes the singers seriously.” But his greatest influence is felt by the next generation of composers – of which Paul Stanhope and many other composers listed in the programme are part of. “In his quiet, supportive way, Ross has been an immense force in Australian music; not only through his exceptional compositional output, but in the way he has supported up-and-coming generations.”

All the conductors are looking forward to being part of this 75th Birthday concert, especially Sam Allchurch who will be joining with Paul and Nicholas, both former directors of the Choir. “Given how integral Ross' music has been in the history of the Choir, it’s wonderful to celebrate this in the concert which confirms our commitment to perform Australian composers’ new works.” Sam will lead the choir on Ross’s Dance Mantra, O Quam Preciosa (words by Hildegard Von Bingen) and Ab Estatis Foribus.

We’re also looking forward to two specially commissioned works from Josie Gibson and Olivia Swift which will be conducted by Paul Stanhope. Another special moment is the revival of Clare Maclean’s Christ the King, written for the Choir in 1984 and will be conducted by Nicholas Routley.

Ria Andriani

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We hope you'll join us at 7.30pm on Saturday, 4th August for what promises to be a wonderful concert at City Recital Hall, Angel Place, Sydney.