Australia’s leading choral company celebrates 2022 with a blockbuster season of Sydney concerts showcasing the virtuosic form they are renowned for. It’s a year full of human stories; of faith, grief, love, celebration and romance. From grand concert hall presentations to the intimacy of St Andrew’s Cathedral; at the heart of every Sydney Philharmonia performance is the abiding power of music and the human voice to transport and unite us.
Programmed by long-standing Artistic & Music Director, Brett Weymark OAM, this richly diverse season traverses choral classics by Mozart, Bach, Haydn and Handel; the glorious colours of Puccini; living repertoire by Pēteris Vasks and Eric Whitacre; and six newly commissioned short works from local Sydney composers Jessica Wells, Aija Draguns, Tomas Parrish-Cheynoweth, Aiden Rosa, Maria Lopes, and Melbourne’s Stuart Greenbaum.
Amongst the highlights is a special guest performance by Grammy Award-winning American composer and conductor, Eric Whitacre, conducting the Sydney premiere of his acclaimed 2019 work, The Sacred Veil. Created in collaboration with poet / lyricist Charles Anthony Silvestri, this compellingly intimate composition tells of life, love and loss, via one person’s inspirational journey.
Around their own season commitments, the Sydney Philharmonia build on their history of collaborations, reuniting with long-term partners Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and also forging new alliances around fresh initiatives.
It is with a great sense of anticipation that we finally release our 2022 season after two years in which our singers have rarely been able to come together to make music to share with you. It’s a season that looks to the future of our art form – with new Australian works, several premieres and familiar gems looked at with new eyes and ears, alongside pieces that will restore our sense of community.
To begin the New Year, Sydney Philharmonia’s young adult choir VOX collaborate with world-renowned Australian physical theatre company Gravity & Other Myths to present a landmark production, The Pulse, as part of Sydney Festival. This is VOX as you have never seen them before, caught in a sweeping, pulsating, gravity-defying ebb and flow of humanity: a mountain of 24 bodies crumbling into an ocean of voices in an epic yet intricate symphony of strength, sinew and haunting song. Watch these remarkable artists soar, to an original score by composer Ekrem Eli Phoenix. Don’t miss it at Roslyn Packer Theatre.
A second Sydney Philharmonia program for Sydney Festival 2022 is set amongst the raw sandstone and towering columns of The Cutaway at Barangaroo: a vast, natural cathedral-esque space resonating with lush acoustics. As day fades to dusk, a mesmerising hour-long performance begins. Curated and conducted by Brett Weymark, Night of the Soul includes works by Arvo Pärt, Eric Whitacre, Ola Gjeilo and Samuel Barber, book-ended by some of the oldest music in Western culture, medieval Gregorian chant. Bring your cushion, yoga mat or blanket and settle in for a magic experience.
In March the Choirs make their first mainstage appearance for the year, presenting Mozart: Requiem & Revelations at Sydney’s iconic Town Hall. Inspired by Romeo Castellucci’s makeover of Mozart’s Requiem for the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence 2019 and Adelaide Festival 2020, this stunning one-off performance sees Mozart’s final masterpiece interwoven with excerpts of music created across his lifetime. It’s a “love letter” to one of the world’s most lauded composers, highlighting and amplifying the drama, anguish and beauty of his transcendent music. A newly commissioned piece – Dolor ultimae melodiae (Grief of the last song) – from Sydney composer Jessica Wells, serves to pick up with a contemporary voice where Mozart left off.
Sydney’s Philharmonia Choirs’ Easter Saturday concerts have become a part of the city’s musical heartbeat. In 2022, the Choirs mark the occasion with a performance of Bach’s undisputed masterwork, his monumentally profound Mass in B Minor; a compositional legacy completed over more than 16 years and encapsulating the artist’s lifetime contribution to music. Conducted by newly appointed Associate Music Director Dr Elizabeth Scott and performed by the Choirs’ acclaimed VOX and Chamber Singers accompanied by a Baroque period orchestra, this will be a virtuoso performance embodying Bach’s supreme musical craft and spiritual inspiration, emphasised by the majestic acoustics of Sydney Town Hall – truly a beautiful venue to experience Baroque music.
A momentous program of celebratory music, guaranteed to put a smile on every face, marks the Choirs’ final Sydney Town Hall concert for the year, in May. Grand, powerful and dramatic, Jubilation: Handel & Haydn sees the 400-strong Festival Chorus take on Handel’s four Coronation Anthems – originally commissioned for the coronation of King George II in 1727; Haydn’s triumphant Nelson Mass ;and the premiere of three newly commissioned orchestral interludes from emerging Sydney composers – Aija Draguns, Tomas Parris-Chynoweth and Adian Charles Rosa. Conducted by Brett Weymark and featuring the Sydney Philharmonia Orchestra, this one is set to raise the rafters.
As we move into mid-winter and its mood of contemplation, Sydney Philharmonia presents an evening of inspirational music to provide sanctuary to our troubled world, Grant Us Peace: Music of Vasks. A prolific composer, inspired by his Latvian heritage and by nature, Vasks’ critically acclaimed sacred music transcends darkness and tragedy, focusing on beauty and hope and speaking to us in a language of surmised lightness, more powerful than words. Interwoven within the program, two newly commissioned works – by Melbourne Conservatorium of Music’s Stuart Greenbaum and Sydney’s Maria Lopes, will have their debut. This stunning concert will be performed with the Sydney Philharmonia String Ensemble, in the resonant acoustic of St Andrew’s Cathedral.
In September Sydney Philharmonia Choirs celebrate their return to the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall with the highly anticipated Sydney premiere of The Sacred Veil, conducted by special guest composer Eric Whitacre. A virtual rock star of contemporary choral music, Whitacre mesmerises audiences with his charisma and luminous sound world. His previous highly acclaimed Sydney concerts in 2013, were quick to sell out, so be sure to book early for this one off performance. The Sacred Veil was commissioned by the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Grant Gershon – Artistic Director, Monash Academy of Performing Arts – MLIVE Melbourne and NTR ZaterdagMatinee for the Netherlands Radio Choir.
There’s a treat for opera lovers in October, with Sydney Philharmonia’s presentation of Glorious Puccini: Messa di Gloria & Opera Highlights. The concert begins with one of Puccini’s earliest works, the rarely heard mass, Messa di Gloria – an exceptionally joyous 40 minutes of high-octane choral singing with generous melodies and a dramatic infusion that hints at his great opera hits to come. Following the interval, the Choirs return with the sensuousness of Manon Lescaut, the grand tragedy of Tosca, the heart-rending pathos of Madama Butterfly, and the mystery of Turandot. This rollicking concert conducted by Brett Weymark features performances from special guest soloists Cheryl Barker, Peter Coleman-Wright and more, with the full force of the Sydney Youth Orchestra in the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall
To end the year, Sydney Philharmonia rekindles a favourite and enduring Sydney Christmas tradition, bringing together four of its Choirs for Handel: Messiah. The world may have entered a “new normal”, but the tradition of Messiah holds fast, standing as a beacon in the concert calendar – an event to look forward to. Sydney Philharmonia Choirs have been performing it biannually for nearly a hundred years, attracting thousands of audience members to each season. Join them in the Sydney Opera House to experience the uplifting energy and inspiration of this centuries-old masterpiece, with its stirring choruses, sublime solos and dramatic expression of faith. Conducted by Brett Weymark, and accompanied by the Sydney Philharmonia Orchestra. Hallelujah!
Throughout 2022 each of Sydney Philharmonia Choirs’ concerts will continue to open with a live performance of Deborah Cheetham and Matthew Doyle’s Tarimi Nulay – Long time living here, a musical Acknowledgement of Country commissioned by the Choirs as part of their 2020 centenary celebrations, sung in the local Gadigal language. Sometimes performed a cappella, others with full orchestra, Tarimi Nulay – Long time living here is in itself a stunning audience experience, that continues to evolve.
In addition to their own concert season, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs have, since 1941, performed regularly with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (SSO). In 2022, the organisations continue their long-standing collaboration, with Sydney Philharmonia preparing the most highly trained choristers from amongst their ranks to perform in four SSO concerts: Mahler 2; A German Requiem; Beethoven’s Fidelio; and Holst’s The Planets & Britten.
A new initiative, Big Heart Sing, developed in collaboration with Sydney Opera House (SOH), and presented as part of the SOH program, will launch in January 2022. An informal drop-in singing session for music lovers of all ages (18-plus) and abilities, Big Heart Sing is a joyous celebration of the simple power of communal song, and an invitation to belt your way through diverse repertoire – from opera classics to Beethoven and the Beatles, with expert help from the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs’ team.
In September 2022, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs will venture across ‘The Ditch’ to New Zealand, to perform Giuseppe Verdi: Messa da Requiem with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Benjamin Northey.
Founded in 1920 and now in its 102nd year, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs stands testament to collaboration, community and connection.
In addition to its auditioned Choirs, the Sydney Philharmonia offers the opportunity for members of the public to join with other like-minded people from the Greater Sydney area, and sing as part of their Festival Chorus. Everyone’s welcome to the Festival Chorus Open Day on Sunday January 31 at Walsh Bay.
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Photo Credit: Keith Saunders