According to Chorus America, between 2007 and 2013, the number of Americans participating in choirs increased by ten million. As Clare Kenny writes, this surge in popularity is the result of more and more people discovering that singing improves health and happiness. Whether one is humming a nursery rhyme or mastering ‘Nessun Dorma’, the brain enjoys a mood-boosting hormonal rush. Endorphins enhance feelings of pleasure, while oxytocin reduces anxiety and stress. For those who’ve hitherto felt too busy, too tired or too intimidated to sing, here are ten community events at which to get started in 2016. Singers of all levels, abilities and styles are welcome.
January: Boite Singers’ Festival, VIC
On the second weekend of January every year, singers gather for four days at The Boite Singers’ Festival. In 2016, the event will be held between Thursday 7 January and Sunday 10 January at the Daylesford Town Hall, about 80 minutes’ drive northwest of Melbourne. The programme includes day-long workshops with Dr Darren Wicks (director of the Melbourne Singers of Gospel), Stephen Taberner (musical director of the Spooky Men’s Chorale) and Sue Johnson and the Songrise Quartet, as well as masterclasses for choir leaders, music educators and songwriters.
January: Summer Sing with Perth Symphonic Chorus, WA
This intensive yet fun event invites singers to join the Perth Symphonic Chorus for seven evenings, learning tunes by Elvis Presley. All the classics are on the programme, from ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ and ‘Lonesome Tonight’ to ‘Jailhouse Rock’ and ‘Heartbreak Hotel’. Rehearsals will be held at All Saints Floreat Uniting Church from Monday 25 January, culminating in a performance on Saturday 6 February at 7.30pm.
June: ChorusOz, NSW
An initiative of Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, ChorusOz gives singers the chance to perform with up to 1000 others in the Sydney Opera House’s Concert Hall. People travel across the world to take part. This year, Handel’s oratorio, Israel In Egypt, is on the programme. Leading the choir will be Graham Abbott, best known for running ABC Classic FM’s Keys to Music. Preparation will take place over one weekend – Saturday 11 June and Sunday 12 June, culminating in a performance at 5pm on the second day.
July: Festival of Voices, TAS
Tasmania’s annual Festival of Voices, held over two weeks every July, fills towns all over the state with harmonies. The enormous programme includes professional performances (one of this year’s headlining events is the world premiere of Meow Royale) but there are many community workshops and performances too. This year, singers will have the chance to learn and perform J.S. Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion under the direction of conductor Richard Gill, alongside soprano Sara Macliver, mezzo-soprano Fiona Campbell, tenor Richard Butler and bass baritone Christopher Richardson.
August: The Boite Millenium Chorus, VIC
Around June each year, community choirs all over Victoria start rehearsing for The Boite Millennium Chorus. Nine weeks of practice later, they unite at the Melbourne Arts Centre’s Hamer Hall to perform together in a spectacular concert. The 2016 repertoire is yet to be announced. Last year’s was a celebration of African music directed by Lamine Sonko. Announcements are made via The Boite’s Facebook page.
September: Australia National Choral Assocation Big Sing, QLD
Running since 2001, the Big Sing is an annual series of workshops, held in one place over one weekend and culminating in a Sunday afternoon concert. In 2016, the Caboolture Community Choir will host the event at St. Columban’s College, Caboolture, between Friday 16 and Sunday 18 September. Timothy Sherlock will conduct. Participants can attend as individuals or as part of a choir and registration is due by Thursday 30 June.
October: Community Music Victoria’s Singing Camp, VIC
Held in October every year, Community Music Victoria’s Singing Camp is the biggest event of its kind in Australia. The programme is divided into two sections, with events for singers, like singing circles, rehearsals, improvisations and workshops, and masterclasses and workshops for singing leaders.
All Year: Singing at the House, NSW
After a successful year, Singing at the House will return in 2016. Once a month, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs run a free morning of singing across a variety of spaces in the Sydney Opera House. Each session focuses on a different theme – from ‘Bring your lover’ on Sunday 14 February to ‘Gospel’’ Sunday 13 March to ‘The Beatles’ on Sunday 10 April. There are no auditions, but online registration is essential, via the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs Facebook page.
All Year: With One Voice, VIC, NSW, QLD
Established in 2008 by Creativity Australia, With One Voice runs twelve community choirs in towns and cities across New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. The not-for-profit aims to build a ‘happier, healthier, more inclusive nation’ by bridging the gap between ‘people experiencing disadvantage and those more fortunate through the neuro-scientific benefits of community singing’. The majority of choir participants have reported a decrease in stress and depression, and an improvement in community involvement and relationships.
All Year: Sing Australia, EVERYWHERE
Sing Australia’s aim is straightforward: to encourage more Australians to sing. The site reads, ‘No auditions. No expectations on ability. We welcome absolute beginners’. There are more than 150 Sing Australia groups in Australia, in every state and territory, which meet weekly. In addition, members can join national and international tours, combining singing with sightseeing.