Saturday, December 8, 2018


Esk Community Choir with Strings and Things Orchestra

Some say that Summer is here when the chair rises before you do!  However, on December 2nd, despite the onset of sweltering Queensland heat and winds scarily whipping up the smoky haze, there were no such sticky situations in sight but the cool comfort of the Somerset Civic Centre where so many of the Esk Community Choir’s fans and followers converged to be distracted and entertained at the Choir’s Annual Christmas Concert, their 28th, and a fitting finale to a wonderful 40th birthday celebratory year.

Councillor Sean Choat is fast becoming a familiar figure at the emcee’s podium and on this occasion, again very capably shepherded the show along from the outset to its magnificent conclusion. 

At 2.30pm, following the warm welcome by Choir Director, Alexis FitzGerald and a stirring accompaniment of the National Anthem by Somerset’s own Matthew Lukritz, an Ensemble of Choir ladies, through the words and music of the Gilbran/Brunner O Music, gave a display of what it is to ‘see with your ears’ and ‘hear with your hearts’, senses heightened by the beautiful accompaniment of Margaret Philp on piano and cellist Graeme Souster.

Graeme Souster
Ladies Ensemble - O Music

It is said that ‘art begins where effort ends’ an adage demonstrated by members of the concert’s featured guests, Strings and Things, their appearance made possible through the generosity of Bendigo Bank. Hailing from the Sunshine Coast, this wonderful ensemble’s seemingly effortless performances during both halves of the concert were an expression of the art of making beautiful music.  From J.S.Bach’s sublime Brandenburg Concerto No 3 and Adagio to a medley of Muppet melodies complete with appearances by Kermit, Miss Piggy and Fozzie Bear,  this is an Ensemble of highly accomplished musicians, their performances both as an Ensemble and in collaboration with the choir, truly highlights for concert goers.  

Strings and Things Orchestra

Nedi Granzien
Equally tantalizing were the performances by Nedi Granzien.  Still at the tender age of 13, Nedi has moved well past the exuberant promise of a talented little tot performing since the age of 9 with The Semitones, to apparent maturity as a solo singer. Nedi recently was awarded the Girls’ Championship Trophy for 13 years and under at this year’s Silkstone Eisteddfod. With an obvious passion for music and singing as she constantly seeks to embrace new challenges and under the tutelage and encouragement of Alexis and the guidance and support of a loving family, Nedi was the obvious choice for this year’s Esk Community Choir $1000.00 Bursary, presented to her on this day as a stepping stone to further musical opportunities.  Nedi’s O Holy Night solo collaboration with the Choir and her heartfelt rendition of Scorn Not His Simplicity performed with all the sensitivity and pathos Phil Coulter’s words evoke were further evidence of her emerging gifts and an exciting future both creatively and personally as she continues her musical journey.

So spare a thought for The Sweethearts of Song, Kathleen, Susie, Carolyn and Maree who had to follow Nedi on stage! However, with a growing demand for their sublime harmonies of well-loved songs from the decades, the girls again had concert-goers smiling and tapping to the beat of Aretha and ABBA evergreens.  

The Sweethearts of Song

As Christmas Concerts would not be complete without the some of the meaningful sounds of the season, it was again the turn of the talented trumpeter Matthew Lukritz to bring The Little Drummer Boy to life alongside the Choir.  Backed by the Choir, the breathtaking duet The Prayer was so beautifully performed by Kathleen Watts and Eric von Nida. The Esk Ladies Choir then followed with their dynamic rendition of the very challenging but equally beautiful Festival Te Deum by Linda Spevacek.

Kathleen and Eric - The Prayer

While it may not seem synonymous with the season of Christmas, Who Are the Brave was the powerful song performed so beautifully by the Choir Men, a song which speaks a language of love; a love transmitted through ‘those who serve mankind’ …surely the substance of a Christmas story.  
Tenor & Bass Section - Who are the Brave
The artistry of the combined performance by the Esk Community Choir and Strings and Things as they came together to present the finale was a language only of which the songs themselves could convey.  The stirring Sanctus by Gounod and beautiful Christmas Carols in concert with the audience left all in no doubt of the store of wonderful performances yet to come in 2019. 

And as the hall slowly cleared, concert goers all replete from a diet of wonderful music, a delectable afternoon tea, a few with raffle prizes and many with bags of gifts and goodies from the craft and condiments stall, many were singing the praises of this year’s delightful afternoon of entertainment.
By the time concert day comes around, the final product may often appear effortless… but it is not.  It requires the support of many amazing people.  Perhaps ‘support’ may not be the right word…Love, dedication and patience may be more accurate and with that in mind, here is a list of some amazing people who are those creators.

First and foremost, Alexis FitzGerald OAM whose passion is contagious, whose patience should be bottled, whose gifts of music are those that keep on giving; a generous spirit and ‘Angel of Music’ without whom this choir would cease to exist. 

Margaret Philp, accompanist, whose talents and long hours of practice are often overshadowed by the singers for whom she plays but who never fails to open her heart and home to anyone in need and who makes the best slices this side of the Great Divide. 

Then there is the generosity of sponsors who never fail to fill our outstretched hand. To the Editors of The Somerset Newspaper without whose support my stories and articles would still be just Word documents on my computer. There’s  Darryl Green Photography, Toogoolawah’s Boutique Meats, Lowood and Fernvale Bendigo Bank, Esk Lions Club, Toogoolawah IGA, St John Biarra Lodge No. 73, Esk Caravan Park, Grand Hotel, the Esk Fruit Shop, Red Deer CafĂ©  and so many other generous contributors to whom this choir is completely indebted. 

There is an amazing Choir Committee who work tirelessly behind the scenes along with a whole host of choir members who oft times go unrecognized for their volunteering roles which make our events flow so smoothly and finally, it is to all our dedicated fans and followers whose smiling faces are constantly a presence at so many Choir events; who have become so much a part of the 40 year life of the Esk Community Choir and for whom we continue to exist. 

To all, Peace, and Joy this Festive Season
and may 2019 bring many blessings your way.

by Sue Walker 
Nedi Granzien receiving the Bursary from Alexis

Suzanne Clemence  on Flute - Sanctus

Fozzy Bear - AKA Lloyd

Kermit the Frog - AKA Eric

Friday, November 23, 2018


Enthusiasm has been likened to an electric eel in a pool of catfish and based on the recent energising reactions by audiences at ‘Studio 188’ in Ipswich and the Memorial Halls in Forest Hill and Kumbia, the Sweethearts of Song were, in each venue, certainly swimming in that pool!  Fired with expectant fervour, these audiences were lifted both physically and emotionally throughout the dynamic performances by the Sweethearts and by the end, were calling for more.  
It was in recognition of the signing of the Armistice 100 years ago, that the Sweethearts, sparkling in sophisticated black, set the mood with a montage of Andrews Sisters’ upbeat favourites and other reflective songs from the 20s and 30s.  With the ever-reliable Tom Byrne at the audio controls, pushing all the right buttons to allow the show to flow, the girls Boogie Woogied, Chattttanooga’d, and positively absolutely put smiles on faces with their sentimental journey through the war years.

A quick change into more casual accoutrement set the tone for a deflection to some of the well- known and loved songs from the 50s and 60s.  The Pony Tails, Eydie Gorme, Dusty Springfield to name but a few and a tribute to the sorely snubbed girl group, The Mermaids whose name and their sublime harmonies in Popsicles and Icicles will continue to live on through the Sweethearts of Song. However, when it comes to expressing one’s self through song there is no one quite like the late, great Aretha Franklin and through Maree at the microphone and Kathie, Carolyn and Susie lending their harmonies, the ‘Queen of Soul’s’ powerful electric sounds continued to ignite audiences.

What would be the 60s without an appearance by the iconic Sony and Cher whose relationship tended to dominate the era…one way or another; and who better than Kathie and Maree in full ‘boho’ disguise, to pull it off with arguably the couple’s greatest hit, I Got You, Babe?

He was supposed to be the ‘extra’ allowing for audience entertainment during costume changes.  However, the only thing ‘extra’ about Peter Edward aka, ‘Pete the Plummer’ is his extra-ordinary talent.  Beloved by audiences in the Somerset Region and beyond and becoming a bit of a regular at Sweetheart’s performances, Pete again had concert goers swooning with his many voices, the likes of Rod Stewart, Elvis Presley, Engelbert Humperdinck, the sounds of Axiom, and a ‘smokin’’collaboration with the Sweethearts of the ’Chris Norman/Suzi Quatro, Stumblin’ In.

In a timely celebration of the sounds of ABBA, the Sweethearts of Song, for their finale, bounded onto the stage in a vision of blue and white to take the audiences back to that time, fondly remembered, with their visually dazzling, lively performances.  With plenty of crowd participation, the concert concluded with the dance-floor hits, Mumma Mia and Dancing Queen, leaving audiences begging for more and a celebration of song which will long be remembered.

Friday, November 2, 2018


Standing in front of a very astute, highly credentialed Adjudicator in a room full of fellow competitors of the teenage variety, some of us prepared for a Ladies Ensemble, frocked in what might be construed as ‘mutton dressed as lamb’, was in itself a test of courage.   It was on a Friday night in Ipswich when the members of the Esk Community Choir came to sing in four items at the 92nd Silkstone Eisteddfod and boy, did we sing our hearts out, the only things separating us from those little whippersnappers were a few energetic dance steps and fifty something years of maturing!
First on stage was the Ladies Ensemble, small in number but full of flare, who gave it their all with All That Jazz. ‘special commendation for the costume! Such courage and pizzazz!  and ‘…we enjoyed your performance just as much as you did!’ were some of the adjudications by the insightful and instructive Mrs Adele Nisbet though the “Awwww, aren’t they gorgeous!!” coming from some of the talented little pipsqueeks watching on were just as encouraging.
With an Houdini-like costume change, the Jazz Ladies quickly joined with the Esk Mixed Ensemble for We’re Gonna Put on a Show/ Can’t Help Falling in Love.  Coming hot on the heels of the engaging performance by the Ipswich High School Vocals, our ladies and men really did put on ‘a classy act’…a ‘terrific!’ performance.
Then in an inspiring demonstration of diversity, it was a viva l’Italia with a dolce duo of O Pastorelle Adio and Mambo Italiano by the second Ladies Ensemble. What we may have lacked in Italian completo was made up for in fun and commitment… ‘delightful’…’the simple costuming and choreography was the icing on the top!’... from the knowledgeable Mrs Nisbet.
In the Open Choral Section where the whole Esk choir came together for a trio of African/American Spirituals, it was a case of “if youth knew; if age could” when we came up against two polished theatrically produced medleys of songs by the kids from St Bridget’s College, Indooroopilly and a Show Choir from St Mary’s, Ipswich who sang, sparkled and danced their way through a montage  from The Little Mermaid and Sister Act 2.  And so it was with Margaret’s practised accompaniment and Alexis in command, ready to inspire, that the Esk Community Choir did wow the audience and clearly, the adjudicator who awarded us with Gold!!  Well, in truth, we did share first place with the brilliant St Mary’s College Show Choir and though it has been said that the best substitute for experience is being 16, on this occasion it was clear that being part of this amazing 40 year old choir was the only ingredient required for that feeling of triumph.  So triumphant in fact that on this night we came away punching the air having been awarded GOLD for each of the Choir’s performances.

Performing in front of both an audience and judge can be confronting, but strange and wonderful things can happen when courage wins over insecurity. Just ask the handful of Choir Members who throughout the eisteddfod gave inspiring solo, duet and trio performances over many categories of vocal competition amid some of the district’s finest talents.  All dug deep to find the power of “me” and received very encouraging reports, many achieving placings.  However, that sort of courage can never be measured in awards; it’s what one does with it that enriches one’s life.  Though this writer is loathe to single out names, special mention must be made of Di Chaplin and Eric von Nida who each entered six different solo and duet categories, not forgetting Esk’s little rising star Nedi Granzien who was awarded the Girls’ Championship Trophy for 13 yrs and under for her superlative efforts.  

However, please pardon the clichĂ© when I say that we could not have done all this alone because it is true.  Gratitude in spades must go to accompanist, Margaret who is as kind and giving as she is gifted at the piano and to Alexis whose patience and guidance through scheduled as well as numerous unscheduled practices brought all Esk performers to a level beyond expectations; whose encouragement and belief could make flowers bloom on stage; who has covered approximately 800 kilometres over the course of a week to give the gift of her sensitive and meticulous accompaniment and encouragement to each of her performers making our songs leap off the stage into the hearts of the audiences allowing us to believe that nothing is impossible.
By: Sue Walker

Tuesday, October 23, 2018


The Sweethearts of Song with Councillor Sean Choat modelling Bras for auction.

With the ink barely dry on our last blog story, ’BRAS IN BARS’, the fundraising event held at Esk’s Grand Hotel on the afternoon of October 20th is certainly worthy of an honourable mention. 

The ‘Eskapees’, that band of brilliant women who promote breast cancer awareness and keep alive the need for Cancer Support in the Somerset Region, held their major fundraiser for the year, the proceeds of which were to allow the continued services of a Breast Care nurse in the area.  In a cacophony of conversation and laughter akin to the chatter of birds, patrons and supporters who gathered in the Grand Hotel’s delightful garden area were treated to an afternoon of fun, fundraising, including the auctioning of some dazzlingly bedecked brassieres, a delicious afternoon tea and intoxicating musical entertainment by the Esk Community Choir’s own Sweethearts of Song.  

 With the ever reliable Tom at the controls and positioned amongst a montage of raffle prizes, cosmetics by Mary Kay and outfits and accessories from some of Somerset’s and Ipswich’s leading boutiques, the Sweethearts, Kathleen, Maree, Carolyn and Susie had patrons dancing on the inside with their harmonious repertoire of swingin’ songs from the 60s, with a little slice of the Andrews Sisters thrown in and an audience wanting for more.   Catching a wink from the Choir’s Alexis, Margaret, Gail, Ruth S, Jan J, Caitlin and Lloyd from their places at tables somehow made the day seem even more right for the Sweethearts of Song and through their singing, hopefully put a little sunshine in everyone’s day.  It was such a pleasure to have been a small part of this great fundraiser.


For details of upcoming

Sweethearts of Song

performances in November
9th  IPSWICH  & 
and 18th  KUMBIA, 
phone Kathleen on 0407659239 

and don’t miss another fabulous Christmas Concert with the Esk Community Choir on December 2nd at the Somerset Civic Centre, 2.30pm.

By: Sue Walker