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 cliché 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

Friday, October 19, 2018


Esk Community Choir with Matthew Lukritz

There is something about music, about singing, about being part of a choir that to each person will at times be challenging, is constantly consoling, entertaining, transportive and above all, will make life so much more meaningful.  On a Sunday afternoon in October, around 145 of these obsessed human beings with that shared love of music, ‘knocked the socks’ off a capacity audience at the Somerset Civic Centre, Esk with a smorgasbord of sublime choral singing served up with a powerful cocktail of orchestral sounds by the Davonski Concert Orchestra, all of which did indeed transport  people to that place of joy.  This Gala Choral Concert hosted by Alexis FitzGerald OAM and the Esk Community Choir, was the culmination of months of planning, practice and a pinnacle in the achievements of what has been a stellar year of celebratory events for the Esk Choir’s 40th birthday.

At the end of a week when it seemed like Mother Nature had upended the Brisbane River over the land, she turned up this day with a touch of sunshine to welcome the concert-goers who filled the Civic Centre auditorium to capacity, supplemented by choristers and musicians all of whom had travelled by cars and buses from places as far away as Toowoomba, Sunshine Coast, Bribie Island, Brisbane, Blackbutt and Buderim.   

Councillor Sean Choat
Fortified by a delicious lunch and with Choir warm-ups and warm welcomes completed, the visitors found their places in the hall.  With his usual eloquence, emcee de jour, Councillor Sean Choat then introduced the Esk Community Choir who, accompanied by the talented Matthew Lukritz on trumpet, led the singing of the Australian National Anthem.  It was then from the Esk Choir’s powerful performance of Linda Spevacek’s Danza!  followed by the crescendo of emotions The Awakening evokes that the audience found themselves in the grip of something quite musically magical; a prelude to a plethora of illuminating performances.

Instruction manuals for living a life were Sunshine Coast’s Treble Clefs under the committed direction of musical mentor, Beverly Biggs.  Barely two years old…these ‘Over 50s’ Treble Clefs soft-shoe-shuffled their way through a trio of gorgeous Gershwin and Warren evergreens, each segueing beautifully into the next.

'Treble Clefs' Choir from the Sunshine Coast

Under the direction of Astrid Jorgensen, singer, songwriter, composer and teacher with monumental energy and a unique musical ability well beyond her years, Toowoomba’s Choirbolical, colourful on so many levels, had concert goers completely enthralled with their empowering harmonies and rhythms.

Toowoomba's 'Choirbolical'

Collaborations with the Esk Community Choir have been aplenty and mutually enjoyable over the 27year life of The Blackbutt Singers who, since 2013, have performed under the Musical and Artistic Direction of the dynamic Judy Lawrence. However, age did not appear to have wearied them as on this day they embraced with gusto the Mark Hayes arrangement of What a Wonderful World followed by dynamic contrasts in their rendition of the Rollo Dilworth gospel song, One Mile.

Blackbutt Singers
If the wealth of high emotion felt during past collaborations in Esk with the Davonski Concert Orchestra were an indication, concert-goers with a penchant for perfection were not disappointed when this 20  member Orchestra from the Sunshine Coast returned to the Somerset Civic Centre and began to play.  Under the baton of guest conductor, Sharelle Guest, they swayed and swooned the audience through a potpourri of music from ageless classics by Mozart and Verdi to the profoundly moving medley from Fiddler on the Roof.  As recent advocates of the joys of Gilbert and Sullivan, it was only polite restraint which prevented Esk Choir men from joining in song the Overture from Pirates of Penzance and only time restrictions which thwarted responses from the Orchestra to the cries of “ENCORE!”.

Davonski Orchestra

Tucked away amongst the audience, the presence of Mr Ross Jelf, an inspiring past conductor of the Buderim Male Choir, would surely have been impetus for the mellifluous singing by this choir. At 44, the Buderim Male Choir is the longest continually serving community choir and the only choir on the Sunshine Coast which sings in the tradition of the classic Welsh male voice choirs.  Now under the musical direction of the highly credentialed and charismatic Mitchell Meyer, the Buderim Men were captivating with a trio of beautiful songs echoing both the sensitivity and stirring sounds of an all-male four-part choir. 

The Buderim Male Choir

With interval over and raffles drawn, the moment came for choirs and orchestra, all having been a part of the Esk Community Choir’s 40year journey, to merge as one for the finale of massed choral singing.  It began with John Rutter’s poetic Believe in Life, a celebration of the living earth, creation, and of life itself followed by Greg Gilpin’s Why We Sing, a moving testament to a reason for being. By this time, the audience, not wanting to break the spell, would surely have been wishing to back pedal knowing the concert was nearing its end.  And so with Alexis poised at the conductor’s podium, the combined choral voices together with the strains of the orchestra and Margaret Philp’s faultless piano accompaniment brought to life the magnificence of Giuseppe Verdi’s Chorus of Jewish Slaves creating one more of life’s memorable moments.  

Massed Choirs and Orchestra

Photo by Don Hunstein, 1961; Courtesy of Sony Music
Unplanned but no less special was the tribute to the late great Leonard Bernstein, a titan in an age of musical giants who passed away in 1990
on this very day, 14th October.  Composer of one of the greatest of all musicals, West Side Story, the auditorium swelled to the sounds of its iconic love song, Tonight.

Just as they say ‘it takes a village to rear a child’ so it is that events such as these do not happen without the support of many and it is to these that the Esk Community Choir wishes to extend their sincere gratitude.  It was a privilege to have welcomed many VIP guests including representatives of our major sponsor, Bendigo Bank whose generosity continues to extend across an entire community, Mayor Graeme and Judy Lehmann, Mr and Mrs Tim Fairfax, philanthropic supporter of the Arts and director of the Foundation of Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR) which earlier in the year, enabled the choir’s advanced audio equipment.  We are indebted to an extremely committed choir committee and the choir volunteers who never fail to put up their hands to sell tickets and alcohol, print programmes,  construct and deconstruct staging, hall seating, co-ordinate catering and any number of other necessary tasks; to Greg Skippen our sensational sound man, Daryl Green for his unparalleled skill behind a camera, to the editors of The Somerset Newspaper for their unquestioned support of all things “choir” and not least, to all our fans and followers for whom this Choir continues to exist.  

However, greater love hath no man…nor woman…than that which Alexis FitzGerald has for her choir that she has given 40 years of her life to the sharing of her gifts of music locally, nationally and internationally and in doing so, has changed for the better the lives of so many. Without her vision, her example and dedication this event would not have been possible.

By: Sue Walker