Classic Melbourne, Music news & views

The following article has been published by Classic Melbourne on 27 June 2014 and can be viewed in its original context here

Melbourne will soon welcome the visiting King’s Singers again but our colleges too have their own rich source of choral talent, writes Tim Matthews Staindl. A new choir, Polyphonic Voices, has already had a successful debut and has plans for some enticing concerts in the future.

King’s Singers, Tallis Scholars, The Sixteen, the list goes on – groups that feed from the abundant pool of talent that is the collective college choirs of the UK. We marvel at these professional ensembles for their precision and consistency, but even more for the adoration of music they demonstrate in every performance. At the heart of this is a love of the choral sound and repertoire that their singers have nurtured for almost their whole lives.

The journey often starts at a children’s choir and there is no lack of these in Melbourne – think The Australian Boys/Girls/Childrens Choirs, Gondwana Voices, and so on. There are primary school choirs, high school choirs and finally, college choirs whose singers often have 15 or more years of choral singing under their belt. Many are established musicians with fine voices and a desire to further pursue their passion at the highest level.

It is at this point, however, that Australia’s choral landscape has been so lacking. Choirs outside of college have often felt like a step down for singers in terms of quality and commitment, despite the college choir’s overall function as a training regime for young adult singers.

This is where Polyphonic Voices steps in. It is doing for Melbourne what the above groups do for the UK – providing a pathway for the best choral singers to work with each other and produce the finest of musical results.
For its inaugural concert in May this year, Polyphonic Voices overwhelmed a full house at Trinity College Chapel – not only a stunning venue but the training ground for so many of its members. The theme of Songs of Farewell, invoking the ANZAC Centenary, was approached with astonishing musicality and emotional appreciation.

Not every member of Polyphonic Voices has sung within the college choir system, but all have sung with various choirs and ensembles both within and outside of Melbourne. In fact, the group’s members have collectively sung with over 60 different groups in four continents.

Michael Fulcher is the Artistic Director of Polyphonic Voices. An esteemed conductor, organist and vocal coach Michael has previously held positions as Organist & Director of Music at Wellington Cathedral, St George’s Paris, and as Repetiteur for English National Opera. Michael is the current Director of Music at Christchurch, South Yarra.

The May audience was treated to a divine organ interlude, performed by Michael, which served as the perfect bridge between sections of the program and allowed the audience time to reflect on what they’d heard.
This time for thought is reflected in importance the choir has placed on text. Not only was every word of the inaugural concert printed in the program notes, but it was obvious that serious thought and hard work had been put into delivering that text in the most meaningful manner. It is true that in choral singing this critical element of the music is sometimes lost, as knowledge of the texts is assumed or dealt with only in the notes. Polyphonic Voices demonstrated the textual precision that one associates with the best groups of the day.

An exciting year’s program has been outlined for this group of young professionals. The spectacular Chapter House will host Polyphonic Voices for A Midwinter Christmas on Friday 8 August. Later in the year, Polyphonic Voices teams up with Voices New Zealand, who are touring Australia, in a performance of J.S. Bach’s Magnificat, amongst other works. The concert takes place at St Paul’s Cathedral Melbourne on Saturday 15 November.
Judging from the standard presented in May, both these upcoming concerts are events not to be missed. Melbourne should be proud to host a group that is very quickly establishing itself as the new benchmark of choral excellence.

Tickets for A Midwinter Christmas are available from
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Writer Tim Matthews Staindl completed his Bachelor of Music (Voice) at University of Melbourne Conservatorium in 2013. He is particularly passionate about choral music and sings regularly with a variety of choirs and ensembles throughout Melbourne – Polyphonic Voices, St James’ Old Cathedral, Consort of Melbourne, and others. In 2014 Tim began studying the Juris Doctor (Law) at University of Melbourne.