Let’s just start with the depressing bit and get it over with. This pandemic has hit the Arts sector hard. Actors, musicians, singers and the people that support them behind the scenes are really doing it tough. They were the first ones to lose their livelihoods and, given how hard they work together preparing for performances, in groups of more than two, they will be one of the slower sectors to pick up and get back to normal. That really sucks.
On a more personal level, I calculated that by the end of April I will have missed performing in 3 concerts, and being one of the adoring audience members in at least 7 performances across multiple genres; orchestral, operatic, musical, theatrical and dance. Most disappointing of all my long awaited trip to France to tour and sing with the Byrd Consort, a project choir, in Pau and Bordeaux has been cancelled, as has my outback road trip from Adelaide to Uluru with the Australian Jewish Choral Festival. Sad times indeed.
While our pandemic imposed hermit lives continue indefinitely, many ensembles I know are preparing for that hopeful time in the future when we may meet together to make music again. I have been involved in a few zoom rehearsals, and virtual choirs which all involve singing by yourself while watching other people’s mouths move out of sync. It’s hard to get used to but it’s the only thing we have so we’re making the most of it. Bel a cappella are currently preparing Joby Talbot’s masterpiece Path of Miracles, which traces the trials and tribulations of pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. It is a work that ends hopefully and in joyous chants as the pilgrims descend into Santiago after a long, hard journey… a tiny bit allegorical of this strange time perhaps? You decide. I know though that my chants will absolutely be as joyful as a happy pilgrim when I can finally descend out of my home into a rehearsal room once again!
Touring with a choir has become something of an annual tradition for me. Since 2010 I have travelled both domestically and overseas each year, and sung in some amazing venues. There are way too many highlights to list but some include an ‘illegal’ flash sing of Bruckner in St Vitas Catherdral, Prague, singing the daily mass in St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, giving a rousing performance of Steven Leek’s Ngana in Santiago de Cuba, and performing Bach in the Thomaskirche, Leipzig.
It feels almost taboo to be writing about travelling and performing now, when we all remain ensconced inside the protection of our own homes. But there is one thing that is sustaining me… in May 2021 (we hope!) my choir, Bel a cappella, has planned a tour to Northern Europe and the Baltic. Sure, it is still a year away, but I and the choir are excited.
- It is their third international tour since 2015 and it will be a highlight of our 2021 calendar, and
- We have recently launched an initiative linked to the tour that promises to showcase new Australian music to the world.
So here is the point of sharing my thoughts…
The Bel a cappella Choral Composition Prize will award 3 Australian composers $1500 each for original a cappella choral works for up to 8 voice parts.
Each of the 3 winning works will have their world premiere in one of the cities in the 2021 tour (to be chosen by the composer), including St Petersburg, Stockholm, Helsinki, Tallin and Riga. Their Australian premiere will be at the next concert Bel performs upon return to Australia. The Prize is open to any individual who is a permanent resident of Australia or Australian citizen and there is no age limit, so if you or someone you know fancies themselves as the next big thing in Australian choral music now is your chance!
The Prize money was raised through the very generous donations of supporters of the choir, via an Australian Cultural Fund, campaign earlier this year. The fund is managed by Creative Partnerships Australia and was established by the Australian Government in 2003 to encourage donations to the arts. Donations over $2 are tax deductible, and supporters get the chance to make a real difference to the work of Australian artists.
Bel a cappella hopes that their Choral Composition Prize will inspire many (and support at least 3) composers over the coming months. $1500 for a composer is nothing to be sneezed at (pun intended). Composers have until June 30 to submit their work so plenty of time to create. The choir will begin rehearsals in late 2020, assuming we have been given the all clear to gather in groups again, and if not we will start our rehearsals in the virtual sphere, something we are already doing for concerts that we hope to perform in November.
Bel a cappella Choral Composition Prize
Click to find out more on Bel a cappella’s website.
PRIZE PERIOD OPENS: April 1, 2020
PRIZE PERIOD CLOSES: June 30, 2020
A panel of jurors including Bel a cappella Music and Artistic Director Anthony Pasquill will review entries and award the 3 Prizes on July 31, 2020