06 May 2007

Montsalvat choral festival

Today, we took a long drive out to Eltham to see the Victorian State Singers sing in the Montsalvat Choral Festival. There is something pure and beautiful about young voices singing in harmony. Truly beautiful. I don't say that lightly. Every time I hear them sing, at least one song will have my eyes brimming with tears. (Today it was "Hallelujah" from Shrek -- well, all right, originally sung by Leonard Cohen, but it's the Shrek version most people are familar with.) And Montsalvat is just one of those magical places that everyone should visit at least once.

VSS were the opening act in the barn, and so we hung around and watched them rehearse -- just as well really because they had to cut their program short because of time constraints, so there was one song that they rehearsed but didn't sing. The barn had a grand piano (not a baby grand) and superb acoustics. And Doug Heywood, their conductor, is always fun to watch. You can see his passion for music and see it spilling into the choristers. And their accompanying pianist, Alexandra Cameron, is just divine to listen to.

They are a youth choir, and this was how they were introduced, which led to a moment of hilarity because they sang a few songs a cappella (and that's always a measure of a great group -- that they still sound *really* good without music) with Doug joining in and Alex conducting. So the woman who had introduced the group called them a youth choir, and Doug made a big deal about the group being a youth choir, and the woman (a chorister with another group) said that she meant young "on average". It was quite funny, though perhaps you had to be there. But Doug's like that -- always quick with a joke -- and you can see why his choristers adore him, and adore being there.

After the performance, we wandered around a bit. Had some lunch. Saw another choir. Then we went to see the Gay and Lesbian Chorus (not sure of their official name), and they were great -- having lots of members gives a choir great strength. They had lots of fun songs and were quite animated, especially during one terrific song called "Coffee" that they really acted out. A few choirs were in the audience, including a number of members of VSS.

After that we spent an hour exploring. I love Montsalvat. I feel like I'm in the world of my novel, and could just sit there and let the atmosphere seep through my pores. That's the beauty of writing a novel -- it's always with you. I'm there, enjoying myself, and working at the same time. Taking in details that I might use. Camera in hand, I ran around taking this and that -- one angle and another. Climbed lots of narrow stairs on a rickety ankle. But the views were always worth it.

We finished off the day with another choir and a few last photos. I'll post some online -- if I ever find that missing camera cord. Better hurry, because with the rate I was taking photos today, the memory card will be full in no time.

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