by Kendrea Rhodes
Choir Cecilia (pictured above) is a stunning collection of Hills voices with a diverse repertoire spanning many cultures and centuries. Formed in 1991, they now have 35 strong voices and have gained quite a following over the years. With a talented Musical Director, Peter Webb, and a brilliant accompanist, Sarah Clay, this choir has a powerful synergy, creating an energy that buoys their audience along to the very last note.
For the past thirteen years, Peter Webb has selected their repertoire and arranged a considerable number of the songs they sing from his vast knowledge and experience of music. Peter played as a professional wind instrumentalist on the oboe and cor anglais for the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra for twenty years, and was awarded the Order of Australia Medal in 2007 for services to the Arts. Sarah Clay has been playing piano since the age of seven, and later graduated in Music and Drama, to a life of performing and teaching piano. She now accompanies three other choirs and teaches piano at primary schools throughout the hills. She has accompanied Choir Cecilia for the past eighteen months, and the resulting partnership between voices and instrument is truly something to behold.
The women in the choir make up the sopranos and altos. A few assist the men of the tenor section, whilst the majority of men sing bass. On Sunday the 5th of July, the choir performed at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in Mount Barker. Peter started the concert with a surprising didgeridoo rendition, an instrument he started to learn after being present at a performance by a group from the Ngarrindjeri people of the Coorong. The audience knew at once they were in for a fun time.
The choir opened with “Hey Ungua”, a traditional African welcome. Its rhythmic chant and vocal variations put an unexpected toe-tapping smile on every face. The choir then sang their way through Mozart, Mendelssohn and Schubert, instilling a meditative quality within an appreciative audience. Peter Webb’s sense of humour was evident in his choice of a comic piece in which animal sounds featured, with certain sections of the choir singing “meow”, “bow-wow”, “cuckoo”, and “hoo”.
Their guest artist for the day was twenty-one-year-old Blake Parham, originally from Birdwood. Blake sang a wide variety of theatrical and classical songs, punctuating each with his wit and insight into the storyline. He sang in German, French, Italian and English, and easily carried the audience through the operatic ups and downs. His rendition of “Tit Willow” (from “The Mikado” of Gilbert and Sullivan) was particularly entertaining with humorous retorts in cockney English.
Blake is a lyric baritone and admits that music takes up most of his life. He has attained substantial experience in a very short period of time. He has been a soloist and ensemble member with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, various Elder Conservatorium groups, and a vast array of other ensembles. He has appeared on radio and television, and already has a stage history as long as your arm for performing in such hits as Sweeney Todd, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The King and I and Les Miserables. In 2009, Orpheus in the Underworld saw his debut in directing. Blake has won many prestigious awards and scholarships for his vocal talents, and is currently studying Honours in a Bachelor of Classical Music through the University of Adelaide.
Choir Cecilia is entertainment for the whole family. They are a not-for-profit community organisation, and their love of music is evident in their professional delivery and range. Their next concert is at St. Aloysius Church at Sevenhill on Sunday the 20th of September, and they will be performing again at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in Mount Barker for their Christmas Concert on Sunday 29th of November. If you would like more information about the choir please phone Paula on 8388 4818 or Susanne on 8388 3222. For more information on Blake Parham, please see his website myspace.com/baritoneblakeparham.