Following a passion for music beyond high school

“When I was in high school, I loved music. I loved it so much I was in seven ensembles, and not just because I wanted a valid excuse to get out of doing sport. Three of those ensembles were choirs. After I finished high school, I figured my musical life was over. I didn’t really take it seriously enough to pursue it professionally (since professionals have to actually practice), so I resigned myself to singing in the shower, and only the shower.” Simone shares her story of following her passion of music all the way to the University of Adelaide Choir.

When I got to university, I found out about this weird concept known as a University Choir. And while I was intrigued, I was too afraid to join without knowing anyone, plus the later years of my degree would take me to a different campus that didn’t have such luxuries, so it seemed pointless. Three years later, back from my degree’s stint the country, a friend of mine had joined in my absence and was raving at how much fun she was having. That was all the ‘in’ I needed, so I joined.

At the first rehearsal, they had set up an introductory BBQ. One of the first things I noticed was the diversity of the people there. There were uni students my age, as well as adults, most of whom weren’t students, but were looking for a co-curricular activity to do after work. And everyone seemed to talk to everyone without discrimination. Since then, I have learned that not only are choir people some of the craziest people you’ll ever meet, some of the nicest and most fun. For every concert filled with Handel and Mozart, there’s a rockin’ Post-Concert-Party (or PCP) afterwards.

On that first fateful rehearsal, picking up the complicated music score for the first time was intimidating. Not only was I out of practice in reading music, but the pieces we were given were from Handel’s Coronation Mass. As a soprano, that meant a lot of high notes above the stave that I haven’t dreamed of reaching in three years. Amazingly enough, while that first rehearsal sounded terrible and like we’d never get anywhere, by the time the concert rolled around, we sounded as good as any professional choir you might find singing back up for Elton John or Andre Rieu. We were that good.

One of the important factors in this journey was the camp. Music Camp had been one of my favourite things in school, especially in the later years when we no longer went on year level camps because of the risk of fraternisation or whatever. I remember it being a magical time where people of all ages mingled and sung and just rejoiced in their shared love of music. Uni music camp was pretty much that…but with alcohol. During the daylight hours, we spent our time in long rehearsals; practicing and polishing all the pieces until we got sick of the words ‘Gloria’ and ‘Halleluiah’. Night times were however filled with partying, which mostly consisted of board games, responsible drinking, and loud conversations over the “professional” recordings of our set pieces. One of our members, skilled in fire twirling, happily gave us a demonstration.

The second night of camp contained a long-standing tradition of a talent show. Groups had practiced and planned their acts in most of their breaks on camp, and on the night, a judging panel chosen from the Freshers (otherwise known as newbies) sat over the proceedings and were decide which act was best. The decision, of course, was made 50:50 based on the act and the various bribes received, in the form of chocolate and/or back rubs. By the end of the weekend, we had bonded closer as a group and progressed leaps and bounds towards sounding like a real choir.

But being in a choir isn’t just about singing. One of the main aspects of being in a choir is socialising. After each rehearsal, someone on the social committee organises either after-rehearsal drinks at a nearby pub or coffee at someone’s kindly donated house. These events are a fun way to get to know your fellow choristers and a great introduction to learn the mysterious world of adult parties, which definitely do not involve swinging, but rather an evening where everyone brings a plate of food and/or fancy wine (crazy, right?). Never missing an opportunity to party, concerts are followed consistently with a PCP (Post-Concert Party). Yet another BYO event, PCPs in the past have also featured free pizza and plentiful discussions on the various mishaps of our performance.

The concerts themselves are unique in that we frequently collaborate with a range of different bands and choirs. But the king of all concert collaborations is known as IV (Intervarsity). IVs are interstate events where a representative choir from (states) all take turns in occupying a nominated city for 2 weeks every year in one big amazing muso extravaganza. Two big concerts are performed, giving choristers the option of staying only for the first week or the full two weeks. Prices are amazingly reasonable, with the first week costing $400 for an all-expenses paid (other than travel costs) accommodation, and the second week spent in the warm hospitality of a billet.

But it’s not just choirs that collaborate in this event. In the past, a variety of bands have been involved. This year, four big brass bands, including sixteen sets of timpani, accompanied a choir of about 200 members. It can be a gruelling two weeks filled with almost non-stop rehearsals, but the end results speak for themselves and it’s a truly unique experience where you can meet and befriend fellow choristers from all over the country.

Overall, I can happily say that being involved in the university choir has enriched my life, brought me new friends, and enabled me an outlet for one of my favourite hobbies. I only wished I’d pursued my interest sooner in my university career!