MUSICAL DIRECTOR, Illawarra Choral Society

Meryl is a professional music educator, conductor of choirs and orchestras and music examiner. She has a BMus BEd from UNSW, and AMusA and ATCL in both singing and piano. Just to keep her out of mischief, Meryl also holds Certificate III in Media and Live Entertainment and Cert IV in Training and Assessment.

Meryl has been associated with the Illawarra Choral Society since she was a toddler listening to her dad, Roy Jackson, perform. She was a member of the society under the baton of Harold Brissenden, leaving only when further studies and travel in Europe beckoned. These studies included orchestral and choral conducting training at Holy Names College in Oakland CA and intensive choral conducting at the Ferenc Lizst Academy in Budapest.

Meryl has been Musical Director of the Illawarra Choral Society since 2008, conducting eighteen concerts ranging from Bach to Bernstein and beyond. She strongly believes in providing opportunities for developing musicians to perform with the Choral Society. Young instrumentalists are invited to join professional orchestral players for great choral works. Opportunities are also provided for young singers from primary and secondary schools to take part in suitable works or to perform as a group. Voice students in the final year of advanced opera courses at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music – and prize-winners in national operatic awards – are also given opportunities to sing with a large, established choir and to enlarge their repertoire.

From her many years in Senior Music education, Meryl noticed a lack of Resource material based on Topics for senior music students, Hence, as a co-author with Alekzandar Vujic, she has recently released her first published book, Film Music, through Wirripang Publications.

Recognition of Meryl’s outstanding work in Music Education has led to her receiving two awards for Excellence in Teaching and the Order of Australia Medal in the 2016 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

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A graduate of Sydney Conservatorium, Heather has given many solo organ recitals and is an experienced accompanist. She is currently the organist of Scots Kirk Presbyterian Church, Mosman, where she is actively trying to encourage younger people to take up the instrument through the Church's scholarship program.

Performances in 2016 included a recital at St Andrew's Cathedral on Maundy Thursday, and Handel's Messiah at Epping Baptist Church on Good Friday. Heather has accompanied the Illawarra Choral Society on several occasions, including in 2007 and 2016 for Dvorak's Stabat Mater.

In addition to a private teaching studio in Sydney’s Hills district, Heather teaches piano at Georges River Grammar School and is an examiner with the Australian and New Zealand Cultural Arts. She is also a member of the Sunday Evensong choir of Christ Church St Laurence, Sydney.

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Soprano soloist

Jessica Harper graduated with First Class Honours in Classical Singing from the ANU School of music. She has been broadcast as a concert soloist and recitalist on both ABC Classic FM and 2MBS Fine Music FM, and has toured NSW, the ACT and SA as a recital performer. Jess completed her second year as a Young Artist with Pacific Opera in 2015.

Recent operatic roles include Donna Anna (Don Giovanni), Rosalinde (Die Fledermaus), Casilda (The Gondoliers), Lisa (La Sonnambula) and Pamina (Die Zauberflöte), Mrs Norris (Mansfield Park – Australian premiere), La Zelatrice and Prima Sorella Cercatrice (Suor Angelica), Frantik, Chocholka and the Inkeeper’s Wife (The Cunning Little Vixen), Mrs Gobineau (The Medium), The Ice-cream Maker (Brundibar), Denise (Love by Lanternlight), Emmie (Albert Herring) and Second Witch (Dido and Aeneas). Jess was also the standby soprano for Emma Matthews in the new musical Melba this year.

Concert engagements have included singing as the soprano soloist for Handel’s Messiah, and Eternal Source of Light Divine, Vivaldi’s Gloria and for Bach’s St John Passion.

Recent successes in the Australian competition circuit include Jess named Runner-up and winner of the Audience Choice Award for the Sydney Eisteddfod Opera Scholarship (2017), Runner-up for the Herald Sun Aria (2016), and winner of the Sydney Eisteddfod Opera and Arts Support Group Scholarship (2017). She has also won the Wollongong (2017), Cowra (2015) and Shoalhaven (2017) Eisteddfodau Operatic Aria Championships. Jess was awarded the Runner-up Prize in the Fine Music FM Young Virtuosi Award State Final (2017) and the inaugural Sydney Song Prize Competition (2017). She was the Reserve Finalist for the Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge Foundation Bel Canto Award (2017).

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Mezzo-soprano soloist

Australian mezzo-soprano Angela Hogan completed a Bachelor in Music Performance at The Victorian College of the Arts in 2007, and has since been captivating audiences in Australia and abroad in many and varying roles.

A professional and versatile performer, Angela is currently a full-time chorister with Opera Australia and is understudying the role of Mercedes in their upcoming production of Carmen. Angela was a finalist in the 2016 Sydney Eisteddfod and has performed for Opera Australia’s Touring Outreach program in 2014, 2015 and 2016 in their productions of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel and Rossini’s La Cenerentola through-out Victoria and New South Wales.

In addition to the above, Angela’s stage experience includes two national tours of China in the title role of Carmen in Bizet’s Carmen with the Australian International Opera Company. Each tour lasted approximately 6 weeks and included upward of 20 performances in 20 different cities.

Angela has also performed a number of operatic roles in full staged operas in Melbourne. These include Flora in Verdi’s La Traviata (Melbourne Opera), Suzuki in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly (Melbourne Opera), Dorabella in Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte (Melbourne Opera), Iphigenie in Gluck’s Iphigenie en Tauride (Melbourne Lyric Opera), Carmen and Frasquita in Bizet’s Carmen (Melbourne Opera), Musetta in Puccini’s La Bohème (Melbourne Opera), Valencienne in Léhar’s The Merry Widow (Melbourne Opera), Dido in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (Melbourne Lyric Opera), Elisa in Mozart’s Il Re Pastore (Melbourne Lyric Opera), Farnace in Mozart’s Mitridate (Independent Opera Company), Hermia in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Excerpts with Maestro Stephen Mould), Suor Genovieffa in Puccini’s Suor Angelica (Excerpts with Maestro Stephen Mould) and Fenena in Verdi’s Nabucco (Heidelberg Choral Society).

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Tenor soloist

Blake has performed and studied in Germany, Poland, Great Britain and Australia. He holds a Masters degree in music from the Elder Con-servatorium and is currently a music lecturer at the Avondale Conservatorium and a PhD candidate at the Sydney Conservatorium.

He has appeared on stage as Remendado in Carmen (Queensland Symphony Orchestra), Toby in George Palmer's Cloudstreet (State Opera SA - Workshop), Pedrillo in Die Entführung aus dem Serail (Opera Bites), Basilio in Le Nozze di Figaro, Vasek in The Bartered Bride, and Pluto in Orpheus in the Underworld (Rockdale Opera), Goro in Madama Butterfly (Opera Projects, Sydney), Monostatos in Die Zauberflöte (Opera Laboratory), Tinca and The Song Seller in Il Tabarro (Beaches Productions), and in the chorus of Moby Dick (State Opera SA). In addition, he was a young artist with Pacific Opera from 2014-15 and the Lisa Gasteen National Opera School in 2017.

Blake’s concert repertoire includes Handel’s Messiah (Avondale Conservatorium), Dvorak's Stabat Mater (Illawarra Choral Society), Bach’s Cantata BWV182 and Schubert’s Mass in G (Sydney Conservatorium), Walton’s Façade (Vacation Chamber Orchestra – England), Jenkins’ The Armed Man and Gounod’s St Cecilia Mass (Adelaide Philharmonia), and Mozart’s Requiem (Central Coast Philharmonia).

Additionally, Blake has appeared in concerts with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, the University of St Andrews, the Dundee Cathedral, the Polish Musicians Association (Warsaw), the Barossa Vintage Festival, the Macquarie University Orchestra, the Beecroft Orchestra, and at the Sydney Opera House. Awards include the George Boland Scholarship, the 5MBS Young Virtuosi Award, runner-up in the Australian Vocal and Concerto Competition, and an Arts SA Grant to study with Peter Coleman-Wright.

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Baritone soloist

Born in Port Macquarie and now residing in Sydney, Joshua holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Newcastle, majoring in voice.

He has performed with Co-Opera (Adelaide), Sydney Independent Opera, Pacific Opera, Newcastle Festival Opera, Opera Hunter, and Cantillation.

He has performed the roles of Guglielmo in Così Fan Tutte in Adelaide and Melbourne (Co-Opera), Papageno in The Magic Flute (Bare Bones Opera, Sydney) and Schaunard in La Bohème for Opera Projects. Joshua also played Masetto in Don Giovanni (Sydney Independent Opera) and Giuseppe in The Gondoliers (Newcastle Festival Opera). His other principal roles include Escamillo in Carmen, Sprecher in The Magic Flute and Readymoney Matt in The Threepenny Opera.

Joshua also attended the Lisa Gasteen National Opera School on scholarship in 2016, performing the roles of Orfeo in Gluck's Orfeo ed Eurydice, Jupiter in Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld and Dr Cajus in Nicolai's Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor. He was also a Young Artist with Pacific Opera based in Sydney.

Joshua has also excelled in competitions and was delighted to be named as a finalist in the German-Australian Opera Grant Wiesbaden (Encouragement Grant), and was also a finalist in the Sydney Eisteddfod Opera Awards.

Recent performance highlights include the Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge Foundation Rossini Gala, Music at Manly's Concert Season, and An Evening of Gilbert and Sullivan with Stuart Maunder and the Opera and Arts Support Group.

He has performed as baritone soloist in many concerts, including Messiah for the National Trust in Sydney and Mozart's Requiem K.626 with the Newcastle University Choir. Last year he also sang Handel's Messiah at Christ Church Cathedral, Newcastle, and Mozart's Vesperae solennes de confessore with The Hastings Choristers.

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Shaun J. Warden grew up in Kiama, on the mid south coast of New South Wales, and began learning the violin at school under the guidance of Graham Deans. Having studied on both period instruments and modern instruments at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and the Australian Institute of Music, in Cologne at the Kölner Hochschule für Musik und Tanz and in Verona at the Conservatorio di Verona, Shaun has studied with some of the finest educators of the modern age.

Since moving to Sydney in 2010, Shaun has professionally recorded and performed with many ensembles in Sydney and throughout Australia, including the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, Orchestra of the Antipodes, Ironwood chamber ensemble and Sinfonia Australis. For modern performances his instrument of choice is a beautiful Tyrolean violin from 1790.

Shaun enjoys teaching the art of violin and viola and has taught at the Australian Institute of Music, Sydney International Grammar School, Fort Street High School and Greenwich Public School. He was the founding director of the Kiama Young Musicians Ensemble from 2011 until 2015.

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© Dorothy Ebblewhite July 26 2012