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 twenty 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 Aleksandar Vujic, she has now released her sixth published textbook for Senior Music students, 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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PIANO ACCOMPANIST, Illawarra Choral Society

Brenda gained her AMusA at the age of sixteen and was well-known as a classical pianist. She remembers with particular delight playing in concertos written for three or four harpsichords or pianos. For thirteen years she and Eric Bryce directed David Jones’ Christmas choir, arranging carols to suit them.

Brenda returned to Wollongong Conservatorium at the age of 35 and gained her LMusA. She recalls fitting in frantic practice sessions while her daughter was at pre-school – the alternative being the three-year-old’s floor-thumping accompaniment under the grand piano.

Pushed by Jim Powell to take the music teachers’ course, Brenda soon became hooked on teaching and has remained so, always having a busy studio at home and for many years holding concurrent teaching positions at the Conservatorium and the Illawarra Grammar School. During her studies, analysing the works of JS Bach aroused her interest in his influence on jazz. She believes her students’ minds should be opened to more than one kind of music, and always includes jazz in their education.

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Heather studied at Sydney Conservatorium where she gained a Bachelor of Music, and also holds the AMusA, and Licentiate and Fellowship of Trinity College London diplomas. She is an experienced recitalist and accompanist, and organist of Scots Kirk Presbyterian Church, Mosman. In October the gave a recital on the 90-year-old organ at St Paul’s Armidale, to mark its restoration.

She is pleased to be working with Illawarra Choral Society in performing Messiah once again, and will also be accompanying it this month with the Hastings Choristers and the Hornsby-Kuringai Ecumenical Choir.

As a member of the state branch committee of the Royal School of Church Music, she helped organise a major church music festival, SydneyinSpires, held last July.

Heather plays piano for the Mirrabooka Singers, who entertain at aged care facilities. As well as a busy private teaching studio, Heather teaches piano at Georges River Grammar School and is an examiner with the Australian and New Zealand Cultural Arts. She enjoys choral singing and is an alto with the Mater Chorale, who undertook a UK tour in August.

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Soprano soloist

Soprano, Danielle Durland holds degrees in Music Performance and Science from the University of Wollongong (2006) and has performed as a soloist with regional choirs and orchestras, including the Wollongong Symphony Orchestra, Illawarra Choral Society, Manly Warringah Choir, Gosford Philharmonia and Con Voci. Her repertoire includes Handel’s Messiah, Brahms’ Requiem, Vivaldi’s Gloria, Mozart’s Requiem and C minor Mass and Saint Saens’ Christmas Oratorio. Danielle’s operatic roles include Annio in Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito and Belinda in Purcell’s Dido and Aneas. She was a finalist in the 2MBS Young Performer’s Award in 2001. With qualifications in Biology and International Development, Danielle has worked in medical research, community development and Jungian psychology.

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Alto soloist

Rebecca Hart is a young French/Australian mezzo-soprano. This year, she was a finalist in the IFAC Handa Australian Singing Competition and was the recipient of the Guildhall School of Mu-sic and Drama Award, Pasqualina Lipari Prize, Nelly Apt Scholarship, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs Prize and Audience Prize.

She completed a Graduate Diploma in Music (Opera Performance) in 2017 at the Sydney Con-servatorium of Music; where she received the Dr. Harris Philip Greenberg and Olav Gurney-Jensen Scholarship, and the Patricia Lucas Music Achievement Scholarship. She is now 2019 Young Artist with Pacific Opera.

Roles include Hansel in Humperdinck’s Hansel und Gretel, Radamisto in Handel’s Radamisto, Prince Orlofsky in Strauss’ Die Fledermaus, La Voix in Offenbach’s Les Contes D’Hoffman, Ramiro in Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera, Apollo in Mozart’s Apollo and Hyacinthus, Third Spirit in Mozart’s Die Zauberflote, The Sorceress in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, Endimione in Cavalli’s La Calisto and Lady Jane in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience.

Concert repertoire includes works such as Bach’s St Matthew Passion, Bach’s Missa Brevis in A Major, Handel’s Messiah, Jenkins’ The Armed Man, Mozart’s Requiem, Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle, Saint-Saens’ Christmas Oratorio and Vivaldi’s Gloria.

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Tenor soloist

After studying at the Tasmanian Conservatorium, tenor Benjamin Oxley joined Opera Queensland, and subsequently Opera Australia, performing some 210 performances in his first season. His further vocal study took him to England, initially on contract with English National Opera (ENO), with whom he toured Russia.

Since leaving the ENO, Benjamin has pursued operatic and concert work and has appeared with Netherlands Opera in Lohengrin, Opera de Vlaamse in Billy Budd, and with Nationale Reisopera in Der fliegende Holländer, Parsifal, Manon Lescaut, Fidelio and Le Grande Macabre, the latter in the presence of the composer György Ligeti.

Benjamin has worked with many leading conductors, including Harry Bicket, Richard Bonynge, Stuart Challender, Paul Daniel, Sir Mark Elder, Valery Gergiev, Elgar Howarth, Sir Charles Mackerras, Edo de Waart and Jaap van Zweden.

Most notably, he was invited to appear in Simon Boccanegra and Tristan und Isolde with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado in Berlin, and toured with the orchestra to the Salzburg Easter Festival, as well as to Tokyo, Japan.

Operatic roles include: the title role in The Tales of Hoffmann, Rockdale Opera Company, RICCARDO (A Masked Ball) for Northern Opera, Newcastle-upon Tyne, ALFREDO (La Traviata) and LINDORO (The Italian Girl in Algiers) for St. Alban's Chamber Opera, IL DUCA (Rigoletto) for Activopera, NADIR (The Pearl Fishers) for Belcanto Opera and GUSTAVUS (A Masked Ball) and DON JOSE (Carmen) for Riverside Opera, London.

Benjamin’s oratorio repertoire is wide-ranging, and appearances include: Messiah; Requiem (Mozart) with English Arts Chorale and the West Barnes Singers; St John’s Passion (Bach) with John Ruskin Singers; St Matthew's Passion (Bach) with Crouch End Festival Chorus; St Nicolas (Britten) and Magnificat (Hovhaness) with Melbourne University Choral Society; Alexander’s Feast (Handel) for Tasmanian University Musical Society; Creation (Haydn) for Launceston Philharmonic Choir; Elijah (Mendelssohn) for the Tasmanian Conservatorium Chorale; Messa di Gloria (Puccini) and the Dvorak Mass in D with East Grinstead Choral Society; Petite Messe Solennelle (Rossini) with the West Barnes Singers; and the Missa Luba (Haazen) with the Basildon Choral Society.

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Bass soloist

Daniel completed the Advanced Opera Diploma at the Sydney Conservatorium in 2013. In Australia, he has performed as Sandy in Peter Maxwell Davies’ The Lighthouse, Conte and Figaro in Le Nozze di Figaro, Marcello in La Boheme, Belcore in L’elisir d’amore, Re di Scozia in Ariodante, and Michele in Il Tabarro, and most recently, Harlekin/Wigmaker in Ariadne auf Naxos, conducted by Simone Young. He has also been working with Opera Australia in their chorus and School's Touring Company since 2014. In 2016, Daniel started performing internationally as Conte in Le Nozze di Figaro (Hawaii Performing Arts Festival), Guglielmo and Sagrestano in Cosi fan Tutte and Tosca (Greve Opera Academy, Italy), and Papageno in The Magic Flute (Connecticut Lyric Opera).

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Violinist - Leader

Born in Wollongong, Matthew Tsalidis commenced learning violin at the Wollongong Conservatorium of Music, where he held the Bessie Foskett Memorial Scholarship, studying with Scott Taggart. He won the 2012 Concerto Competition, was principal second violin of Bluescope Steel Youth Orchestra, and has appeared as a soloist with the South Coast Symphony Orchestra.

Pursuing his violin studies further, Matthew completed a Bachelor of Music (Performance) at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music (University of Sydney), studying with Dr. Evgeny Sorkin. He performed regularly as a member of the Conservatorium's symphony orchestra - a performance highlight being of Leonard Bernstein's Mass in the concert hall of the Sydney Opera House, in celebration of the Conservatorium's centenary. A further performance highlight was his engagement with the Beecroft Symphony Orchestra, where he was a guest soloist in their 2015 season


Across his tertiary studies at Sydney Conservatorium, Matthew was violinist in the Arta Trio, and was mentored by Alice Waten, Julian Smiles, and Kathryn Selby. The trio performed at many special events and showcases, and by invitation of the Conservatorium's Dean (Anna Reid), opened the 2017 faculty welcome.

Since graduating, Matthew has played with Steel City Strings, and performs regularly with the St George Chamber Orchestra. In addition, he has also played with the Sutherland Shire Symphony Orchestra. His recital engagements with pianist Emelia Noack-Wilkinson have been very well received, having led to their invitation to perform as a part of Macarthur Music Society's 2019 concert series earlier this year.

Prior to his tertiary music studies in Sydney, he completed a Bachelor of Journalism at the University of Wollongong, and has been an editorial intern with LIMELIGHT (Australia's classical music and arts magazine).

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© Dorothy Ebblewhite July 26 2012