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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A graduate of Sydney Conservatorium where she studied organ with Norman Johnston, Heather has been organist and director of music at Scots Kirk Presbyterian in Mosman for the past twelve years. She is also pianist with the Mirrabooka Singers, giving concerts in retirement villages and nursing homes.

Every Christmas and Easter she is busy playing for several performances of Handel’s Messiah, both in Sydney and beyond - including last December with Illawarra Choral Society.  During the past year she has given solo recitals at St Stephen's Macquarie Street, St Andrew's and St Mary's cathedrals, and recently at Hornsby Uniting Church. On Palm Sunday in Goulburn she was organist in a performance of music from Bach's St Matthew Passion.

Last August she accompanied an English choir, the Cranmer Company of Singers, when they performed in Finland.

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.

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Soprano Soloist

Sydney-based soprano Sarah Ampil holds a Bachelor of Music from The University of New South Wales, and a Master of Music Studies (Performance) and Graduate Diploma in Music (Opera Performance) from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. She is an alumna of the Pacific Opera Young Artists Program, and was the winner of the 2016 Sydney Eisteddfod Joan Sutherland Memorial Award. She has also previously won the Sydney Eisteddfod Operatic Aria (21-25 years) and the Penrith City Aria. Most recently, Sarah performed as a finalist in the inaugural Limestone Coast Opera Aria Awards in Mount Gambier, South Australia, in conjunction with the Opera Festival in Lucca, Italy.

In 2018, Sarah has performed the roles of Wife, Young Woman and Old Woman in the Australian Premiere of Ben Hoadley’s Miss Brill for the Omega Ensemble, and Ginevra in Handel’s Ariodante for The Apollo Opera Collective in conjunction with the Sydney Baroque Music Festival. Other stage credits include Micaëla (Carmen, Central Coast Opera), and Sandrina (La Finta Giardiniera, Operantics). She has been engaged as a soloist with several ensembles; highlights include Haydn’s Creation with Box Hill Chorale, Vivaldi’s Dixit Dominus and Beatus Vir with the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic, Last Night of the Proms with Willoughby Symphony Orchestra, Mozart’s Requiem for Central Coast Philharmonia, and opera scenes with Queensland Symphony Orchestra for the Lisa Gasteen National Opera School.

Sarah has been very fortunate to work with several accomplished conductors, mentors and coaches through a variety of initiatives. These include workshops and showcases at the IFAC Handa New Zealand Singing School, masterclasses at the WAAPA International Art Song Academy (led in 2017 by Dr Graham Johnson OBE and Dennis O’Neill CBE), and a masterclass by internationally-acclaimed soprano Renée Fleming as part of the Sydney Opera House Opera Awards.

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Alto soloist

Rebecca Hart is a young French/Australian mezzo-soprano. She is currently a Pacific Opera 2018 Sponsored Young Artist and the Alto Scholar at St Stephen’s Uniting Church. She holds a Bachelor of Music from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music (2016).

Roles include Prince Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus (Operantics), Ramiro in La Finta Giardiniera (Operantics), Endimione in La Calisto (Sydney Conservatorium Opera Studio), Third Spirit in Die Zauberflöte (Sydney Conservatorium Opera Studio), Apollo in Apollo et Hyacinthus (Flamingo Opera) and Lady Jane in Patience (Gilbert and Sullivan’s Opera Society).

Rebecca has featured in numerous recitals and concerts around NSW. She has performed orchestral works such as Mozart’s Requiem, Vivaldi’s Gloria, Bach’s Missa Brevis in A Major and Rossini’s Petite Messe Solenelle.

Rebecca placed first in Lieder (21-25) at the 2018 Sydney Eisteddfod; where she had previously been awarded the Evelyn Hall de Izal Memorial Award for Mezzo-Soprano/Contralto voice in 2016.

In 2017, she started completing her Master of Music (Opera Performance) at the Conservatorium where she received the Dr. Harris Philip Greenberg and Olav Gurney-Jensen Scholarship, and the Patricia Lucas Music Achievement Scholarship.

Rebecca is looking forward to performing the title role of Radamisto (Handel) in early 2019 with the Apollo Opera Collective.

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Bass Soloist

Jae Kwon (Joseph) Kim finished his Bachelor of Music Performance (Classical Voice) at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in 2017 with the Helen Myers Scholarship. During his time at the Conservatorium, he has gained extensive performance experience by participating in multiple productions. Most recently, he understudied Don Alfonso in Cosi fan tutte for the Conservatorium Opera Studio. Other performance highlights include featured soloist in Bernstein's Mass: A Theatre Piece at the Sydney Opera House. An experienced performer on the concert platform, Jae Kwon has performed as a bass soloist with many choirs, including the Voces Caelestium and The Taverner Consort.

Jae Kwon has also been the recipient of multiple scholarships and prizes outside of the Conservatorium. In 2017, Jae Kwon was named a semi-finalist at the IFAC Australian Singing Competition, where he won the Ingrid Davidson Award. He was also awarded the wonderful opportunity to participate in masterclasses with Dr. Graham Johnson and Dennis O’Neill at the WAAPA International Art Song Academy. In 2018, he won both the ‘Operatic Aria’ and ‘Lieder’ sections at the Ryde Eisteddfod and 2nd place in the Sydney Song Prize 2018. He also participated in the Pacific Opera Young Artist Program as a Sponsored Young Artist.

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© Dorothy Ebblewhite July 26 2012