David Carolane: Noble conduct of the highest order

Involved in choirs since the 1960s, David Carolane bows out tomorrow on a high note, writes BEN ROBSON.

David Carolane sang his first treble with St Stephen’s Church Choir in Ivanhoe when he was 10. Picture: TARA GOONAN

David Carolane sang his first treble with St Stephen’s Church Choir in Ivanhoe when he was 10. Picture: TARA GOONAN

FOR this retired pharmacist music has always been the best medicine.

But after almost 30 years at the head of the Murray Conservatorium Vocal Consort which he founded, tomorrow David Carolane will conduct his final formal performance for them.

Conducting choirs since the 1960s, David says he first sang as a treble with St Stephen’s Church Choir in Ivanhoe when he was 10.

“Choral music has always been a part of my life since then,” he says.

“I became very involved after my pharmacy training years and in 1962 founded the Tudor Choristers which is still prominent in Melbourne’s music.”

David received an OAM for his contributions to Australian music, and it’s easy to see why.

He had a parish choir at St George’s Church in Ivanhoe for about 14 years and was at the Melbourne University Choral Society.

In 1975 David became director of music for the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Society. He’s directed the Beechworth Choir, founded the Wangaratta Choristers in 1985, in 1986 took on a directorship at the Murray Conservatorium Choir and founded a choir at St Matthew’s Church in Albury. And you get the feeling that even at 84, he’d still be going.

"I do feel sad at leaving after such a long time but, golly, I’m 84 and it’s time I was put out to grass!" - DAVID CAROLANE

“Unfortunately I have a problem with tinnitus,” David says.

“So I’m not hearing the things that I should be able to hear, I feel I’m not working at the level necessary to deal with the standard of music and singing which is a very high order.”

Tomorrow’s concert at St Matthew’s Church will feature music by Bach, Faure and Saint-Saens as well as a selection of madrigals.

“The Consort wasn’t sticking to madrigals because really they should be sung by a small group of people, one or two to a part,” David says.

“But the Consort still does a collection and will tomorrow, we do it merely for the love of singing them.

“The music is entertaining and light-hearted.

“It would be lovely to see faces in the audience of people I’ve conducted in the past.

“I’ve always formed a very warm and indeed loving companionship with the people who sang under my direction.

“The funny thing about it all is conductors stand there and beat time — but the people that do the work are the members of the community who come along to sing.

“And singing in choirs is a wonderful way of forging friendships and achieving something — the people who sing are contributing to the cultural heritage of Australia.

“I recommend everyone sings.”

Do you have a particularly memorable performance?

There are two memorable concerts. The first was with the Tudor Choristers, a recital we gave in a church in Fitzroy of an unaccompanied mass by William Byrd. It was a cold, dank and foggy night and we sang the program to four people. Fortunately the four that heard it were musicians and they appreciated the program very much. Then in 1983 I conducted a performance with an augmented choir at Hamer Hall of the great Mass in B Minor by Bach. It was a full house, there must have been close to 2000 people there. They’re the memorable ones in my mind.

Will this concert be emotional?

The only person likely to cry buckets is me, and only if anything goes wrong. But it won’t, don’t worry. I do feel sad at leaving after such a long time but, golly, I’m 84 and it’s time I was put out to grass!

Does the region have a strong choral tradition?

Our region is really very well off. There are two active choirs in Wangaratta, the Consort and Conservatorium here, Beechworth has a choir and Yarrawonga has a choir which is very active. It’s an active choral area.

How did the choral tradition develop?

Have you got a couple of hours? It’s been in existence for hundreds of years. It would have started thousands of years before that with simple folk music, people singing while working or around the campfire. As time went on it became more sophisticated, with the Christian church and the advent of plainsong it evolved and became more and more complex. It’s a tradition that has a long, long history.

What is it about choral music for you?

The thing about it is you can really produce great results with people with modest talents who have been trained and grouped together and over a period of time are capable of producing a piece of music that’s of a high order. There’s a great satisfaction in making music with other people and there are all sorts of choirs — community choirs, gospel choirs, choruses and operas.

Tickets for tomorrow’s concert and talk from 2pm cost $20 adults, $15 concession, children free. Phone (02) 6041 4249 to book.

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