Choir is Ipswich youth singers’ forte

A group of dedicated children get together every Friday afternoon in a hall at Booval.

Children have been turning up for the past 50 years to sing together as the Cambrian Youth Choir.

Michelle French is the conductor of both the junior and youth choirs and she makes every ‘minuete’ count.

Ms French now conducts the choir she herself sang in when she was a child.

“My children are in the junior choir singing and their mummy is the conductor and their grandmother is playing on the piano,” Ms French said.

“You can start when you are five and can continue on as long as you can. We have singers in their 80s.

“You can just move on from one choir to the next your whole life.”

Ms French believes singing in a choir can be an experience that children will carry with them all their lives.

“Singing in a choir gives children a really good sense of community,” she said.

“Singing in a group adds that extra layer of inclusiveness, being part of a team outside the sporting arena.

“They make friends with people they may not normally come across at school.”

The choir has been the breeding ground for some very successful singers.

Mathew Hickey started in the choir later going on to develop world renowned The Ten Tenors and Jersey Boy Glaston Toft also started singing right here in Ipswich. 

The Cambrian Youth Choir is celebrating their 50 year reunion on Saturday, 14 September at
10 South Station Road, with a concert and afternoon tea at 2pm. Cost is $15.

There will also be a dinner at the Ipswich Club, 14 Gray Street, at 7pm. Cost is $50.

For enquiries phone
0410 310 846

Book here.

Conductor Michelle French with some members of the Cambrian Youth Choir

Ms French said there is a sense of achievement you feel when you are making beautiful music together.

“Singing is something anyone with a voice can do,” Ms French said.

“The great thing about singing is you can continue to do it, your knees might give out from playing sport but as long as you can make words, you can keep singing.”

It’s not all traditional choral music either, with some surprising songs making it into the mix.

“We try to keep up with the changes in music and keep a good mix including modern songs,” Ms French said.

“We have sung Coldplay’s Viva La Vida and John Legend’s All of Me.

“The kids enjoy singing something they have listened to on the radio but we still teach traditional choral diction with your voice and quality singing.”

Cambrian Youth Choir 1973. Picture Ipswich

The Cambrian Youth Choir history

The Cambrian Youth Choir was formed in 1969. Blodwyn Whitehead (OAM, ATCL) was appointed conductor of the Youth Choir and their first accompanist was Therese O’Brien, a school music specialist.

The first performance by the Youth Choir was at the Queensland Eisteddfod held in Ipswich during Easter 1970. 

On that occasion, adjudicator Patrick Thomas commented that ‘the performance standard of the set works was of world class’. Since then, the choir has never missed competing at the Queensland Eisteddfod and, on most occasions, has been awarded Champion Youth Choir in the junior choral, intermediate choral, modern chorus and theatre competition sections.

The choir was invited by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to record a series of half-hour programs, broadcast nationally, on choral music. As guest artists for the ABC, the choir performed the Australian composition “A Dozen of Dennis” with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Werner Andreas Albert.

The choir has represented Australia in a world-wide radio competition for young people’s choirs; performed at the first Australian National Choral Festival in Hobart; and competed in the Australian National Eisteddfod in Canberra.

In 1996, after 27 years with the choir, Blodwyn Whitehead resigned her position as conductor to travel overseas. Her place in the youth choir was taken over by Berniece Hicks, with accompanist Bronwyn French. Bernice continued in the position until the end of 2012.

1960s. Image courtesy Picture Ipswich

Blackstone Ipswich Cambrian Choir in Ballarat in the early 1900s. Images courtesy Picture Ipswich

Blackstone-Ipswich Cambrian Choir history

There are five choirs under the banner: Senior Choir, Cambrian Youth Choir, Junior Cambrian Choir, Cambrian Show Choir and Coro Concorde.

Established in 1886, the Blackstone-Ipswich Cambrian Choir is reputedly Queensland’s longest continuously-performing choir with a long and proud history.

The beginnings of the choir is interwoven with the early Welsh miners during the late 1800s, the United Welsh Church and coal king Lewis Thomas.

Welsh-born Thomas was among the early arrivals in the Ipswich area. He arrived in 1859 and, after working for a short time on railway construction, went into partnership in a coal mine. He later bought out his partner and in 1866, began to mine the rich Aberdare seam of coal at Blackstone. His presence attracted Welsh miners and a significant Welsh community began to establish itself.

There is a Blackstone-Ipswich Cambrian choir for anyone living in Ipswich depending on age and style of performance that interests the singer.

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