Singing Carmina Burana's praises

By Deborah McIntosh

Allison Moore's life has never been so hectic. She has a pharmacology honours thesis due in November and, as president of the Sydney University Musical Society (SUMS), she runs the society and has been helping to organise its September concert, to be performed with the Sydney University Symphony Orchestra.

Fortunately, two people understand her busy schedule. SUMS concert manager Isabel Hyman, 22, and fundraising officer Melanie Bishop, 21, are also finishing honours theses, both in biology. "We're sharing the organisational work so we don't get too SUMS'ed out while we're writing our theses," Ms Moore said. "Our Wednesday night rehearsals are still a great mid-week release. It's wonderful to hear what the choir can achieve."

The concert, to be held this Saturday and Sunday in the Great Hall, will feature "Carmina Burana" and the Bruch Violin Concerto No 1. Sydney University student Anna Albert will play the violin concerto and will be examined on her performance.

Carmina Burana was written by Carl Orff in the 1930s, based on a collection of 13th-century monks' poems. "The lyrics are not very religious," Ms Moore said. "They're all about loving and drinking and eating and making merry so it's a rowdy piece which is a lot of fun to sing.

The Sydney University Musical Society (SUMS), in full rehearsal for their forthcoming performance of Carmina Burana in the Great Hall.

It's mostly in Latin but some is in old German and old French. We will provide a translation in our program so the audience knows what we're singing about."

SUMS was founded in 1878 and is Australia's oldest university choir. It gives three major performances a year &endash; in May, September and Christmas. It has 200 choristers from very diverse backgrounds - University students and staff but also people with no University connection at all.

"We don't have any restrictions," Ms Moore said. "You don't even have to audition to join. We maintain our standard by having rehearsal requirements &endash; members must come to at least three-quarters of the rehearsals. People who aren't wonderful singers usually learn and because we're such a large choir, everyone blends in and contributes to making a great sound."

Ms Moore said the choir was lucky to have conductor Ben Macpherson, who has been with SUMS since 1983. "He gets amazing results out of us," she said.

"I still remember my first rehearsal in 1996. I'd come from a school choir which was all girls and not terribly exciting. I sat in the lecture theatre and everyone had their music in front of them and I was worried that I wouldn't be able to read it.

"Then Ben started waving his arms about and this amazing sound filled the theatre. It was shivers-down-the-spine sort of stuff. I'd spent my first week at uni in all these boring maths and physics lectures and there I was, in a lecture theatre, surrounded by the most beautiful sound."