Gloriana, 1994—2003

by Helen Penrose

When Andrew Raiskums first gathered a group of singers in his lounge room in 1994, it was with an abiding passion to perform early music with only one or two voices on a line. Few other groups in Melbourne did this then—ten years on there are several ensembles of various sizes, some of which specialise in early music. The singers Andrew Raiskums gathered had between them many years of experience in Melbourne’s best choirs, including Astra, the Faye Dumont Singers and the Melbourne Chorale.

Having outgrown Andrew’s lounge room, the singers moved to Christ Church in Glenlyon Road, East Brunswick. This would remain as the group’s rehearsal venue for several years. Later in 1994 their first performance was given in this church to a receptive audience of a good size. The program included works by Victoria, Cardoso, Monteverdi and Sheppard. By this time the group had adopted the name ‘Gloriana’, and had also decided to wear bright coloured evening frocks and dress shirts.

Gloriana is the name created for Queen Elizabeth I of England by Edmund Spenser, one of the greatest Renaissance poets, in his epic allegorical poem The Faerie Queene. Spenser began work on the poem in 1580, and six of the planned twelve books were published by 1596. He died before the rest were finished. In The Faerie Queene, Fairyland is commonly held to be Britain, and the Queen of the Fairies is Gloriana, or Queen Elizabeth I.

In 1995 Gloriana performed two concerts, in September and November, at St Mary’s Anglican Church North Melbourne, adding Morago, Bach, Palestrina, Tallis, Byrd, Carissimi, Marenzio, Brumel and Josquin to its repertoire. Josquin, Palestrina and Byrd, in particular, have remained favourite composers with both the singers and musical director and were performed regularly at subsequent concerts.

A regular concert season was established from 1996 with the appointment of Rod Scanlon as Gloriana’s Manager. ‘An All English Program’ in March at St Ignatius, Richmond, featured the Mass in G-minor by Vaughan-Williams, and marked the beginning of programs that now almost always include twentieth century music chosen to complement the renaissance works. Significantly, the Mass in G-minor was again chosen as part of the tenth anniversary program in 2003. ‘Allegri at 333’ in June 1996 gave Gloriana a rare opportunity to perform the Miserere in the extraordinary—and rarely used—acoustic of 333 Collins Street, Melbourne, complete with audio-visual projection. The Miserere was performed again in 2002. ‘Angels and Archangels’ in September 1996 combined Monteverdi and Gabrieli at St Paul’s Cathedral. ‘Masters of the Sublime’—Josquin, Part, Barber and Victoria—was performed four times; twice at Trinity College Chapel in Parkville, then at Ballarat and Shepparton for Gloriana’s first regional tour. New concert dresses were made in 1996 for the women, of simple long renaissance style in autumn colours, and the men donned the traditional concert dress of black tie.

The 1997 concert season began with a once-off departure from Gloriana’s normal procedure—Kathryn Sadler appeared as guest conductor for ‘An Evening of Britten’ in April at the MLC Music Academy Auditorium, and Andrew Raiskums sang tenor. The program included ‘A Hymn to the Virgin’, ‘Hymn to St. Cecilia’, ‘Five Flower Songs’, ‘Rejoice in the Lamb’ and, somewhat appropriately, ‘Choral Dances from Gloriana’. Britten has remained another favourite—’A Hymn to the Virgin’ has been included in several concert programs since then, and ‘Five Flower Songs’ was performed again in 2002. ‘Indulgence’ in May took Gloriana back to the glorious 333 Collins Street, with Hildegard, Byrd, Victoria, Tallis, Palestrina, Parsons, Purcell, Gabrieli, Lotti, Gesualdo and Bruckner on the program. Bruckner is another composer who has featured regularly in Gloriana’s concerts. Two performances of ‘Masterpiece’ were given at Ormond College Chapel in Parkville in June, with the main masterpieces Bach’s ‘Jesu, meine Freude’ and Monteverdi’s Mass for Four Voices. The next concert was also performed twice. ‘Requiem’, again at 333 Collins Street, in August, consisted of requiems by Victoria and Fauré. ‘Renaissance’ at Trinity College Chapel in November completed a big year, with its highlight of John Sheppard’s Western Wind Mass.

Gloriana’s manager in 1998—Rachel Snedden—organised a concert series at the Curzon Street Uniting Church in North Melbourne. The ensemble had, for some time, been rehearsing in the adjacent church hall in Elm Street. The first concert in May—‘Ave Maria’—included Hildegard, Ockeghem, Josquin, Palestrina, Gesualdo, Poulenc, Rachmaninov, Gorecki and Victoria. ‘French Masters Old & New’ was performed twice in July, returning to Josquin, and adding several new composers to the repertoire: Saint-Saens, Debussy, Duruflé and Messiaen. In September, ‘Sacred & Secular’ included several renaissance favourites: Palestrina, Gabrieli, Gesualdo, Monteverdi and Cavalli. Two performances of ‘Praises and Lamentations’ in November included a challenging work that Andrew Raiskums long dreamt of performing—Lamentations of Jeremiah I and II by Tallis—as well as Cardoso’s Requiem. In December the first Christmas concert was performed at Our Lady of Victories Basilica in Camberwell. Andrew’s eclectic assortment of Advent and Christmas chants, carols and motets was a feature of the annual concert series until 2002.

Since 1999 Gloriana has been managed by Robert Raiskums, with the tenth anniversary concert season also marking his fifth successful year. He designed Gloriana’s website, making it among the first of Melbourne’s choirs to go on-line, and recorded and produced the annual Concert Highlights CD.

By this time much of the ensemble’s repertoire was being performed from editions especially prepared for Gloriana by Andrew and produced by Robert, the singers had opted for all-black concert dress, and the ensemble had gradually increased from 16 to around 20 singers, with additional voices included for the occasional performance of larger works with chamber orchestra or organ. As well as regular organists—Dominic Perisinotto, Chris Cook and Thomas Grubb—other instrumentalists have regularly provided accompaniment, notably Fiona Furphy (cello) and Geoffrey Hall (theorbo). Trinity College Chapel in Parkville became the venue for the majority of concerts in the 1999 and 2000 concert seasons. ‘Renaissance Masterpieces’ at the Collins Street Assembly Hall in March included a performance of Byrd’s Mass for four voices as well as Josquin and Palestrina. ‘Trilogy at Trinity’ in May further expanded Gloriana’s renaissance repertoire, including Dufay, Ockeghem and Brumel in the program. ‘Divergence’ in August at St Mary’s Anglican Church in North Melbourne compared and contrasted the same texts set by different composers; for example, Magnificats by Palestrina and Gibbons, ‘Salvator mundi’ by Tallis and Howells. It was also the first performance of works written by Andrew Raiskums and tenor Alessandro Servadei. The Christmas concert returned the ensemble to Trinity College Chapel.

A concert of ‘English Polyphony’, featuring Sheppard’s amazing Cantate Mass opened the 2000 season at Trinity College Chapel in April. The concert also included several twentieth century composers: Walton, Howells and Tavener. ‘Italian Masters’ in July featured Palestrina’s Missa Papæ Marcelli as well as a feast of Monteverdi, including several madrigals in a rare departure from the now mainly sacred fare. ‘Bach and beyond’ in September included Bach’s ‘O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht’ and ‘Jesu, meine Freude’ with Pärt and Duruflé offered as the twentieth century component of the program. The Christmas concert was repeated at St Silas’ Anglican Church in North Balwyn.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Wright Street, Middle Park, was chosen for the 2001 concert season. ‘Pange Lingua’ in April featured Josquin’s Missa Pange Lingua and Clare Maclean’s ‘Christ the King’, as well as excerpts from Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories. ‘Taverner to Tavener’ in June contrasted the renaissance splendour of John Taverner’s Missa Gloria Tibi Trinitas with several pieces by the modern John Tavener. ‘In Paradisum’ in September introduced an orchestra for the first time since 1997’s performance of Fauré’s Requiem, to accompany Handel’s Funeral Anthem for Queen Caroline: ‘The Ways of Zion do mourn’. Howells’ Requiem was the other main focus of this program. The Christmas program featured Palestrina’s Missa Hodie Christus natus est.

The Scots’ Church in Melbourne was chosen as the concert venue for 2002. Bach, Allegri and Pärt (his Berlin Mass) made up the April program. In June ‘Byrd to Britten’ added Byrd’s Mass for Five Voices to the repertoire, as well as Cornysh’s ‘Salve Regina’. ‘Martin and motets’ in September featured Josquin and Frank Martin’s fêted Mass for Double Choir. Once again, the popular Christmas concert was repeated at St Silas’ in North Balwyn.

As well as the annual concert series, Gloriana has been heard on ABC FM, 3MBS FM, 3LO and has also made special appearances at the Immigration Museum, the Melbourne Flower and Garden Show, Music at St Silas’, 101 Collins Street, weddings and other functions. In 2003 the ensemble was invited to sing in the Sacred Music Promenade in Hamilton.

The tenth anniversary concert season will be performed in 2003 at St Mark’s Anglican Church in George Street, Fitzroy with the main concert in June featuring Brumel’s rarely performed 12-part Earthquake Mass and Vaughan Williams’ Mass in G Minor. As Gloriana looks forward to its next ten years of music-making in Melbourne, Andrew Raiskums is justly proud of his concert record and the enjoyment brought to concert-goers by many enthusiastic singers:

‘Gloriana has gone from strength to strength over the last ten years, which is extremely gratifying for me and a credit to the hard work and enthusiasm of all involved—the singers, of course, but especially my family whose support and encouragement always amaze me. There have been many highlights and also the joy of collaborating with other musicians, and I single out the Handel/Howells concert from 2001 as being particularly memorable in this regard. As we come into our tenth year, it’s a wonderful feeling to know that Gloriana has firmly established itself as part of Melbourne’s burgeoning choral scene.’

SINGERS 1994—2003
Brent Annable, Melanie Atma, Bernadette Ballard, Anne Begg, Julia Blackham, Peter Campbell, Sarah Chan, Chris Childs, Shannon Clements, Jo Cohen, Brigid Cooper (O’Callaghan), Michael Cooper, Stewart Cooper, Nicholas Cowall, Tim Daly, Angelo Delsante, Jane Devlin, Andrew Dickinson, Melissa Dods, Janet Droege (Havercroft), Richard Droege, Michelle Duflou, Niki Ebacioni, Julia Ekkel, Mari Eleanor, Brendan Facey, Heather Gaunt (Lowe), Bron Gondwana, Deborah Grace, Andrew Green, Felicity Groom, Thomas Grubb, Bridgett Gwyer, Ewan Harwood, Melinda Hobbs, Stephen Hodgson, Fincina Hopgood, Paul Horvath, John Howard, Louisa Hunter-Bradley, Bruce Ikin, Simon Johnson, Alyson Lockett, Christopher Luke, Vaughan McAlley, Airlie McCoy, Ron McCoy, Kate McMullin, Matthew Maloney, Helen Mankin, Claire Marks, Sarah Marriott (McCulloch), Christopher Mason, Sonja Michelini, Linda Murrow, Philip O’Byrne, Charles Neave, Tim van Nooten, Katherine Norman, Hazel Osborne, Adrian Palmer, Ian Palmer, Darren Parer, Helen Penrose, Frank Prain, Rick Prakhoff, Benno Rice, Kirsten Richardson, Kathryn Roberts, Susan Rushworth, Rachel Sag, Jane Schleiger, Luke Serrano, Alessandro Servadei, David Shepherdson, Malcolm Sinclair, Dean Sky-Lucas, Rachel Snedden, Hugh Swinbourne, Andrea Tappe, Lisel Thomas, Nick Tolhurst, Ann Unger, Damian Verdnik, Andrew Verspaandonk, David Walker, Rob Walsh, Fiona Walters, Robyn Waymouth, Bruce Westwood, Emily Wilbourne, Adrian Wilkinson, Julian Wilson, Sally Woods, Foon Wong.

“Uninhibited singing raised the rafters at Trinity College Chapel on Saturday night. The early music ensemble sounded assured and vigorous in five items by the renaissance master, Josquin Desprez”. Herald Sun

“Gloriana shows us the broiling, turbulent passion of humanity as it strives to the Godhead through artistic endeavour”. The Age

“At the heart of the evening lay Victoria’s ‘O sacrum convivium’ and Gabrielli’s setting of the same text. In the first, Raiskums and his choir gave close to an ideal performance, combining the composer’s radiant vision with a purity of articulation that was unequivocally convincing”. The Age

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