Community choirs prepare for world premiere in Wodonga

20 Oct 2017

Wodonga will host the world premiere of The Snow Queen, a new commission by Victorian Opera based on the Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, composed by local resident Gordon Kerry.

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Director Elizabeth Hill and Composer Gordon Kerry watch Community Chorus rehearsals in Wodonga. Photo Beata Bowes

On Tuesday nights a choir of 20 local children aged 5 – 14 rehearse ahead of their part in The Snow Queen. A mix of school uniforms, tutus and multi-coloured ribbons scatter through the auditorium of a local performing arts centre as they begin their warm up under the watchful eye of local repetiteur Bohdan Krowicky.

The Snow Queen’s Director Elizabeth Hill and Designer Candice MacAllister visit Wodonga to meet community choir members and explain their vision for the production. One of the girls recognises MacAllister and fondly recalls playing a rat when Victorian Opera performed The Pied Piper in Albury in 2016. 

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Candice MacAllister shows her designs of The Snow Queen to the Young Voice Choir. Photo Beata Bowes

MacAllister shows her sketches for costume designs and talks about the innovative 3D scenography which she is working on with Swinburne University. She tells the excited children how the audience will be given 3D glasses as they enter the auditorium, making it seem as though parts of the set are jumping out at them. One enthusiastic young choir member puts her hand up and declares, ‘You don’t need to worry about glasses for my mum and dad. They have their own at home they can bring.’

Hill tells the Young Voices Choir that in addition to singing they will play the various mythical creatures that Gerda encounters on her quest.

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Members of the Wodonga Young Voices Choir. Photo Beata Bowes

On Wednesday nights the adult choir rehearses. Over 35 members have joined, travelling from local communities and surrounding towns including Beechworth, Culcairn, Wangaratta and Yackandandah. 

 No previous singing experience is required to join Victorian Opera’s Community Chorus. Anyone can participate without an audition and perform alongside professional singers in Victorian Opera’s Community Engagement production. The only requirements are a passion for singing and a commitment to rehearsals.

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Members of the Wodonga World Voices Choir. Photo Beata Bowes

The choirs began rehearsals on 12 September and rehearse weekly in the evenings, taking a break for school holidays, culminating in two performances at The Cube Wodonga on 3 and 4 November.

Director Elizabeth Hill says, ‘Working with the community choirs has, and will always be, one of the highlights of creating an opera. Seeing them bring the various characters to life and grow with confidence every time they conquer a scene is so inspiring.’

Deliberately commissioning local composer Gordon Kerry further deepes links with the community. The Snow Queen marks the second composition for Victorian Opera for the Sandy Creek resident, following on from Midnight Son in 2012. 

As part of its Education and Community Engagement Programs, Victorian Opera annually tours to regional Victoria. Since 2007, Victorian Opera has performed 19 works in regional hubs across the state including Bendigo, Mildura, Port Fairy, Sale, Shepparton and Warrnambool.

The Snow Queen premiered at The Cube Wodonga on 3 November 2017. It was supported by the Victorian Opera New Work Syndicate and Victorian Government's Major Victorian Regional Touring Program.