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August 6, 2008

Battle of the Choirs winner to help community

The Age (Australia):

A classical choir from Newcastle has sung their way to take the inaugural series of Battle of the Choirs, $100,000 and an album deal. The University of Newcastle Chamber Choir won the Seven Network TV competition tonight, just edging out financially strapped Melbourne group VoxSynergy. Another young Melbourne choir Harambee finished third.

The 40-strong Newcastle group delighted judges and showed their diversity with their classical take on Sting's Straight to My Heart, and Queen's Bicycle Race. They also joined the other two choirs in a rendition of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.

Over the course of the seven-week show conductor Philip Matthias said his choir had come a long way because they battled with the idea of performing rock music. "It threw up a lot of musical questions and some people thought this is going to be dreadful because we're going to be lowering ourselves to sing rock music," Matthias told AAP.

"But it was interesting because it was just as demanding. And it's like it's coming from within them now, there's something much deeper within them that they can express through the music. "The competition's freed them as singers and it's fed back into their classical stuff."

Matthias said it was a "delightful shock" to win but believed the group got over the edge because of their technical skill and choral sound. "You always hope for the best but you always think the other choirs sound so good," he said. "The others were a lot younger, so you wonder if that could work against you."

The University of Newcastle Chamber Choir plan to use the prize money to create a community centre in the Hunter region where disadvantaged people can come together and sing - in much the same vein as The Choir of Hard Knocks.

Matthias said he wanted to help seniors, young people and the mentally ill. "We've seen through this journey what it can do for individuals - if we can get a tenth of that out to others in the community no matter what situation they're in," he said "We want to make it last." The group will release an album through Universal Music as part of the prize.

Say what you will about these choral competitions but this choir just banked a cool $100,000 (and what choir budget could not well use that), got a record deal and will help their local community as well. Sounds pretty good to me.

Posted by acapnews at August 6, 2008 12:28 AM

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