Like anyone who makes a living as a professional performer or musician, Brisbane Chorale’s music director Emily Cox AM has found the post-COVID era to be very difficult and challenging.
But as Emily and the choir are working towards what will be their final performance for 2021, ‘A Joyful Noise’, to be held at Brisbane City Hall on Sunday 14 November at 3pm, she is choosing to look to 2022 and beyond with optimism and hope.
“In most places around the world where choral music is practised, the pandemic has had a variety of effects ranging from long periods of complete shutdown of the art form, to disruption of normal rehearsal and performance patterns,” she says.
“More insidious still has been the creation of enormous fear and hesitation.”
Brisbane Chorale was only able to perform one work in November 2020, the Brahms German Requiem, but Emily recognises how much more fortunate Queensland choral groups have been in 2021 compared with those in other parts of Australia and other countries.
“I’ve been committed to tending our singers and Brisbane’s cultural fabric gently and safely, not only to inspire those who are here, but also those farther afield,” she explains.
“On the positive side, I think the extra appreciation of live choral music gained by both listeners and practitioners through the periods of deprivation will be felt for a long time. But there’s still a lot of rebuilding to be done.
“My mottoes through this period have been ‘plan as if you can’, and ‘make hay while the sun shines’, and I’m quite sure I’ll keep saying that in the coming year and beyond.”
Underpinning this desire to continue to perform and share music no matter what obstacles might exist is Emily’s passionate belief in its importance to humanity.
“Music is integral to the mental and physical health of both its practitioners and its listeners,” she explains. “To people of all ages and walks of life, music is an underlying part of their every day.
“It crosses boundaries and doesn’t really need translation. It gives voice to all manner of emotion and other states of mind, be they joy, grief, passion, empathy, nostalgia, hope, contentment, whatever.
“Music speaks what can’t really be spoken in words, and in so many ways it nourishes our physical being.
“Music must be made, must be supported, must be heard, must happen as much as possible! We fuel our cars, right? We charge our phones. We tend our gardens. Music fuels US!”
Brisbane Chorale performed its first ‘Joyful Noise’ concert in 2019, but Emily says she felt it was very appropriate to revisit this theme again in 2021.
“The title came from my desire to create a total feast of music to feed the soul. I think we need it more than ever now.
“Some of the repertoire in our ‘Joyful Noise’ concerts started its life as church music, so I quoted Psalm 100 in the title. After all, our goal here is to ‘make a joyful noise!'”
Joining Chorale for the concert will be virtuoso organist Christopher Wrench playing the historic City Hall pipe organ and the John Coulton Brass Ensemble. So why this particular mix of musical forces?
Says Emily, “I adore this combination. It has such versatility in sound colour, texture, dynamic range, and it sends shivers down my spine.
“There’s such a lot of good music written for the combination, and great potential to adapt pieces in their original instrumentation to fit ours, which is what we’re doing with a few pieces in this concert.
“Plus, I love working with musicians like Christopher and John!”
‘A Joyful Noise’ – glorious music for choir, brass and organ
Sunday 14th November 3pm, Brisbane City Hall
Presented by Brisbane Chorale in association with The Organ Society of Queensland, 4MBS Classic FM and Brisbane City Council.
Book through 4MBS ticketing (4mbs.com.au) or by phone on 3847 1717 (office hours).