Swansong: 25th Anniversary Christmas Concert by the Ashton Smith Singers to be its last
After 38 years, the Ashton Smith Singers are calling it a day. Their 25th Annual Christmas Concert on Sunday at Melbourne Recital Centre will be its last.
The 70-strong choir has performed with everyone from Sir Harry Secombe and Barry Humphries to Dame Joan Sutherland at her farewell concert. Its film and television credits include Garbo (music by Alan Zavod), Lilian's Story, Hooray, The Wog Boy, and After the Deluge" (with composer Cezary Skubiszewski).
The Ashton Smith Singers provided choral backing to Skubiszewski's TV and cinema advertisements including those for Ansett Australia, Mazda and the 2005 Carlton Draft extravaganza. More recently, the ensemble backed several Mike Brady song tracks on his CD recording The Living Years and performed with him at live events.
“All good things must come to an end,” said David Ashton Smith OAM, the choir’s founder and conductor.
“A combination of factors has forced this difficult decision. We formed in 1980 at the request of the Australian Pops Orchestra (APO) to take part in the APO’s concerts Melbourne Town Hall, the Dallas Brooks Hall and later Hamer Hall. The APO used to present five concert series
a year but this has declined to one concert a year,” he said.
“Time has also taken its toll though amazingly four of the choir’s founding members are still performing – Michele Black, Lyn Collett, Mary Torpy and Tom Williams. I also turned 75 this year. And as always, there are the economics. We have been able to sustain the choir without asking for members to contribute, an unusual situation for a choir or choral ensemble. However, our Christmas concerts are no longer able to pay the necessary running costs to keep the choir going. We decided to quit while we were ahead.”
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, the choir’s 25th anniversary concert, includes favourites such as Silent Night, Away in a Manger, and O Come All Ye Faithful as well as classical numbers including Joy to the World, Four Seasons (Vivaldi – Summer), and Paganini Caprice 24.
The choir will be joined by an eleven-piece orchestra and tenor Roy Best, baritone Samuel Dundas (Australian Opera), sopranos Eleanor Kerr and Catherine Bolzonello, alto Mary Torpy, dancer Nicola Miranda and violinist Leon Fei, a year 8 student at Scotch College. The concert will, as always, make a donation to the Cerebral Palsy Education Centre.
Back in 1980, the Ashton Smith Singers started out with 24 members drawn from Bettine McCaughan’s teaching studio.
“Our Christmas concerts sprang a very small beginning in the Chapel at Xavier College, Kew in 1994, when we gave a concert of Christmas choral music to a small audience with organ, piano and a brass quartet accompaniment to this year’s performance in the beautiful Melbourne Recital Centre with 11 instrumental players and wonderful guest artists … it’s been a long and joyous journey,” Ashton-Smith said.
“I pay tribute to founding member Mary Torpy for her considerable leadership and input over the whole 25 years, and for her contribution to each concert. Without her valued enthusiasm and guidance, these concerts would not have happened.”