Featured Collaborators: The Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Choir


In 2014 the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic celebrates its 161st year of music-making in Melbourne, making it Australia’s oldest surviving cultural organisation and one of the oldest secular choirs in the world. Today, the 120-voice Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Choir continues  to present critically acclaimed performances to audiences in Melbourne. It is committed to the encouragement and fostering of young musicians, and is recognised by many as Melbourne’s premier symphonic choir. The RMP’s choristers are strictly auditioned, and are voluntary musicians who share a common love of choral music, and who give their time freely in the pursuit of musical excellence.

The RMP was founded in 1853, by a group of civic leaders and music lovers who wished to bring musical culture of a high standard to the early colony of Victoria. Since that time it has presented performances at many historic occasions and important events in the history of Melbourne. These include the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880, the Great Centennial Exhibition of 1888, the opening of the First Australian Parliament in 1901, the opening of the Melbourne Town Hall, and the 1956 Olympic Games.

Throughout its long existence, the RMP has consistently presented performances of major choral and orchestral works to great acclaim, often as Australian or Melbourne premieres. Amongst the many works performed for the   first time in Australia by the RMP Choir and Orchestra, are Mozart’s Requiem, Handel’s Israel in Egypt, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, Vivaldi’s Gloria, Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Dvorak’s Stabat Mater, Elgar’s The Kingdom and The Spirit of England and Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast. In recent times this tradition of innovative programming has continued, with the RMP presenting world premiere performances of works such as From the Beginning by Stuart Greenbaum, Sky Saga and Southern Gloria by Nicholas Buc, Fronting Eternity by Gordon Kerry and Mourning and the Light Within by John Peterson.

Handel’s great oratorio Messiah has particular significance for the RMP. It first launched the choir in 1853, and has been performed at least once every year since. This unbroken sequence of performances is considered tobe a world record. Throughout its distinguished history, the RMP has boasted many outstanding conductors. These include such figures as Sir Malcolm Sargent, Georg Szell, Sir Thomas Beecham, Sir Granville Bantock,  Sir Charles Groves, Sir Eugene Goossens, and Chief Conductors including Alberto Zelman and Sir Bernard Heinze.

2006 highlights included Dvorak’s Stabat Mater, a Venetian polychoral concert, Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms, Orff’s Carmina BuranaIrish Songs of Praise, and the world premiere of John Peterson’s Mourning and the Light Within. 2007 concerts included Haydn’s The Creation, Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and Missa Brevis, Tarik O’Regan’s Dorchester CanticlesIrish Songs of Pride, Beethoven’s Choral Fantasia and Mass in C. Concerts for 2008 included Faure’s Requiem, performed with the visiting London Bach Choir, Schubert’s Mass in A minor and the Bruckner Te Deum, performed with the the Melbourne University Choral Society and the Academic Orchestra of Stuttgart University. Later performances in the year included an all Bach concert (Magnificat BWV243, Easter Oratorio BWV 248 and the solo cantata Ich Hab Genug BWV82) and a program of African and Australian Aboriginal music centred on Fanshawe’s African Sanctus. In October, music featured  Kodaly’s Buvari Te Deum and Verdi’s Quattro Pezzi Sacri. Concerts for 2009 included a Program celebrating the 350th anniversary of the birth of Henry Purcell – featuring a concert performance ofhis opera Dido and Aeneas, Come, Ye Sons of Art and the Funeral Music for Queen Mary. Other highlights included the annual RMP Aria competition, An Evening with Mr Handel featuring great Handelian choruses, recitatives and arias from opera and oratorio, the Melbourne Premiere of Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man – A Mass for Peace, with the Melbourne University Choral Society and the Australian Catholic University Choir. The year concluded with the annual performance of Handel’s Messiah and two concerts of traditional Christmas Carols in St Paul’s Cathedral.

Concerts for 2010 season includedPassiontide Reflections with music of Bach’s St Matthew and St John Passions and Handel’s Brockes Passion, a recital concert of Chopin’s music, a Schubertiade, the annual RMP Aria competition , preceded by ‘Sing Your Own Oratorio’. Then in October the RMP Choir and Orchestra was again joined by the Melbourne University Choral Society and the Australian Catholic University Choir for a performance of Verdi’s Messa da Requiem, and in December Handel’s Messiah andCarols in the Cathedral.

The 2011 Concert season featured ten concerts from Mozart’s Requiem and Vesperae sollenes de Confessore  through Mahler, Liszt, and 20th Century masters: Britten, Finzi Part and Grainger. The RMP ARIA competitionwas held in August, then in October the RMP Choir and Orchestra were again joined by the Melbourne University Choral Society and the Australian Catholic University in Elgar’s epic masterpiece The Dream of Gerontius before performances of Messiah and Carols in the Cathedral.

2012/13 concerts includeda regional tour of all of the State’s major Cathedrals and Basilicas featuring Tchaikovsky’s Liturgy ofSt John Chrysostom, Christopher Willcock’s Anastasis, and the world premiere of Stefan Cassomenos’ Hieratikon. The choir has also performed at important civic events including the Dawn Service at the Shrine on ANZAC Day, the Battle for Australia commemoration, The Melbourne Awards Gala, and the Prime Minister’s Olympic Dinner. The choir performed Mozart’s Requiem with Orchestra Victoria at the Melbourne Recital Centre and visiting American conductor Christian Badea. Other concerts  included highly praised performances of Prokofiev’s cantata Alexander Nevsky, Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor, Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem and Morten Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna,  three performances of Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings : The Two Towers at Hamer Hall with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Vivaldi’s Gloria, Handel’s Messiah, an all Wagner Opera Spectacular and Carols concerts in St Pauls Cathedral. The choir also appeared at the Melbourne Cup, with American recording artists Josh Groban during his Australian tour, at the Stary, Stary Night Gala and at the Prime Minister’s Olympic Gala.

In 2014 the RMP choir performs works including Vaughan Williams Toward the Unknown Region, Elgar’s The Music Makers at Melbourne Town Hall (later released on CD), and highlights from John Williams Star Wars Trilogy at the Melbourne Recital Centre.  In July the choir will tour to Tasmania to perform as a featured ensemble  at the Festival of Voices in Hobart (including a performance of Mozart Requiem with conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra Chorus, David Lawrence and the Hobart Chamber Orchestra), and will also present concerts of a capella motets by Stanford, Lauridsen, Stopford, Brahms, Rheinberger and Vaughan Williams, Handel’s Messiah and three spectacular Carols concerts in St Paul’s Cathedral. Other performances include various commemoration services at the Shrine of Remembrance, and a live Televised performance at the 2014 Melbourne Cup.

In 2015, the choir featured in an epic five hour concert of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at the Arts Centre’s Hamer Hall, with Principal Guest Conductor Diego Matheuz. The program included the Mass in C Major,  and the Choral Fantasia, precursor of the great Ninth Symphony. The choir recently completed a season of twelve performances with The Australian Ballet and Orchestra Victoria of “The Dream”, featuring John Lanchbery’s reworked version of Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. 

Upcoming performances include the world premiere of Stefan Cassomenos’ Requiem for the End of Time with Melbourne contemporary ensemble PLEXUS at Deakin Edge, Faure’s Requiem, Orff’s Carmina Burana, an appearance at the 2015 Emirates Melbourne Cup, Handel’s Messiah and three Carols concerts at St Paul’s Cathedral.

The RMP is a member of the Australian National Choral Association, and gratefully acknowledges the support of its donors and sponsors.


Featured Collaborator: Andrew Wailes, conductor

Andrew Wailes has gained a reputation as one of Australia’s leading conductors specialising in symphonic choral repertoire, and enjoys a busy performing and teaching schedule. He began his musical studies as a flautist and as a chorister in various Royal School of Church Music choirs, later studying advanced orchestral conducting with the late Robert Rosen and voice with David Ross Smith. He completed a Bachelor of Arts degree and Certificates in Applied Music (Orchestral and Choral Conducting) at Monash University, and following studies in Political Science and Law, concentrated on his musical career, also studying conducting with leading international choral specialists including Simon Halsey, and John Rutter (UK), Jo-Michael Sheibe, and Rod Eichenberger (USA), Stefan Parkman (Denmark) as well as some of Australia’s leading conducting pedagogues.

Andrew assumed the role of musical director and chief conductor of the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra at the end of 1998, making him one of the youngest people ever to hold that position. Andrew’s other posts include: Artistic Director of the Australian Children’s Choir; Music Director and Conductor of the Melbourne University Choral Society, and Box Hill Chorale. He is a former Principal Guest Conductor of The Australian Classical Players, and previously directed the award-winning Symphony Orchestra at Blackburn High School. In 2010 he became a ‘visiting maestro’ at the Escuela de Direccion de Orquesta y Banda in Spain. In 2014 he commenced as Artistic Director of the Chamber Strings of Melbourne.

In 1999 Andrew was the winner of the prestigious Australasian International Choral Conducting Competition In Brisbane, and appeared with the acclaimed Candomino Chamber Choir from Helsinki. He has also appeared with major choirs from the USA, Sweden, England, Finland, South Africa, Ireland, Canada and New Zealand as guest conductor. He has conducted an impressive list of major works, across a wide range of repertoire styles, including: Purcell’s King Arthur and Dido and Aeneas, Handel’s Messiah (all versions), Judas Maccabeaus, Coronation Anthems and Dixit Dominus; J.S. Bach’s Easter Oratorio, St John Passion and Magnificat,  Orff’s Carmina Burana, Rachmaninov’s Vespers and The Bells, Verdi’s Messa da Requiem, Hymn of the Nations and Quattro Pezzi Sacri, Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem and Schicksalslied; Prokoffiev’s Alexander Nevsky, Dvorak’s Stabat Mater and Requiem, Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius and  The Spirit of England; Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem, Beethoven’s Mass in C and Choral Fantasia; Mendelssohn’s Elijah; Haydn’s The Creation; Faure’s Requiem, Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms; Fanshawe’s African Sanctus, Jenkins’ The Armed Man, Sculthorpe’s Requiem; Carl Vine’s Choral Symphony and Mozart’s Requiem, Missa Solemnis, Solemn Vespers and ‘Great’ Mass in C minor.

He has commissioned and conducted numerous first performances of new works by Australian composers such as Peter Sculthorpe, Gordon Kerry, Carl Vine, Stephen Leek, Christopher Willcock, Stuart Greenbaum, Nicholas Buc, John Peterson, Colin Brumby, David Howell, Dindy Vaughan and Jane Hammond. Andrew has taught or conducted ensembles at the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Music, the School of Music at Monash University, the Melba Conservatorium of Music, and the Victorian College of the Arts. For some ten yearshe was a sessional lecturer in conducting and directed choral studies at the Australian Catholic University, Melbourne Campus until the music course was closed down at ACU. He has also lectured in Music History and performance acoustics at the SAE Institute.

Andrew made his international conducting debut with the Christchurch Sinfonia (New Zealand) in 2001 and since then has been guest conductor of ensembles such as the Stuttgart Radio Orchestra, Camerata Academica Freiburg, and Orchester der Universität Stuttgart (Germany), Guangzhou Philharmonic (China), Yale Glee Club (USA), Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum (USA), and local ensembles such as the State Orchestra of Victoria (Orchestra Victoria),  VCA Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Youth Orchestra, Melbourne Sinfonia, Stonnington Symphony and Monash Chamber Orchestra.

Andrew has prepared choirs for many leading conductors including Sir Charles Mackerras, Maestro Valery Gergiev, Diego Masson, Marcus Stenz, Ludwig Wicki, Diego Matheuz, Douglas Boyd, Roy Wales, Christopher Bell, Jindong Cai, Nicholas Braithwaite  and David Hill, for major works such as Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder,  Britten’s War Requiem, Mahler’s Symphonies 2 & 8, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Bizet’s Carmen, Verdi’sRequiem, and film scores including Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky and Howard Shore’s The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers.

He has been engaged as chorusmaster and conductor for the Australian Intervarsity Choral Festival in all Australian capital cities, and for groups such as the Kirov Opera, Australian Youth Orchestra, Prague Chamber Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, The Australian Ballet, Orchestra Victoria, Melbourne Festival, Perth International Arts Festival and many of Australia’s professional symphony orchestras.

Andrew co-conducted the world premiere season of Julian Yu’s contemporary opera The Possessed, for Chamber Made Opera and in 2005 he conducted Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia for Lyric Opera of Melbourne (receiving a prestigious Green Room Award nomination for best opera conductor that year).   He also assisted Maestro Valery Gergiev as backstage conductor and extra chorus director for the Kirov Opera’s acclaimed performances of The Fiery Angel for the Melbourne Festival. Other operas conducted include Mozart’sThe Magic Flute, Handel’s Rinaldo, Purcell’s  Dido and Aeneas and Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi.

Andrew has appeared with many leading Australian and international performers, including the legendary rock band ‘Kiss’ and the MSO at the Telstra Dome, and with popular artists such as John Farnham, Delta Goodrem, Michael Buble, Josh Groban, the Temper Trap, Anthony Callea, Rhys Muldoon, Jemma Rix, Julie Anthony, and Judith Durham. He has directed choirs for many major televised events, including six AFL Grand Finals, the opening of Stadium Australia, four  Melbourne Cups, two AFI Award Ceremonies, five International Comedy Festival Gala Concerts and at the Closing Ceremony of the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games. He also conducted at the opening ceremony of the Parliament of World Religions, the Prime Minister’s Olympic Dinner, and a host of other major events including the ANZAC Day Dawn Service and numerous State Funerals and State Occasions.

In 2004, Andrew undertook several orchestral engagements in Stuttgart, and led a major concert tour of Europe and the UK with The ACC. directing performances in European cities including Vienna, Salzburg, Prague, Edinburgh, York, Cambridge and London. In 2007 Andrew led The ACC on a concert tour of China, performing in Beijing, Tianjin, Xian, Huanyang and Shanghai. He then undertook a six-week study tour of Russia, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and the UK, observing rehearsals and performances of numerous orchestras, opera companies, and choirs in cities such as St Petersburg (Mariinsky), Moscow (Bolshoi), and Manchester (The Halle). He has since returned to China numerous times performing more than 60 concerts in over twenty Chinese cities with the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Orchestra, Victorian Festival Orchestra and Guangzhou Philharmonic performing in many of that country’s most prestigious venues.

In January 2010 he led a tour to Germany, Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic by the Melbourne University Choral Society which will include concerts in Wormser Kaiserdom, the Royal Chapel in Shonbrunn Palace (Vienna), Salzburg Cathedral, Pauluskirche (Stuttgart), the Burgersaalkirche (Munich), St Nicholas Cathedral (Prague), and the Old Jesuit Church (Bratislava). In 2011/12 he toured Germany and Austria and appeared at the International Festival of Children’s Choirs in the UK, conducting The Australian Children’s Choir in venues such as Salzburg Cathedral, The Basilica of Maria Plain (Austria), St Georgskirche Noedlingen (Germany), and English venues including Canterbury Cathedral, Leeds Castle, and Southwark Cathedral (London).

In 2014 he again led MUCS to Europe, as well as the Chamber Strings of Melbourne, performing in Germany, France, Austria, Slovenia and Italy, including concerts in L’Eglise de La Madeleine and L’Eglise St Augustin (Paris), Junge Philharmonie Musikschule (Innsbruck), Cathedrale Maria Assunta (Chioggia), Parrocchia Madonna Pellegrina (Padua).

In demand as an adjudicator and workshop leader, Andrew has recently adjudicated competitions in Victoria, Queensland, China, and New Zealand . In 2013 he accepted an invitation to participate in an international conducting symposium and a series of new music concerts presented by the Weil Institute at Carnegie Hall in New York. He also founded the RMP Aria competition.

Andrew has extensive experience as a singer with ensembles including Opera Australia, IHOS Opera,  National Youth Choir of Australia as well as numerous professional recording ensembles. In 2002 he performed the title role in Handel’s Acis and Galatea with Past Echoes Early Music Ensemble, and performed the Monteverdi Vespers of 1610 in Canberra for the 54th Intervarsity Choral Festival, and Bernstein’s Mass with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. He made his professional operatic debut with the Australian Opera as an Apprentice in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg in 1994, and has appeared as a regular soloist in concert and oratorio performances around Australia. Andrew is frequently engaged as a guest conductor, speaker and teacher at summer schools and festivals around the country, having conducted orchestras and choirs at State Music Camps, Geelong Music Summer Schools, Melbourne Youth Music Summer Schools, the Border Music Camp, ACCCord Choir Festival and the Department of Educations’ EMR annual concert for music students at Hamer Hall.

Andrew mentors and teaches a number of Melbourne’s emerging young conductors, and is listed in the inaugural edition of the Who’s Who in Victoria, and the International Edition of Strathmore’s Who’s Who. Andrew was awarded the 2014 Professional of the Year Award in the Symphony / Conducting Industry Category of the Worldwide Who’s Who for his work with the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic.

He has been awarded Life Membership of the RMP, being only the third RMP conductor ever to be granted that honour in over 160 years. He is also a proud Patron of the Hopkins Sinfonia.

Andrew Wailes and the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Choir collaborated with PLEXUS in 2015, giving the world premiere of Requiem for the End of Time by Stefan Cassomenos.