The Yallourn Madrigal Singers is a Victorian community choir which was formed in 1956 in the town of Yallourn, Gippsland, by Val Pyers, a graduate school teacher at Yallourn High School.
After a few years, Val moved to Melbourne and soon founded the Melbourne Chorale, and later, the Victoria Chorale. David Davies, a former chorister, then led the choir for the next 25 years.
The town of Yallourn no longer exists; it was closed and removed in the 1980s to allow for expansion of the nearby open-cut brown coal mine.
The tradition of fine choral singing has continued, however, with the choir now based at St. James Church, Grey Street, Traralgon.
The choir is a mixed voice (SATB) choir, currently with about 25 singers. Their repertoire still includes madrigals and folk songs, as it did in its early days, but has expanded to include medieval troubadour songs, renaissance sacred works, romantic songs, 19th and 20th century classical pieces, nostalgic jazz standards and contemporary popular songs and show tunes.
In 2006, the choir commissioned works by four Australian composers in celebration of their 50th anniversary, under the direction of Gay Michau.
The choir generally prepares two programs per year. We host an annual winter feast, presenting a program based around a particular theme.
2017 marked the choir’s 25th feast which was held for the second time at the Century Inn, Traralgon. Previously, and until 2013, the feast had been catered by Gary Fraser, chef and proprietor of Gaztronomy Restaurant in Morwell. We thank Gary and his wife Sue for many years of wonderful food and hospitality. In 2014/15 the venue was the Waratah Restaurant, Morwell.
We also prepare an end-of-year program, usually with a Christmas theme.
The choir has performed at music festivals, eisteddfods, soirees, public events and contributed to community Christmas Carol events and Lessons and Carols services at local churches.
Co-Director of Music: Sophy Morley
Sophy grew up in a household filled with music. Her Dutch parents had both been singers in their village church choirs and her mother had received some piano tuition. Her years at home were marked by lots of music and singing, particularly singing around the piano, singing in the parish choir and the inevitable sing-a-longs in the car to keep the family occupied on long trips!
Sophy and her 8 siblings all received a solid foundation in piano and music theory, with many going on to play other instruments. Sophy studied music theory and piano and successfully completed HSC (now VCE) level in piano performance, continuing to receive tuition through her university years. During her secondary schooling Sophy began playing the organ, first for chapel services at her college and then for Sunday worship, weddings and funerals at her parish and at other churches and venues across the region.
On completion of her studies, Sophy returned to the Latrobe Valley to pursue her career as a medical scientist and she resumed her participation in church and choral music. Sophy has been the director of her local church choir for 25 years and a member of the Royal School of Church Music and Gippsland committee member for over 15 years.
In her professional work for the Catholic Diocese of Sale over the past decade, she has been the accompanist and assistant for the Lavalla Catholic College Senior and Junior Choirs, and a pipe organist, cantor and Director of Music for significant Diocesan celebrations.
Sophy joined the Yallourn Madrigal Singers in 2002 and became Assistant Director of Music in 2007. Sophy has enjoyed opportunities to accompany and conduct the Madrigals on various occasions, for choral items in their Annual Feasts at Gaztronomy Restaurant and particularly in December 2011 at joint Christmas concerts with the Latrobe Chorale at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Morwell and with the Latrobe and Francis Orchestras at Narkoojee Winery, Glengarry. An experienced musician and singer, Sophy enjoys listening to and performing a wide range of music. She feels blessed to be given the gift of music and could not imagine life without it.
Sophy was appointed Co-Director of Music in March, 2017.
Co-Director of Music: Bronwyn Morrissey
Bronwyn spent most of her childhood in Yallourn and remembers going to concerts performed by the Yallourn Madrigal Singers in Kernot Hall, Yallourn. She moved to Melbourne for upper secondary school and university. While living in Melbourne she subscribed to the Melbourne Chorale Concerts and the Australian Opera and discovered the thrill of listening to live choral music.
Her first experience of choral singing was in her school’s chapel choir, and then singing with the Monash University chapel choir.
Bronwyn completed HSC piano and also studied the pipe organ while at school. She later completed AMEB 5th grade flute, playing with the Latrobe Orchestra and the Latrobe Light Opera Society.
She attained a Bachelor of Arts from Monash University with first class honours in non-Western musicology, followed by a Diploma of Education (Primary). Her honours thesis was about the music of the Huli people of the Southern Highlands District of Papua New Guinea. She is very grateful to have had the opportunity to record their music at a pivotal point in PNG’s history; just prior to Independence.
After attending several Kodaly courses, Bronwyn taught music in a large primary school in Melbourne. When she returned to the Latrobe Valley she resumed her initial role as classroom teacher, while continuing to conduct school choirs and teach recorder. She then diversified into special education, having gained her Graduate Diploma in Special Education.
She joined the Yallourn Madrigal Singers in 1984 and has sung with them on many occasions since. She also sings with the Latrobe Chorale, sometimes assisting the Choral Director with rehearsals.
Bronwyn was appointed Co-Director of Music in March, 2017.
Immediate Past Music Director: Rhonda Kemsley
Rhonda moved to Tasmania with her family in late 2016.
Rhonda comes from a family who have always enjoyed singing together, and as choristers of local choirs. It is from them that she developed her love of part-singing.
She was a founding member of the Latrobe Chorale in 1985, and soon after became a chorister with the Yallourn Madrigal Singers and the Mozart Occasional Choir. She was the Musical Director of the former choir from 1996 – 2004, enjoying performing at many local events and competing with success at eisteddfods. During these years she studied voice with Barbara McNeill, Alexander Technique with Carol Veldhoven, and attended the inspiring annual ACCET Summer Schools for Choral Conductors.
Rhonda was a member of the early music quintet, Le Voce Essenziali, performing regularly at local events and with the Early Music Society of Victoria. She founded the Glengarry Primary School Choir in 2000, and was a co-founding musical director of the Coal Valley Male Chorus in 2006.
From 2004 – 2010, Rhonda was a chorister with the Melbourne Chamber Choir, directed by Faye Dumont. Rhonda was Guest Conductor of the West Gippsland Chorale for the first half of 2011, and returned to the directorship of the Yallourn Madrigal Singers in September 2011.
In her other life, Rhonda is a midwife, with a very supportive family; her husband, and two children.
Accompanist: We are currently seeking an accompanist.