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The Austrian Choir, founded by its present conductor Dieter Bajzek in 1981, has established itself in Australia and overseas with over 350 public performances and is now in its 28th year. Its main aim is to present a wide spectrum of Austrian vocal and instrumental music, ranging from authentic traditional, to popular and classical. One of the features of its major concerts is the challenging juxtaposition of classical and traditional music, being greatly aided by top Australian guest vocalists and instrumentalists.
The Choir has added to this variety with its own instrumental ensembles, which have included hammer dulcimer, zither, violin, accordion, flute, clarinet, keyboard, guitar and double bass, as well as its current Yodel Duo and first-class pianist Majella Drew, and it also featured a great number of fine Australian guest artists. The Choir staged several concerts every year, always aiming to present a wide range of Austrian music never before heard in Australia, as well as being keen on sharing its music with artists from many other cultures of the world. In particular, its annual European Christmas Concert, now having reached its 25th year, has become a popular and well-respected Melbourne musical institution.
Originally the Choir was made up of a small group of singers, mainly of Austrian origin, but had soon expanded to about 40 members, many of whom are Australians or other nationalities. One of the Choir's main achievements is the mutual inspiration and integration - within performers and audiences alike – of musical, social and cross-cultural understanding and enjoyment. Typical is also the relatively small turnover of singers over the years, and that quite a number of singers have been with the Choir since its beginning!
The Choir has performed in practically all the major concert venues in Melbourne, was the first to instigate a public concert in the grand ballroom of Government House (broadcast live on ABC Radio 1986), and has participated in many concerts and festivals, including Moomba and Melbourne International Festival of the Arts. It has performed interstate in Sydney, Illawarra, Canberra, Adelaide, Perth, Bunbury, Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Alice Springs, and in many Victorian country towns, and has also travelled to Tasmania in early 2009.
In 1990 it undertook an extensive and highly successful three-week concert tour of Austria, appearing in thirteen concerts, including major centres like Salzburg, Baden, Velden, Graz and the international Choral Festival in Linz. The Choir also toured the main cities of New Zealand (Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland) in 1994 and 2001.
The Choir appreciates the extensive airplay it receives not only from various Australian ethnic radio stations, but in particular the live broadcasts and studio recordings from ABC Radio, and the attention given to the Choir by Radios 3MBS, SBS, and other mainstream media, organisations and international festivals. After its first cassette recordings in 1985 and 1986, the Choir released a compact disc in 1990, Austria Down Under, being the first CD recorded by a community choir in Australia, which met with excellent reviews in Australia and Austria. In July 1997 the Choir released its second CD of Austrian music, Old Songs for a New Country, featuring also its Yodel Trio and the “Stubenmusik” Ensemble.
Two more CDs have been released since: The Austrian Choir 1981-2001 - Live in Melbourne, highlights taken from recordings over these years, and in 2001: Christmas in Australia, an album of delightful and some rare Christmas music.
Unfortunately, the Choir decided in 2009 not to perform at any more public events, due to a number of reasons, too many and complex to list here. Thus, The European Christmas Concert on Saturday, 6. December 2008 was the Choir's last public performance.
The Choir wishes to take this opportunity to thank its many friends and audiences who have supported the Choir so faithfully over 28 years of joyful music making.
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