Monday, May 27, 2024

Denmark’s singing soul has a place for every voice

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Denmark’s singing soul comprises folk, barbershop, gospel, world music, sea shanties, early music, new music and Baroque.

There are many local choirs to perform at the Denmark Festival of Voice which opens with a Welcome to Country from Aunty Avril Dean, Uncle Lindsay Dean and the Noorditch Dancers at 5pm on Friday, May 31 at the Arts House.


This year, Stephen Taberner of Spooky Men fame, will lead the Big Sing, preparing a mass choir over two days to sing their hearts out in front of a large audience.

It’s an extraordinary experience and the best way to be thrown in the deep end – singing wise.

The Festival of Voice from May 31 to June 3 provides an introduction to community singing at its best.

Now in its 21st year of operation, this is an unparalleled opportunity to check out Denmark’s, and WA’s, singing scene.

Throughout the year lots of singers – those who need to get away from the pressures of home, family and work and do something that doesn’t take a huge commitment – take part in choirs.

They find singing gladdens the heart, makes their soul blossom and puts them at peace with the world.

“Ah, but I can’t sing,” many might say but if you can talk, you can sing.

Anyone aged from 0-90 and older can sing.


Denmark Village Singers is an ‘introductory’ community choir that offers unison singing of everybody’s favourites, often with guitar accompaniment, from prepared songbooks.

If you have never sung before or are coming back to it after a long break, this is the choir to get you started.

They meet every Thursday at 3.30pm at the Uniting Church.

Entry is by donation and you can come and go as you like.

Contact Ken Smith on 0419951601 for details.


Another choir, Eklektika, was established as Denmark’s community choir 20 years ago with the intention of being an inclusive choir which welcomes all comers to the joys of group singing.

That remains its vision today.

Directed by Lesley Taylor, the choir sings unaccompanied in four-part harmony with a repertoire of songs from a range of eras and cultures.
Eklektika divides each year into two projects.

The first runs from February to early June, in preparation for the Festival of Voice.

The second runs from late July to December and prepares the choir to sing in the All Souls by the River ceremony in late October and in carol performances in December.

During the year, the choir also performs several times in the Blue Wren Lodge.

Eklektika’s second project for 2024 begins on Wednesday, July 30.

The choir meets weekly on Wednesdays from 5.30-7pm at the Uniting Church.

There is a small weekly fee of $5.

New members are welcome and anyone can simply come along to a few rehearsals to give the choir a try.

For more information, contact Lesley Taylor on 0468 967 070.


Soundbites is a smaller, mixed voice choir that offers a wide range of genres, including barbershop, world music and folk.

They performed recently at the 2024 Katanning Harmony Festival.

At present they are working under the nom de plume of ‘All at C’ in preparation for the 2024 Albany Shanty Festival.

A little further afield, Sonia Anderson runs a mixed choir, Sing for Joy, in Mt Barker that laughs a lot and sings predominantly gospel, but also picks up some numbers sung by Denmark choirs; all the better for getting together as opportunities arise.

Sing for Joy meets on Wednesday nights at 7pm at the RSL Hall in Mt Barker.

Sonia travels with a bunch of choir members each week from Denmark.

Contact Sonia on 0437 521 972.


The Yin and Yang of Denmark community choirs, the Wren Thomas’s Femonics and Ashley Schipp and Iven Manning’s The Great Danes explore the choral sea each Thursday evening.

The men set sail from the Sanctuary and the women from the Yoga Centre, seeking musical gems that inspire the spirit.

Each company is happy to take on board any hardy souls willing to take the risk of the journey.

The two choirs come together each season to share in a celebration of song.

Whether under the oaks of the nature park or on the banks of the Frankland, singing for one another and together is uplifting.

The Great Danes will perform at the DFOV in the Civic Centre at noon on Saturday and both choirs will participate in the ‘Understory’ workshop down by the river at 10am Sunday.

Contact Wren Thomas wrenbbethan@ gmail.com or Ash Schipp schippahoy@hotmail.com for details.


Woven Women’s Ensemble welcomes singers, with some experience, from across the Great Southern to join in rehearsing and bringing to life Driftwood and Feather, local composer Louise McKenna’s new story/song cycle.

In the spirit of Louise’s original song cycle, When Birds Take Flight, Driftwood and Feather draws on the the imagination to open hearts and minds to the natural world.

Rendered in blends of contemporary, jazz and classical harmonies, featuring lyrics derived from the poetry of Jen Fraser, and accompanied by an invited chamber group, this multi-piece musical suite portrays the flight paths of birds across the world.

Rehearsals are on Tuesday evenings, and some Sundays (optional), at Kwoorabup Nature School, Crellin Street, Denmark.

Practice is fun and recently Nola Formentin has been engaged to work on vocal technique.

Contact Jen Fraser on 0403 850 092 or Louise McKenna on 0417 641 509 and/or come along to a rehearsal for a taste of what we’re about.

Both Driftwood and Feather and When Birds Take Flight will be performed at the Denmark Civic Centre on December 1.

Attendees will experience the journey of songs that map the cycle of setting out, arrival and return, the call from womb to world, the pull and push of growing up, the shilly shally of nurture to release, from caged to wild, the path from innocence to experience.


Finally, for anyone who wants a challenge and to develop their musical skills, Swanharp Ensemble, supported by Denmark Baroque, has embarked on a five-year project to explore the works of JS Bach through workshops, rehearsals and performances in the Great Southern.

A choir and chamber orchestra has been established for that purpose.

This choir requires proficient sight readers who can learn complex, fugal music independently.

It’s a challenge but rewarding for those who are into Baroque and early sacred music.

The choir is working on BWV140 Wachet auf, an ruf der Stimme which will be presented with Australian Baroque at The Dam on Wentworth Road on June 14.

Choir rehearsals include movement, choral development and coaching to refine vocal technique.

They are held during school terms on Thursdays at 5pm in the Uniting Church.

Fees are $200 for a 10-week term.

From Term 3, along with a Beloved Bach show, work will begin on Handel’s Messiah for a Christmas collaboration with Albany Choral Society, Albany Chamber Orchestra and Australian Baroque.

Harken to our heavenly harps, poetry and song at Denmark Festival of Voice on Saturday, June 1, 10.30am at the Denmark Civic Centre for A Feather on the Breath of God.

Contact Shamara de Tissera 0410386292 or Vicky Wilson 0429479564 for details.

Denmark Bulletin 16 May 2024

This article appeared in the Denmark Bulletin, 16 May 2024.

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