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About the Hamilton Singers

Hamilton Singers is a community choir based in the Western District of Victoria, Australia.

We are farmers and farmers' wives, a printer, teachers, scientists, secretaries, nurses. Some of us have driven over 100 km to get here. We are not auditioned; most of us are music amateurs, but in the true sense of the word. We are a mix of ages, and our voice range covers the SATB repertoire.

The pleasure of singing in a choir, of being one of the voices in the big smooth sound, is still what holds us together. We grow to 40 singers at times, shrink to 20 at others, often influenced by the cold winter nights and the long country drives which many of us do to practice each week.

Sounds informal, doesn't it? Well it is, rather. But while we are happy to be singing, we nevertheless enjoy getting it right. Our men have been famously remembered by an eisteddfod adjudicator as “national living treasures”. Our conductors (we have had six in our history) have been talented musicians, and we have earned our excellent reputation for fine singing largely through their skills and dedication. There is nothing casual about our concern for quality in our music.

In a small rural city, culture may indeed flourish, and we look forward to another 40 years for Hamilton Singers.


Beth Tonissen
BMus(Hons) Elder Conservatorium of Music, University of Adelaide; AMusA; LMusA (Piano); DipEd; Grad Dip Theology

Beth's great love for music, especially choral music, has developed from her early years singing in choirs; and while teaching music at Good Shepherd College in Hamilton she took on responsibility for training choirs. She passionately believes that "working with choral music allows a teacher to truly share and inspire others in their music-making".Photo - Beth Tonissen

Beth accepted the invitation to conduct Hamilton Singers in 2001. "Choral music allows for open communication of the music in its most emotional and touching state", Beth says. She has taken on her role with Hamilton Singers with enthusiasm, and comments that her "love of choral music has continued to grow" in the process.

(Right: photo of Beth Tonissen courtesy of Helen Lyth)

Our musical repertoire and events

Our musical repertoire is eclectic, and in any one year we may prepare for performance Faure's Requiem, selections from Rodgers and Hammerstein, a Schubert Mass, and Paul Simon songs. We pride ourselves on aiming to represent all the tastes of our members, and of our audiences.

We participate each year in the Southern Grampians Shire's Promenade of Sacred Music, sometimes as leaders in a concert, other times as supporting voices for the Community Concert in St. Michael's Lutheran Church in Tarrington.

We sing for the RSL at the Anzac Day Service, and for the Shire in the Botanic Gardens for Australia Day.

Annually the choir participates in the Western District Choirs Festival, which rotates host cities from members as far apart as Millicent to Colac. We also are staunch supporters of Hamilton Eisteddfod; we present a Christmas carols concert, and members travel to Port Fairy to join the Messiah performance there. Over the years we have ventured to other eisteddfods, and, with some success, to South Street, Ballarat.

We have had the pleasure of singing at weddings, sometimes of our own members, and the sadness of funerals, for those whom we have lost.

In between regular commitments, we usually manage to present a performance in Hamilton's PAC, or the art gallery, or in one of the beautiful churches. This varies from year to year, and may take the form of a concert of a range of songs and short choral pieces, or a longer work. Twice we have presented our own “Messiah”.

While this regular round of engagements fills most of our time, the Singers also seek out new experiences. In 2010, following extended negotiations, we were thrilled to host a visit from the Choir of Hope and Inspiration (the original Choir of Hard Knocks) and a workshop with their Music Director, Jonathan Welch.

With the support of the Hamilton Community Music Program, we held a weekend workshop with renowned choral conductor Andrew Wailes. Andrew introduced us to some new music, and taught us some new techniques which we put to use in a short performance.

In 2015, a number of our members were involved in the world premiere of The Day is Ended, a cantata written by Warrnambool-based musician Ken Stott. Members joined with choristers from Warrnambool to perform the work.

Also in 2015, we sang with the Hamilton Strings, Church Hill Singers and Holy Trinity Singers in a performance of Vivaldi's Gloria.

Hamilton Singers Committee

  • President: Jennifer Barke
  • Vice President: Margaret Rutter
  • Committee Secretary: Margaret Rutter
  • Treasurer: Anne Homes
  • Music Librarian: Carmel Schlaghecke
  • Beckie Morton (Incorporation Secretary)
  • Jane Van Herpen
  • Ray Adams

History of the choir

Hamilton Singers began in 1975. Originally it was the component of the drama-music company, "Dramus", that wanted to keep on singing long after the annual musical production took its last curtain call for the season. The Dramus Theatre Choir was formed: so while the more dramatically-inclined took to the stage, the singers squatted on miniature chairs in the infant department of Gray Street Primary School and sang - for the love of it.

We've come a long way since then, of course. We moved into the new Barbara Critten Music Centre when it opened in 1980, and that was our rehearsal home for many years, before we moved to the Hamilton & Alexandra College Music Studio. We now enjoy the luxury of the Kantor MPAC at the Hamilton & Alexandra College. In 1983 the choir adopted its name, Hamilton Singers. In 2003 we incorporated as an Association.

We have acknowledged our history in 2005 and again in 2015 with reunion concerts.


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