skip to content

Who We Are

A copy of the Choirs' Policy and Procedures manual is available here.
Potential new members looking for information can go to the Membership tab above or download the "Welcome Booklet".

Mission

The Australian Rugby Choir Inc. is a Choir of male voices, which aims to promote singing in the community both through participation at rugby matches and other community and charitable events. The Choir is a non-profit organisation with the love of rugby and singing for enjoyment binding its Members.

The objectives of the Choir as expressed in its Plan are:

  • To establish, maintain and support a choir of male voices
  • To encourage and promote in the community an appreciation of choral music and male voice singing through regular public performances
  • To train and educate members in the art of choral music and singing and to develop in them an appreciation of love of music
  • To contribute to and support worthwhile community and charitable organisations
  • To foster through public performances support for an appreciation of the code of rugby union football in the ACT and Region.

Strategic Direction

The strategic direction of the Choir is outlined in the Choir Plan. Singing at rugby matches and helping to promote rugby are core activities of the Choir. The Choir also performs by invitation in support of other community and charitable events within the ACT and Region. Here is a comprehensive outline of our performance credentials.

The Members of the Choir aim to have fun singing and bringing enjoyment to others. Other than for charitable events, an appropriate fee may be charged by the Choir to help cover our annual running costs.

Choir Management

Incorporated in 1996 and registered as 'The Australian Rugby Choir Inc.' under the ACT Associations Incorporation Act, the Choir is a non-profit organisation which is governed by a President and Committee structure, which sets the overall direction of the Choir and manages its affairs.
The Committee appoints a Musical Director who leads the Choir in rehearsals and performances, as well as an Accompanist. The Choir has around 60 active members and new members are always welcome. There is also an Assistant Musical Director.

The elected President is Bob Nield, the Secretary is Keith Jones, and the Treasurer is Albert Orszaczky.

Rehearsals

Rehearsals for the Choir are held each Thursday night from 7.30 to 9.30pm at the Curtin Primary school hall, corner Carruthers Street and Theodore Street. New Members are always most welcome. There's a map here>Curtin Primary School

Rehearsals provide an opportunity for voice exercise and warm-up, enjoyable singing in four-part harmony, polishing up on old traditional songs, and learning new songs. Members also use rehearsals as a social occasion to catch up with old and new friends.

Our Repertoire

The Choir sings a wide variety of 50 core songs ranging from traditional Welsh hymns, opera, rugby songs, Christmas carols, popular, comedy and novelty songs. A Repertoire Committee liaises with the Musical Director on suitable pieces.

A selection of music from the current song book is listed here.

Choir Members are encouraged to suggest new items for the repertoire. Members can see recent suggestions by clicking the MemberLink.

Our Performance Credentials

The ARC’s first performance was at the Brumbies inaugural Super Rugby game at Canberra Stadium in March 1996. Since then, the Choir has performed at every Brumbies home game and a number of “away” games. The Choir has also performed at Wallabies matches in Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane and at the Brumbie’s game against the British Lions in 2013.

A regular commitment of the Choir is singing at the Australian War Memorial. The choir sings at major national ceremonies (such as Anzac and Remembrance day) and each year for about a dozen smaller memorial ceremonies.

The Choir is a member of the Male Choirs Association of Australia (MCAA) and has performed at MCAA combined concerts in Canberra’s Llewellyn Hall in 2008, at the Sydney Town Hall in 2010 and Melbourne’s Dallas Brooks Hall in 2012. The 2014 event was locally organised by the ARC and very successful with over 400 choristers on stage at the AIS arena in November.

Large contingents of the choir have performed in concert with the celebrated Welsh operatic bass-baritone Bryn Terfel at New York’s Carnegie Hall in 2008 and in a combined Oceania/World Choir in London as a precursor to the 2012 Olympic Games.

In a year the Choir performs at upto 50 “gigs”. Whilst many are in Canberra for local charity/fund-raising events, weddings, funerals, conventions and nursing homes, sometimes the Choir travels over the border. In recent years it has performed in NSW regional centres such as Goulburn, Orange, Griffith, Wagga Wagga, Boorowa, Parkes, Moruya, Batemans Bay and Young. In 2016 we returned to Boorowa and also performed at Burradoo in the NSW Southern Highlands.

Since 2005, the Choir has held an annual concert for its supporters and this is accompanied by a separate concert specifically for residents of local Retirement Villages. Patronage of these concerts has grown annually to the extent that the audiences have outgrown the capacity of the previous venues. In 2013 the Choir very gratefully accepted the offer of the Canberra Southern Cross Club to make its wonderful Woden facilities available for the annual concert.

The Choir also performs annually with the Royal Military College (Duntroon) Band at its “Music at Midday” concerts in the Canberra Theatre. It has also “toured” the NSW South Coast with the RMC Band and performed with them in Eden, Merimbula and Bateman’s Bay.

Significant Performances

Listed below in chronological order are some of our more significant performances, with links to images where available.
2016
= Regional Concert, Burradoo, NSW Southern Highlands.
= Chief Minister's Concert with the Royal Military College Band, Canberra
2015
= Boorowa Remembers 2015
= DIBP Citizenship Ceremony images
2014
= Male Choirs Association of Australia, AIS Arena, Canberra images
= Regional Concert - Griffith NSW. images
= Regional Concert - Orange with Orange Male Voice Choir. images
2013
= Concert with British & Irish Lions choir, Sydney Town Hall. images
= Regional Concert - Young NSW images
2012
= Male Choirs Association of Australia, Dallas Brooks centre, Melbourne images
= Welsh Choirs of the World! Royal Festival Hall, London, pre-Olympic Games celebrations in conjunction with Bryn Terfel. images
2010
= Male Choirs Association of Australia, Sydney Town Hall images
= Jazz Festival - Moruya NSW images
= Eden Catholic Church, canonisation of St Mary MacKillop ceremony images
2008
= Male Choirs Association of Australia Concert, Llewellyn Hall, Canberra. images
= Carnegie Hall, New York USA - world massed male choirs with Conductor Bryn Terfel images
= Aled Jones Concert, Canberra Theatre – The Choir performed by invitation in support of Welsh baritone Aled Jones.
= Regional Concert - Wagga NSW images
2007
= Music at Midday with RMC Band, Canberra. images
= Gala concert, Sydney Opera House with Australian & overseas massed male choirs. images
= Regional Concert - Parkes NSW
Pre 2007
= 2006 Australia All Over ABC radio images
= 2005 Sydney Opera House (with Lions choir) images
= 2004 Citizenship ceremony
= 2002 Opera by George (at Madew wines winery), Canberra.

Our History

The Australian Rugby Choir Inc - a brief history, 1996 – 2001.

Antecedent – Royals Rugby Choir (1987-1995)
The Royals Rugby Choir was formed in 1987 following a successful tour by Canberra’s Royals Rugby Union Club’s team to England, Ireland and Wales. While their performances on the field were excellent, they were somewhat overshadowed in the after-match festivities, especially in the singing department. After such humiliation at the hands of the Welsh, it was decided to form the Royals Choir to see that such shame would never be visited on them again!

Dougal Whitton, Geoff Didier and Colin Perman of Royals Rugby Union Club were the prime movers in getting the choir idea off the ground in the autumn of 1987. Colin Slater, a prominent singer in Canberra who had formed his own company – Sing Australia Pty Ltd – was invited to visit the club one evening, essentially to teach the choir the National Anthem. Fortuitously, Colin was at the time looking for opportunities to implement his company’s goal of encouraging more people to sing, and teaching Australian songs. After a very successful first session with a choir of around twenty-five blokes, Colin asked if they would be interested in continuing to learn more songs – beginning with ‘A brown slouch hat’.

This eventually led to performances at rugby dinners and other special occasions, as well as singing in a number of high profile productions of Sing Australia, including singing at a 1987 Christmas Concert at the Canberra Theatre with the Woden Valley Youth Choir, the Brisbane EXPO 88 Concert and Australia Day festivities from 1988 to 1991. The Royals Choir was made up of members from all grades within the Club as well as a number of officials and coaches. While the choir stayed together for around eight years, it was difficult at times to keep it going because of the players’ commitments to training and matches. John Hillier was one of the stalwarts of Royals and of the choir, and played a prominent part in keeping it going, while Colin Slater continued to work with them and find the occasional gig. The Royals Choir finally wound up in 1995; it had been a great experience and a great group of blokes.

Australian Rugby Choir
The Australian Rugby Choir (ARC) had its immediate genesis in a discussion between Colin Slater, John Hillier and Bill Salter (also of Royals), during which it was suggested that Colin’s company, Sing Australia, should submit a proposal to the ACT Rugby Union for a choir to provide half time entertainment for the ACT Brumbies games in the newly formed ‘Super 12’ competition. Brumbies CEO Mark Sinderberry was interested in the idea but did not want a choir drawn from just one ACT rugby club. Hence others were recruited into an ‘ACT Rugby Choir’.

A proposal was duly submitted by Sing Australia to the ACTRU, envisaging the formation of a choir of men to sing at the Brumbies home games. The proposal was that the choir be managed by Sing Australia and be independent of any rugby club, so that its members could be drawn from rugby supported from all over Canberra. The proposal was accepted and the task of getting a choir started was begun with Colin’s placement of an advertisement in the Canberra Times. Around seven men turned up at St Judes Primary School, Holder, in response to this advertisement, and were given the challenge of bringing at least two more members each the following week! Basically, this was achieved, and the new choir was under way.

The choir, known then simply as the Canberra Rugby Choir or the Brumbies Choir, was launched publicly at Bruce Stadium on Tuesday 5 March, 1996 – the first home game of the ACT Brumbies. Around thirty members were present and the choir sang the John Williamson song ‘True Blue’ accompanied by the Canberra City Band. Further performances at Bruce Stadium followed on the 9th and 15th of May. These performances were ‘live’, sung to backing tapes, but the sound system left much to be desired with faulty or erratic mikes and speakers.

During this first season, the game that really put the spotlight on the choir was a game against Wales on Sunday 2nd June 1996. The Choir sang both the Australian and the Welsh national anthems with great distinction. The large crowd gave a roar of approval for both anthems but the choir was particularly proud to have performed the Welsh anthem in four part harmony and in Welsh.

Following the end of the 1996 Super 12 season the choir performed at a number of Canberra Kookaburras’ rugby matches at Manuka Oval, but the unavailability of an amplification system made this difficult to maintain. The choir continued to rehearse and to perform at a range of community events, sometimes associated with members of the choir, such as school fetes and business functions. The choir’s accompanist for 1996 was Paul Myers, a student at the Canberra School of Music. Paul was followed by thirteen year old Catriona Ironside, the daughter of a choir member. Catriona was involved with the choir for around five years, and was recognized by the members as an extremely talented accompanist.

Lessons were taken from the initial Super 12 season. A uniform was adopted which consisted of a blue shirt, blue jeans, blue tie, with brown shoes or boots. In order to facilitate ambitions for a wider role and recognition, the name ‘Australian Rugby Choir’ was registered and adopted. It was hoped that the choir might be able to gain recognition from the Australian Rugby Union (ARU), which might lead to involvement in international matches involving the Wallabies. This remains an aspiration. It was decided that, in order to overcome the deficiencies of the sound system at the stadium, the choir would pre-record its songs and mime them in performance. This enabled the choir to perform on the ground without the need to hold music, permitting some experimentation with simple movements. Colin Slater took on the additional role of encouraging the crowd to sing along with some of the songs, with mixed success, not assisted by erratic microphones. Rehearsals moved to St Colomba’s Church Hall, Braddon, where it became possible to have a refreshment break and to divide the choir up for part singing practice. Subsequently, further membership increases necessitated moving the practice venue to Merici College in Braddon.

There were a number of highlights during the ACT Brumbies 1997 season – combining with the RSL Men’s Choir from Dunedin (NZ), singing at the semi-final in front of a crowd of 25,000, the David Campese ‘Legends Dinner’ at the Australian Institute of Sport, singing at the France-Brumbies game with the children’s choir from Telopea Park Primary School, and an appearance on the ABC TV’s ‘7.30 Report’. After the end of the Super 12 season in May, the choir continued from strength to strength with membership growing on almost a weekly basis.

On 25th September 1997, an Incorporated Association was established to manage the choir’s membership matters and social
program. The inaugural President was Denis Blight, one of the choir’s great enthusiasts. Denis was followed in this role at the beginning of 2000 by Wal Cooper who was President until he resigned from the position in 2003. The main role of the choir committee was conceived to be supporting Sing Australia in its vision for the choir and for the promotion of singing in the community.

At the end of 2000, as a result of differences arising between the Committee and Colin Slater on how the group should be run, it was
mutually agreed that there would be a parting of ways.

Colin Slater’s hard work on behalf of the choir continued right up to his departure in early 2001. It took his persistence and enthusiasm
to maintain the ARC’s profile with the Brumbies and in the wider community. The success and constant growth of his Sing Australia organisation in the intervening years is testimony to his musical talents and vision for community
singing.

History of Principal Office Holders

Musical Directors

Colin Slater OAM 1996-2000;
Steve Hladio Jan-Sept 2001;
Andrea Clifford Sept 2001-2011;
Lucy Bermingham 2012-2013;
{Rachel Campbell, interim MD Jan-April 2014;}
Dr Jonathan Powles May-Dec 2014;
Rachel Campbell 2015-

Principal Accompanists

Paul Myers 1996;
Catriona Ironside 1997-2000;
Andrea Clifford 2001;
Tim Hansen;
Ewan ?
above two in 2002-2004;
Karen Da Silva 2005-

Presidents

Denis Blight 1996-1999;
Wal Cooper 2000-2003;
Alastair Crombie 2003-2009;
Neil Fleming 2009-2015;
Bob Nield 2015-