Published 18 May 2022
For many in our UNSW community, the Choral program is more than a cerebral experience. It is a place of expression, creativity, a space of social engagement and belonging.
The bedrock of this special and unique world is Choral Director, Sonia Maddock. This year marks a major milestone, with Sonia celebrating her 20th anniversary as Director of UNSW’s Choral program.
Sonia has developed and inspired thousands through her in-depth knowledge of choral repertoire, and her tireless commitment to making quality music education an accessible and inclusive experience.
Since its founding days under Patricia Brown, the Choral program has been, and continues to be, open to everyone: UNSW students, staff and community members.
Perhaps the most tangible proof how it can bring the community together is embodied by Sonia’s story itself. She and her husband are both UNSW alumni, having met in the very UNSW choir she now directs and in which he continues to sing.
With two main parts to UNSW’s Choral program, Sonia leads and programs: the Collegium Musicum Choir, a 60–80 voice choir that is not auditioned, and the Burgundian Consort, an auditioned chamber choir open to elite singers, consisting of 12-20 members.
Rehearsing weekly, members participate in rich learning experiences performing a diverse range of repertoire including substantial choral works from the canon. A highly rewarding experience, the Choral program is underpinned by programming that is well informed and supports diverse voices. Sonia’s advocacy for Australian music and the performance of Australian choral music at UNSW is a quality that we see interweaved in her curation of these programs.
Emerging composers also find their place on UNSW stages through Sonia’s active involvement in the Willgoss Choral Composition Prize, which showcases and celebrates the choral writing of an emerging Australian composer each year – the backlist is impressive and includes industry recognised and respected composers Elizabeth Younan, Philip Eames, Ronan Apcar, Owen Elsley, and Oliver John Cameron.
“Sonia has a natural affinity with Choral music, which was evident the first time she conducted a choir concert (a little nervously) and her knowledge of music in general is far-reaching. Most importantly, she has become a friend and trusted ally who has grown the performance activities and prestige of UNSW,” reflects violinist and Australia Ensemble UNSW musician Dene Olding, who had joined as UNSW staff in 1982.
This term, the Collegium Musicum Choir will rehearse and perform a program of Mozart and Schubert under Sonia’s direction, while the Burgundian Consort sets its sights on a program of Australian music by Chance, Cameron and Eames. 2022 is a particularly sweet occasion for the Choral program, having been held primarily online for the past two years due to COVID-19. During this challenging time, Sonia's commitment to the program remained resolute, nurturing choristers and directing rehearsals via Zoom.
Long-time member of the Collegium Musicum Choir, Rosie Kingsford sums up Sonia’s unwavering commitment to the program. She says, “I count myself luckier than most because I have enjoyed Sonia’s leadership as Choral Director of the CMC for two decades, ever since she replaced Patricia Brown in 2003.
Even before this, I remember her secretly orchestrating a wonderful surprise choral piece, with clever lyrics and beautiful vowel enunciation for the retiring Patricia. She then 'soldiered on' (as she often says!) through her first year as Director, pregnant with her first child, right up to her delivery date. And the rest is history. We all love Sonia.
Rosie continues: "She effortlessly organises her choristers from the youngest to the older, like me. Her enthusiasm and wonderful sense of humour weave a special magic which gets the best out of us, as one. Sonia is also there through thick and thin, no more apparent than over the last two awful years of COVID with remote Zoom rehearsals to keep us going: a brief musical respite each week for us under lockdown. Over the past two decades, many Burgundians and CMC choristers have come and gone, enriched by the wonderful experience of Monday and Wednesday evenings with Sonia at the helm. Every week Sonia leads us through great music, uplifting us and culminating in wonderful concerts. Sonia, congratulations, thank you and looking forward to the next two decades."
UNSW alumna and former Music Performance Unit (MPU) staff member Elizabeth Hayllar expresses similar sentiments: "It was a privilege to work with Sonia. Sonia is extremely knowledgeable and endlessly generous with her time. As a member of the MPU team in Sonia’s first year as Choir Director, I could see the important role the choir played in UNSW’s community, and was able to observe Sonia’s dedication and significant contribution to the program from day one.”
Two decades later, Sonia’s dedication continues to shine. On behalf of the MPU, and all past and current members of the Choral Program, we take our hat off to you, Sonia. We thank you for your lasting contribution and vision for Choral music on campus. Congratulations, here’s to another twenty years of music making at UNSW.
Please visit the Music Performance Unit for more information.
This article was written by Eleasha Mah, Creative Program Manager, Music Performance
Portfolio of the Pro Vice-Chancellor Education & Student Experience