BARBERSHOP CHORUS A CUT ABOVE THE REST

The Festival Statesmen Youth Chorus are an all male A capella group who are doing South Aussie proud.

Formed in 2009 by Musical Director and high school music teacher Jonathan Bligh, the group has been busily winning nearly all of the competitions in the state and around the country and are about to release an album.

FSYC have won competitions all over the country.
FSYC have won competitions all over the country.

As if that isn’t enough, the organisation for young male singers also offers SACE units for Year 12 Ensemble Performance Students and annual vocal workshops for secondary school students.

Meeting weekly at Klemzig Primary School to rehearse, Bligh said the group is an excellent way for talented young singers to continue singing at a high standard after they complete school.

“When kids leave school, there really isn’t anywhere for them to sing in Adelaide unless they go to the Conservatorium where they can do Chorale; but there’s nothing really for young guys to sing in,” he said.

“I started a quartet at Charles Campbell College as part of my job as a music teacher and then I took them interstate to a Sydney competition. Then I started up another quartet at the school and then my own quartet so I thought, might as well make a chorus!”

The group have about 30 members ranging from 17-31 years old.
The group have about 30 members ranging from 17-31 years old.

Since then, the Festival Statesmen have grown to about 30 members and have won countless competitions including awards at AUS-ACA Vocal Australia State Final Competition, the National Barbershop Competition in WA, ‘Club of the Year’ in Australia, and Choral Excellence award.

But winning prestigious accolades isn’t all the Chorus do. Bligh said they also offer opportunities for the young men to build skills in other areas of music.

“It started to give young guys an opportunity to perform at a high level, and in addition to the singing there’s a forum for them to upskill in leadership. We also have our own arrangers and composers and administration so there’s lots of opportunities for them to develop new skill sets,” he said.

Although there’s a rigid five week audition process, Bligh said commitment and a willingness to learn are the most important traits to be a Festival Statesman.

Founder and Musical Director of Festival Statesmen Youth Chorus, Jonathan Bligh.
Founder and Musical Director of Festival Statesmen Youth Chorus, Jonathan Bligh.

“We’re not exclusive by any means but we do have two main requirements and they are: firstly, a willingness to learn; and secondly, to adopt the Chorus culture; so they have to come in with an open mind and a willingness to take stuff on board and fit in,” he said.

The group work incredibly hard to take out competitions but the group of 17 to 31-year-olds are also often asked to play at parties, events and festivals.

“We have done gigs at the Convention Centre, the SA Training Awards night, we sang at the induction of the Grand Master of the Freemasons at the Entertainment Centre, Carols by Candlelight in Elder Park,” Bligh said.

“We just went to Queensland to headline at the Pemulwuy Festival. That’s a male voice choir festival with about 500 male singers from around Australia from little tackers of around eight years old to senior guys in their 70s.”

An exciting development for the group is The Festival Statesmen Youth Chorus’ debut album being set for release at their 5th birthday concert.

The concert and album launch will be held at Star Theatres on Sir Donald Bradman Drive and is open to the public.

“The album is a cross section of our repertoire over the past five years. We started out as a Barbershop so there’s some of that on there. Then there’s some classical, some folk and some contemporary A capella. There’s a bit of Jersey Boys and The Misty Mountains from The Hobbit,” Bligh said.

Statesmen in action.
Statesmen in action.

The members of the group are from a range of backgrounds and stages of life. One member owns his own business, one is studying Theology to become a priest, one studies physics and some are still at school.

But they all have something in common and that is their love of singing and commitment to the Chorus and each other.

Member for three years, Benjamin Bamford said he loves being in the group because of the support it offers.

The group support each other onstage and off.
The group support each other onstage and off.

“I enjoy singing with the guys on stage and at rehearsal,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for them. It’s nice to be there and do what I love and be around people who feel the same. There’s a lot of support both musically and personally.”

The Festival Statesmen are about to head off to Melbourne to represent South Australia in the Vocal Australia National A Capella Finals.

Following that, they will perform at the Young Adelaide Voices combined concert at Concordia College before their album launch and birthday concert.

Information about upcoming concerts, tickets to the birthday concert and how to join are available on their website.

Make sure you book your tickets soon, because this award winning Chorus are in high demand.

What: 5th Birthday Concert:
Where: Star Theatre
145 Sir Donald Bradman Drive, Hilton
When: 5th October 2014

Story by Libby Parker

Photos courtesy of Festival Statesmen Youth Chorus

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