Archive for July, 2010


Day 19: visit to the Shanghai Yodak Cardiac-Thoracic Hospital

The Choir had a free morning before visiting the Shanghai Yodak Cardiac-Thoracic Hospital in the afternoon. The first non-profit hospital in China, the Shanghai Yodak Cardiac-Thoracic Hospital specialises in diagnosing and treating Cardiac and thoracic disease, with patients travelling from all over China for treatment.

The Choir began their visit to the hospital with a warm welcome from the Hospital staff and the Heart to Heart volunteers. Choir leader Philip Mathias responded to the welcome speeches in Mandarin before proceeding in English translated into Mandarin by Choir member Josie Tam. The Choir then sang several songs including a new Mandarin song titled ‘Mother is the greatest person in the world’ (shi shang zhi mama hao). A large audience of sick children and their parents quickly gathered and the Choir gave out gifts before breaking up into groups and playing with the children at the afternoon play session – a daily activity run by Heart to Heart volunteers for sick children and their families.

Many of these sick children have congenital heart disease and for poor people, particularly those that live in rural villages, paying for heart surgery is out of the question. Congenital heart defects are often fatal and without treatment children that do survive may have related ailments such as serious chest infections and a debilitating lack of energy. For rural children going to school often requires walking up to an hour each way – the consequence for children with a congenital heart defect being that they cannot attend school.

The ‘Heart to Heart’ organisation is a non-profit community out-reach organisation formed by expatriates living in Shanghai. These fantastic volunteers donate their time and raise money to give support to disadvantaged Chinese children hospitalised in Shanghai and Wuxi who are undergoing heart surgery to correct congenital heart defects. In Shanghai Heart to Heart volunteers conduct fundraising activities with the proceeds going towards either sponsoring a needy child’s heart operation, or the purchasing of new books, toys, clothing, food and blankets for hospitalised children. Volunteers also collect and distribute clothing, toys, bedding, and personal hygiene products or any other products that can be used by the children and their families.

If you would like to assist Heart to Heart Shanghai in their wonderful work you can do so by sponsoring the heart surgery that returns these children to good health. For more information please visit their website at or register your interest via email to

Heart to Heart also accepts donations of clothing, toys, personal grooming products, books, blankets and quilts, and they organise school library book donations – you can register your interest by email to

One special case brought to our attention by Julie Martens of MiFan MaMa was that of a baby girl born deaf, blind, and with congenital heart disease. Julie found this little girl lying in an orphanage unable to even hold her head up and took her to Shanghai Yodak Cardiac-Thoracic Hospital where her heart defect was corrected. The baby is currently being fostered by Julie, and she will soon have her eyesight restored in a further operation however, because her deafness cannot be corrected her future remains uncertain. MiFan MaMa is a non-profit, non-government voluntary organisation whose pledge is to help make the life of orphans at Lao Wangs Orphanage in Anhui better through sustained support. Julie and her husband purchase and transport rice, milk powder, and eggs on a monthly basis, and they also transport and give anything that is donated. If you would like to assist Julie and MiFan MaMa in their work with the orphanage you can visit the MiFan MaMa website at or you can contact Julie at (when emailing please put mifan mama in the subject line). For Chinese speakers contact Jane Zhou at or phone (Shanghai) 13795305610.

The Hospital visit concluded with a tour of the wards where many of the gravely ill children were – some of whom will not survive. Most Choir members found this extremely confronting and difficult to deal with however on a more positive note the Choir’s visit did provide some entertainment for the children and their parents, and being able to do anything for the children and their families was a gift in itself. It also gave us an insight into how fortunate we are to live in Australia and made us realise how we often take this for granted.

The visit to Shanghai Yodak Cardiac-Thoracic Hospital was organised by the Australian Group Travel Company (the Choir’s China travel agency) through their ‘Hands on Humanity’ project that aims to create travel experiences that raise the social consciousness and awareness of people, through community service projects with the underprivileged and disadvantaged in the countries people visit while on tour. In particular the Choir would like to thank Australian Group Travel agent Kerryn Whittingham who put an enormous amount of effort into organising not only the hospital visit, but also much of the Choir’s China tour. Thank you Kerryn, we really appreciate your thoroughness and attention to detail as well as yours and Darren’s support during the Shaoxing World Choir Games. For more information about the Hands on Humanity initiative email or visit:

Following the visit to the hospital the Choir frocked up for a photo shoot on the Bund. As always happens this caused a small sensation as Chinese tourists flocked to also photograph the Choir. After another magical evening in magical China the Choir returned to the hotel for a final farewell and thankyou that began with a wonderful speech by Philip Mathias. Philip began by thanking Professor Kevin McConkey, Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic and Global Relations, University of Newcastle and said that without Professor McConkey’s vision and hard work the Choir’s China trip would not only not have been possible, but it would not have been the success that it has. The first class accommodation, as well as the theatres in which the Choir performed, were all personally arranged by Professor McConkey. Although Professor McConkey could not be present this evening, the Choir nonetheless gave him a rousing round of applause in appreciation of his efforts.

Philip also thanked Gabby Jack and Greg Kerr for their effort and commitment as choir members and Events Manager and Choir Manager respectively. Both Gabby and Greg have worked late into the night after a hard day of rehearsing and performing to ensure that the following days schedule was planned down to the minutest detail, while also taking care of the inevitable hiccups that occur along the way. Also central to the daily organisation of the tour were William Nan Jiang, Academic and Global Relations Division, University of Newcastle, and our tour guide Marcie. Both of these Chinese Nationals were extremely patient and kind towards a large non-Mandarin speaking group and without their organisational skills it is difficult to imagine how the Choir would have made it to the majority of their gigs on time let alone half way around China. By way of thanks both William and Marcie were made Honorary Choir Members and they also received small gifts given on behalf of the Choir.  Also thanked tonight for her cultural, linguistic, and artistic advice was former Novocastrian now Beijing resident Catherine (Kate) Croll. Kate has traveled with the Choir for much of their China tour and has not only organised small groups trips to some fascinating places, but she has also been on hand to answer questions about China from the perspective of a Westerner. In addition Kate has been photo and video documenting the China tour and in November this will culminate with an interactive gallery showing of her photos and film in Newcastle.

Last but certainly not least Phillip thanked the Choir for all of their hard work, commitment, and passion, and said that the China trip had not only cemented their position as a great Choir, but it had also cemented the Choir as a group of people who love and support one another.

A final thank you to all of those people who followed the blog and to all of the people who posted a comment – your well wishes really meant a lot to the Choir members. This may be the last blog post for a while however as Philip Mathias concluded, from here on it is onwards and upwards for the Choir and the next World Choir Games are being held in 2012 in Cincinnati so keep watching this space!


Day 18: CD recording in Shanghai

Yesterday was another free day after the Choirs planned EXPO performance failed to eventuate. While some Choir members visited a silk factory, others spent the day exploring the always amazing city of Shanghai. Equally amazing was the performance that evening by the world famous Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe ( see image below.

Today the Choir recorded a CD of all the songs they have performed during their China tour, including the winning songs they performed at the World Choir Games. The Choir also sadly said goodbye to Choir member Nigel Goddard who is leaving after singing with the Choir for the past 8 years. Nigel has made a huge contribution to the Choir during that time- as a Bass singer, a bus-driver extraordinaire, as well as playing a key role in assisting with the organisation of this and previous Choir tours.The Choir wishes Nigel all the best for the future.

Once again the Choir would also like to thank John Dai, Chairman of TEI (Australia) for his assistance in facilitating the Shanghai Media Group (SMG) recording studio, at as well as his generous supply of two buses to transport the Choir over the past few days.

Tomorrow is also the Choir’s last day in China.


Day 16: Competition done its time for fun!

Today the Choir had a well deserved day off as they took the tourist route from Shoaxing, via Hangzhou, on their way back to Shanghai. A tour of Lingyin Temple (a Bhuddhist Monastery built in 326 AD),  a visit to a tea plantation, and a cruise on the West Lake (the symbol of Hangzhou and famous throughout China) were just some of the highlights of the day.

The Choir are staying at the Equatorial Hotel (65 Yanan Rd West, Shanghai, 200040) until Saturday when they return to Australia.



The University of Newcastle Chamber Choir has taken out 3 Gold Diplomas at the 6th World Choir Games in Shaoxing. To briefly recap the Choir entered category 5 ‘Open Mixed Choir’, category 12 ‘Contemporary Music, and category 16 ‘Folklore’. As Nigel Goddard, a singer in the Choir explains, each category was scored out of 30 points. There were five judges for each category and the overall mark is an average of each of these marks. The Choir came first in category 5 with 27.43 points (91.43%); first in category 12 with 24.81 points (82.70%); and third in category 16 with 24 points (80.00%). (The winner of category 16 was only about one point in front).

The atmosphere at the Shoaxing Textile Centre (where the opening ceremony was also held) was electric as more than 420 choirs from 80 different nations mingled and celebrated in the spirit of the Choir Games. Many choirs were dressed in their national costumes, many more waved flags, and almost everyone took photos of themselves with people they did not know but who, like them, had come to Shaoxing because of their love of choral singing.

The Choir is extremely proud of their success and they are grateful for the well wishes and support of their supporters back in Australia. The Choir also acknowledged Choir Leader Philip Matthias today for his skill, dedication, and passion that, together with the effort of each Choir member, have made them a world-class choir.

Chancellor of the University of Newcastle, Conjoint Professor Trevor Waring,  reportedly said to Philip Matthias prior to the Choirs departure that the Choir were to do 3 things while they were in China:

1. Have a great time

2. Represent the University well

3. WIN!

These goals well and truly achieved the Choir now moves on to the last part of the tour- a CD recording to be done in a recording studio in Shanghai comprising all the tour music from the concerts and the competition. It is also likely they will do a concert at the Shanghai Expo as a result of doing well in the competition however this has yet to be confirmed so watch this space!



Day 13 in China: Day 2 of World Choir Games

Today was our final day of competition and the Choir were all on the bus by 7.30 a.m. ready to compete in the Open Competition – Category 12, Musica Contemporanea (Contemporary Music) section of the World Choir Games.

To date the Choir’s supporters on the tour have been the only persons who have watched the other choirs perform. This is because every Choir is given ½ an hour rehearsal time in an appointed room, before being given another 10 minutes to do a sound check in the theatre where they will compete. As every Choir competing in that heat has to do the same, this means there is approximately a 2-hour wait between the sound check and actually competing, and during that time the Choir must remain on the bus. Every Choir is then whisked into their respective competition venue just prior to performing before they are whisked away again as soon as they are finished. As such the only way the Choir can get a feel for who they are up against is through the feedback provided by the supporters on the tour.

Today, as yesterday, while the Choir sat on the bus, the support group watched every competing Choir’s 10-minute sound check. However today, unlike yesterday when the Choir performed at  #8 out of a group of 9, the Choir performed at #4. Accordingly the supporters only saw the performances of the 3 choirs preceding the Chamber Choir. Nevertheless the 10-minute sound checks convinced us that today’s competitors were of a very high standard, with many Choirs made up of relatively young choristers (including some very cute childrens choirs) whose energy and enjoyment of singing was palpable. After our confidence of yesterday it was also brought to our attention that we are not just competing against the choirs in our heat, but rather there are numerous heats for each section.

These concerns aside, the Chamber Choir once again managed to bring their own special energy and experience to their performance and their singing of Morning Fanfare, Wiigen-Lied, Geography VI, and El Hambo again caused a judge to spontaneously applaud, while another was overheard to remark that the Choir was ‘really very good’ and that they ‘had it all’.


Day 12 China: Day 1 World Choir Games

The Choir switched their formal concert attire for jeans, black shirts, and akubra hats when they competed in the folklore section of the World Choir Games in Shaoxing this morning.

The Choir were up against nine other mostly Chinese choirs and the darker colours of their costumes were a stark contrast against the brilliantly coloured, shiny, and often lavish costumes preferred by the Chinese.

Nonetheless the razzle and dazzle of the Chinese choirs costumes quickly lost their lustre when the Chamber Choir strode onto the stage of the Shaoxing Grand Theatre- their performance of Black Swanna, Joyful the Morning, Brave Ned Kelly, and Waltzing Matilda (accompanied by Elliott on the Didgeridoo) awing the large audience.

After lunch the Choir were bussed to the Shaoxing Opera Theatre where they competed in the Mixed Choir Section of the Games. The Chamber Choir were among twelve choirs from China, Estonia, and Indonesia who were judged by an international jury of judges from Lithuania, USA, Russia, China and Australia.

Once again the University of Newcastle Chamber Choir stood out from the crowd – not because of what they wore (formal wear this time) but because of their vocal ability. The Choir’s renditions of Jubilate Deo, Geography 3, Ronde (Trois Chanson), and Bound for South Australia even caused the USA Judge (followed by the audience) to call out their approval and applaud as the Chamber Choir concluded their set.

Max Reeder, a former senior Lecturer in Music Education at Charles Sturt University and the former Director of the Mitchell Conservatorium said he thought that out of all the choirs in the Mixed Section the Estonian Choir posed the biggest threat.  However he also added he thought the Chamber Choir had sung with a great sense of energy, confidence, and style in each of the songs that they had performed. “The consistency of their performance should put the Chamber Choir in a good position for a place if not a win”, Mr Reeder said.

The Choir has a small but devoted group of supporters on tour with them including Max Reeder whose wife Olga is a singer in the Choir. Two other Choir members also have their partners with them and yesterday Newcastle travel agent Kerryn Whittingham, and her partner Darren Whittingham, arrived from Shanghai to support the Choir while they are competing in the World Choir Games.

A special note to everyone who has sent their best wishes- a BIG THANK-YOU- the Choir loves to hear from you so don’t forget to write!

Todays photo’s were taken in the afternoon “Mixed Choir” section and includes some of our competitors.

More competitions tomorrow- more updates to follow soon…


Day 11: Our performance at the opening ceremony of the World Choir Games!

Last night the Choir sang ‘Waltzing Matilda’ to a crowd of more than 10,000 people at the opening ceremony of the 6th World Choir Games in Shaoxing.

The World Choir Games is the largest Choir festival in the world and the Choir were one of only five choirs selected from around the world to perform at the Opening Ceremony of the Games.

Choir Leader Phillip Matthius said that being invited to perform was a huge coup for the Choir. “There are 420 choirs from 80 countries performing at the World Choir Games and being asked to sing at the Opening Ceremony was a tremendous honour.

It is also indicative of the high reputation the University of Newcastle Chamber Choir has earned over the past few years”.

The nationally televised event was a glittering display of song and dance that concluded with the performance by the Chamber Choir.

Tomorrow the competition begins in earnest so after an extremely long (9 in the morning until 10.30 at night) and hot day the Choir were pleased to return to the 5 star luxury of the Mirror Lake Hotel.

following link:  For a quick bite of the World Choir Games Opening Ceremony click on the


The top photo was taken by the World Choir Games Organisers ‘Interkulter’ and this photo features in their blog ‘The 6th Chime’ –

The photos below were taken by this writer however since security was extremely tight (snipers on rooftops, a 1km cordoned-off area with 4 security checkpoints, bomb sniffer dogs patrolling and tear gas canisters at the ready) getting any closer to the stage was impossible.

A recorded televised version of the Opening Ceremony will also be available soon so watch this space!