The Wooltones sing again...and you can join them
Published 18 March 2022
The Woolltones almost became a COVID casualty but through sheer determination, hard work and passion, this dedicated Woollahra Community Choir is singing once again.
Thanks to the financial support of a Woollahra Council revitalisation grant, which was designed to help businesses, community groups and individuals rejuvenate the local Woollahra area after a tough few months in lockdown, The Woolltones relaunched on 17 March 2022 and are welcoming all singers - new, nervous and returning.
All voices are welcome
The Woolltones Choir is a daytime choir and meets weekly on Thursdays from 12.45pm - 2.45pm at Uniting Heart and Soul of Woollahra church on Ocean Street (no audition required). While the choir welcomes people of all ages, the meeting time is especially appealing to retirees and older singers (who may be less comfortable going out at night, when most other choirs meet). While many choirs generally attract female singers, The Woolltones are keen to also build up their male voices over the year ahead.
"One of the joys of joining a choir is meeting a wide range of people. Our members come from a variety of ages, backgrounds, nationalities, as well as varied musical experience," shares Lynn Ralph, The Woolltones choir co-ordinator.
"Singing is a wonderful activity (with proven health benefits!) and our choir welcomes people no matter their ability," adds Lynn.
How did The Woolltones first get its voice?
Back in October 2017, Woollahra Council was looking to initiate activities for the 55+ community, and quite a number of people had expressed interest in singing in a choir.Tanya Christensen, the Musical Director of the successful Monday Nightingales choir, was approached by Woollahra Council to start a new singing group.The choir was launched in February 2018 with about 35 members.Soon after, choir members were asked to offer suggestions for a choir name. Popular entries included ‘Woollahra Warblers’ and “Ocean Voices”, but the winner by a large margin of votes was ‘The Woolltones’!
When The Woolltones almost stopped singing
COVID hit just as the choir had kicked off rehearsals for 2020. Face-to-face meet-ups were soon cancelled, but the members were still keen to keep singing and connect online via Zoom.
"Whilst Zoom was a godsend for many, for choirs who thrive on the amazing harmonies that many voices can make, it was a sadly lacking solution. After weeks of singing alone into a screen, most members found it unsatisfactory, and the choir effectively ceased during each of the lockdowns," explained Lynn.
"Our choir, which by early 2020, had grown to over 60 members, slowly declined to under 30, with the resulting loss in revenue."
However COVID's biggest impact on the choir, was the loss of their Musical Director, who like so many others in the music industry, found it necessary to take other employment.
"With no Music Director, it looked like the choir might fold, until a few dedicated choristers decided to try and re-launch in early 2022 - with all fingers and toes crossed that COVID restrictions would ease and vaccination roll-out would be successful!" added Lynn.
Life after COVID
With the relaunch of The Woolltones, the goal was to retain as many of the features of the choir which the members have always loved. So the choir remains an ‘unauditioned, all welcome’ choir; the repertoire remains wide and varied; the rehearsal and concert venue is the same and the choir have retained the services of their wonderful accompanist, Dewi Lui.
The signifiant change for the choir was the appointment of Naomi Cooper, the new Musical Director.
"Not only is Naomi a very experienced community choir conductor, but she really understands and supports the ethos of The Woolltones," said Lynn.
Dr Naomi Cooper, Choral Conductor and Dewi Liu, Choir accompanist
Behind the Scenes
If you are wondering what happens during a typical Woolltones rehearsal, Lynn explains that they start the session with a good physical and vocal warm up.
"We spend the first 15 minutes getting our bodies and minds ready to sing! Rehearsals are a mix of learning new repetoire and improving songs we have already learned," Lynn said.
The choir sings a wide and varied repertoire. From classical and opera, to Beatles and Broadway. There’s something for everyone!
"Reading music isn’t essential, as during rehearsal our wonderful Music Director, Naomi Cooper, teaches each part through simple listening and repetition.
"Members really enjoy the combination of the challenge of learning new music whilst having fun. And, of course, there is plenty of time for socialising!" adds Lynn.
The Woolltones perform twice each year - in July and December, presenting a concert for family, friends and the community. The concerts are held at Uniting Heart and Soul of Woollahra church on Ocean Street.
What is the charge to sing as part of The Wooltones?
There is a fee of $15 per session. Members are asked to sign up for a term (which typically aligns with the school term) of approximately 10 weeks for a cost of $150.
However, Lynn explains that the choir believe that no one should be prevented from joining due to financial hardship, and there are a small number of places available at a significant discount.
How has Woollahra Council’s support and financial grants helped the Woolltones?
"Without the financial support of the Woollahra Council, The Woolltones simply wouldn’t exist," Lynn says.
"It was Council’s initiative in 2017 to start the choir and the start-up was supported financially with a grant. Given our ‘piggy bank’ was literally empty, the choir’s 2022 re-launch would not have been possible without a Revitalisation grant from Woollahra Council," adds Lynn.
Join The Woolltones
Join The Woolltones community choir and have fun. All singers welcome - new, nervous and returning. Learn good singing techniques, a wide repertoire from popular/show tunes to classical and music from around the world and have fun. No audition. Ideal for seniors/retirees.
When: Every Thursday (during school terms) 12:45pm-2:45pm
Where: Uniting Heart & Soul, Cnr Ocean & Forth Streets, Woollahra
Woollahra News e-newsletter
Subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter Woollahra News and get updates delivered straight to your inbox.