Graduate Singers (Melbourne)
The first meeting of people interested in forming a new singing group — most of whom had sung previously with various undergraduate choral societies, but particularly the Melbourne University Choral Society (MUCS) — was held on 28 February 1964 in a private house in Balwyn, Victoria. The meeting was chaired by Bruce Lindenmayer and Bryan Dowling took minutes; 26 people were present: Don and Meryl Sutherland, Oliver Raymond, Patsy Luke, Patsy Hardy, Vivienne and Don Willis, David Harvey, Duncan Waite, Richard Kirser, Graeme and Lois Saleeba, Gill and John Hensler, Jenny Bailhache, Margaret Turner, Beryl Swallwell, Gail Fairfoul, Freya Headlam, John Inglis, Paul Brotchie, Chris and Lesley de Voil, Bryan Dowling, Marjorie and Bruce Lindenmayer.
A second meeting was held on 28 February 1964 at which motions to form a performing group (the "Performers") and a more social group (known as the "Singers") were passed, and Bryan Dowling was invited to act as conductor, which he agreed to do on the condition that a sufficient number of singers (he thought 16) would join the performing group. A General Meeting was held on 24 April 1964 at which 16 of the abovementioned were present, with the addition of Eddy and Pip Roberts, Joy Brotchie, Diane Booth and Julie Ryan. The group voted to created the positions of President, Secretary and Treasurer, to which John Hensler, Bruce Lindenmayer and Lois Seleeba were immediately elected.
A call for singers was published, that noted the following:
We are mostly derelicts from the various University Choral Societies, who have felt the lack of a good blow, or who have become fed up with the various choirs we have joined. This condition being noised abroad, we have formed our own singing club, as yet un-named ... The 'singers' meet on the FOURTH FRIDAY OF EACH MONTH, at all sorts of places. We then sing for an hour or two, for our own enjoyment, with no performance in mind, much as did the Tudor singing clubs. We then have a bit of supper and go home. The 'performers' rehearse every Monday in Trinity Chapel at 7.30pm, and intend to give public performances from time to time in divers places. They are at present working on the Palestrina Stabat Mater.
A general meeting was then held on 22 May 1964 at which 19 were present, including Helen Raymond, Bole and Christine Martin, Maurice Williams, Xenia Licen and Sue Ross. Annual subscriptions were set at 10 shillings [$1] or 15s [$1.50] for a family, and the name chosen was "The Graduate Singers". The group's newsletter is to be known as Karkana (an Aboriginal word meaning 'to call together'). Numbers were not quite sufficient to hold separate rehearsals, so for a period, these were run jointly with the MUCS 'Small Group'; Bryan Dowling conducted the fledgeling Graduate Singers at their concert in the Assembly Hall on Friday 17 July 1964. John Hensler appears to have taken over as Conductor from an early date (presumably after Bryan Dowling's move to Canberra about this time), but this is as yet unclear.
The minutes of the 1965 AGM, held on 23 April, noted that there were about 35 financial members. Members were invited volunteer to act as conductor for small works performed at the organisation's social events. Marjorie Lindenmayer took over as Secretary and David Harvey as Treasurer. A donation to MUCS for the loan of music was approved. In 1966, the position of treasurer was merged with Secretary and the position of Vice-President created. John Hensler (Pres.), Lesley De Voil (V-P) and Vivienne Willis (Sec.) were elected. Valerie and Harold McDonald joined. At the 21 April 1967 AGM, John Hensler stood down as President (although not as conductor) and Paul Brotchie, Gill Hensler and Graeme Seleeba were elected. Rehearsals began for a performance of the Vaughan Williams Mass in G-minor with the Acadia Singers on 29 October in St Peter's, Eastern Hill (the Graduate Singers sang Choir II), and the group sang Christmas carols for the Pope Road Kindergarten, Blackburn, in December.
The business of the 1968 AGM included a proposal to change the name of the group, although no suitable alternative (The Karkanas and The Karkana Chorale were suggested) was found. Maxine Cadzow was elected Vice-President, and Harold McDonald took over as Conductor. In 1969 the name was confirmed, but it was felt that a committee was too much for such a small organisation and instead there ought simply to be a position of Organiser, to which Sue Ross was elected. Publication of Karkana was suspended and the weekly rehearsal fell back to the monthly social sing. In 1970-71 there were only eight financial members, and a projected performance of a Josquin Mass did not eventuate. Although membership jumped to 13 in 1972, the very existence of the group was in question. A successful concert was, however, given in St Andrew's, Brighton, on 14 May 1972, as part of a weekend Council for Adult Education 'Renaissance and Early Music Seminar' at which 12 singers performed plainsong and organum, excerpts form the Llibre Vermell (Red Book), Dufay's Nobis datus, and (finally) Josquin's Missa Pange Lingua, accompanied by shawm, recorder, crumhorn, trombone and viola da gamba.
On 2 June 1973, eight singers attended rehearsal at St James's East St Kilda. After discussions at 8.30pm it was agreed that rehearsal could still not begin as "present were one alto, no tenors and no 1st basses". At 9.15pm the group adjourned "there having been no attempt made to sing". On 6 June 1974, all rehearsals were suspended due to lack of numbers. On 13 June 1973, Harold McDonald resigned as conductor, being unwilling to spend more of his time on the dwindling group. The Organiser, Sue Ross, wrote to members on 12 July informing then that all activities would be terminated, the Graduate Singers disbanded, and all money donated to the Melbourne Renaissance Players for the purchase of music. A cheque was subsequently drawn for the amount of $31.54, and the organisation ceased its existence.
The association's archives, consisting of a minute book, members' address book, copies of Karkana and a correspondence file (passed from Sue Ross to the possession of Greame and Lois Saleeba, thence to the AICSA Archivist), are deposited with the AICSA archives at the National Library of Australia.