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The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Chorus is made up of just over 190 volunteer singers – a diverse community of ages, working backgrounds and cultural origins – who come together to make a unique kind of magic. Some chorus members are trained; others have never had a lesson in their life. Some have sung at school or in community choirs and most are juggling full-time careers, university studies and family lives alongside weekly Chorus rehearsals – a commitment that expands into nightly rehearsals during production week. It’s a challenge they embrace for the sheer love of singing together.

Warren Trevelyan-Jones

Chorus Director

The human voice is a unique instrument; expressive and highly versatile, adding a palette of colours to orchestral sound. Of course, the voice can also add words, and the emotions in those words often communicate in a way that instrumental music can’t. It’s a moving experience to see and hear 120 people behind and surrounding an orchestra.

I’ve been the MSO Chorus Director since 2017. I grew up in the UK and started my singing career in Exeter Cathedral Choir. Since then, I’ve performed with many choirs and ensembles throughout Europe, including nine years with the Choir of Westminster Abbey in London.

I love the variety of works the MSO Chorus covers, with 2024 shaping up to be a fantastically varied season. Fauré’s Requiem is also loved by many; it’s one of the most sublime pieces written for choir. We’re lucky to have Siobhan Stagg as a soloist on this piece, which I’m very much looking forward to.

The Chorus relishes learning new repertoire. In 2023 year we worked with American trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis, and it was the most wonderful journey, very much outside our comfort zone. We weren’t quite sure what we were doing or how to do it at first, but we had an expert from New York come to help, and Marsalis himself for production week. It was an almost two-hour piece of immense complexity and yet pure simplicity – a discovery of a wonderful new world and the Chorus lapped it up and loved every minute of it.

Warren’s 2024 choral program highlights: Fauré’s Requiem

Helena Balázs

Second Soprano

Being part of the MSO Chorus is more than a hobby for me; it’s an integral part of who I am. The American composer and conductor Eric Whitacre once said, “When people sing together, their heartbeats become in sync.” It’s an extraordinary experience, transcending the individual for a full-body immersion in the world of music. Call me a choir nerd, but this is who I am. I joined the Chorus when I was just 18 years old. It was 2002, and I had entered the Victorian College of the Arts. Back then, I auditioned for both voice and French horn, and while I got in on the French horn, my love for singing never waned.

After studying, I worked at the MSO in arts administration roles and eventually became chorus coordinator of the MSO Chorus in 2009. I loved it but it meant giving up singing. I then had two children and when I noticed my son’s primary school didn’t have a music program I was inspired to make a career change into music education. I now deliver a music program to 705 primary aged students. But in 2022, I felt a strong desire to return to the Chorus. It was like a magnet. I auditioned and they welcomed me back as a Second Soprano.

Singing with the orchestra, being a part of this remarkable ensemble, and performing incredible repertoire all bring me immense happiness. Some of my most cherished experiences have been with the Chorus, whether it’s touring, collaborating with renowned conductors and soloists, or tackling new and diverse musical styles. Balancing rehearsals, a full-time job and a family is challenging, but the magic of show week makes it all worth it. The volunteer chorus members are a special breed. We do it because we love it.

Helena’s 2024 choral program highlights: Fauré’s Requiem and Handel’s Messiah – “It’s not Christmas without it”.

Shirin Albert

First Soprano

My family says I could sing before I could speak. Growing up in Chennai in India, I would sing along to movies and musicals. Our neighbour suggested I have singing classes and that’s where it all began. When I moved to Melbourne for university, music was on the back burner. I wanted to audition for the MSO Chorus but assumed that I wouldn’t be taken seriously because I’m not from here, and I had the impression all the singers had training at a university level. It was my teacher, mezzo-soprano Suzanne Johnston, who encouraged me to give it a go. She said it would allow me to sing more often and help me get over my stage fright.

I found the Chorus warm and welcoming right from the start. I still love meeting new people in the Chorus, and the chance to sing world-class repertoire and work with conductors from all around the world is amazing. Melbourne is a great city to be in if you love music.

One of my biggest highlights includes the concerts we did with Wynton Marsalis; I’ve been a fan of his for years. I also loved working with Sir Andrew Davis on Handel’s Messiah. He’s worked with the biggest stars in the world and there he was, on stage with us! I loved his quirkiness and sense of humour, as well as his style of conducting. I also learned a lot from Deborah Cheetham Fraillon through Eumeralla, a war requiem for peace, which is sung in Gunditjmara language. I’m now an Australian citizen and I felt such a sense of pride to work with her.

I want to encourage people to audition for the Chorus, especially people from diverse backgrounds. If you can sing, are passionate and have some experience, do not be intimidated or scared. Come and be a part of it. The more the merrier!

Shirin’s 2024 choral program highlights: Kaddish: A Holocaust Memorial Concert, Carmina Burana – “It’s always a party!”

Simon Gaites


It’s incredible to stand and sing with 80 or more singers. You really feel that your body is your instrument and that this group of human beings has a common purpose. It’s a unique feeling of connection, almost like a flock of birds when they change direction and shape in the air; you can literally feel the dynamic of the work and the music changing across the group.

I love the big, bold works like Mahler’s Symphony No.2 and Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. The emotions and feelings I get from a well-known large-scale piece of music are intense, but I also love learning new music, such as Deborah Cheetham Fraillon’s Eumeralla, a war requiem for peace. It was so meaningful and raw and powerful. New music keeps us relevant and ensures organisations like the MSO stay alive.

My day job is in financial services, which can be moderately stressful, so singing in the Chorus is a way for me to disconnect and lose myself in music. I’m also on the MSO Chorus committee, which has some input into the MSO program and helps maintain an open dialogue between the Chorus and the Orchestra management. I played a part in organising the Chorus tour to Singapore in 2024, and I’m keen to help bring the Chorus to the forefront of the MSO’s major partnerships. I’d love to widen the audiences and get more engagement, that’s part of my journey.

Simon’s 2024 choral program highlights: Carmina Burana in Singapore, Kaddish: A Holocaust Memorial Concert and Beethoven’s Ninth.

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