In 2018, I was handed the keys to a choral Rolls-Royce, the Sydney Chamber Choir, to be both its mechanic and driver. As its new Music Director, I’m responsible for planning the seasons and developing programs to appeal to audiences and choristers in equal measure, just as a mechanic is responsible for looking after a prized car. But I’m also responsible for driving that car in rehearsals and performances. I spent most of 2018, my year in the wings, studying the road maps – thinking through particular pieces of music, planning how I would rehearse and perform them. Then 2019 came around, and I found myself up out of the armchair and working with the singers.

Sam Allchurch with the Sydney Chamber Choir. Photograph © Pedro Greig

More than anything this year, I have come to really understand the unique qualities of the choir and how to exploit them as much as possible. There is a high level of precision in everything they do – pitches, rhythms and clarity of text rarely cause problems. And because the singers are excellent sight-readers you can get down quickly to the business of interpretation.

In most cases,...