A day may be a long time in politics, but a century in the life of a choral organisation seems epic in comparison. The story of how the Hurlstone Park Choral Society became the Sydney Philharmonia, and as such, one of Australia’s leading choral outfits, contains elements familiar to choirs anywhere: the challenges of recruitment, commitment and personal politics, together with the need to balance repertoire choices against remaining solvent. Written by four former choristers, this is also the story of Sydney’s musical life for the last century seen through a choral lens.

A Choral Century

Central are the benefits flowing to city and choir from the establishment of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in the 1930s, enabling exposure to world-class musicians, bringing both challenges and rewards. Dynamic director, Peter Seymour further enhanced the Philharmonia’s profile, embedding it as a vital part of Sydney’s musical scene, a trend continued by subsequent directors.

Aided by the Philharmonia’s extensive archive, the authors have brought honesty and at times, diplomacy to their task of chronicling such a colourful history. Given...