Singing and friendship ? those were two of their favourite things
By EMMA CORNFORD
IT IS a cold Tuesday evening, but inside the Cathedral parish centre it's warm as a group of 13 ladies hold their weekly gathering.
They take their seats and when Gwen Berman takes her position at the piano, the ladies open their plastic ring binders. As her fingers dance along the keys, the group bursts into a rendition of My Favourite Things from The Sound of Music.
They are the Grafton Singers and the song is a fitting one, given their love of singing. But for these ladies, an era will come to an end next Saturday when they perform their final concert.
There will doubtlessly be tears ? some of the ladies have been in the Grafton Singers for more than 50 years. And with such long-serving members, the group is as much a family as they are a choir.
"We've all been through a lot of things together," says Joy Zietsch.
"Some members have died. Some have lost husbands and friends and those things we've all been through together. But there have been a lot of happy occasions as well. It's been wonderful."
Over the past 50 years, the group has performed almost every Gilbert and Sullivan musical and has a plethora of stories to tell. They even work out when which musical was performed according to who was pregnant at the time.
"Someone was always about to have a baby," says present-day conductor Elaine Taubman, laughing as the group recall the time a heavily pregnant singer, suffering from morning sickness and donned in a kimono for a Mikado performance, was outside 'vomiting her head off' just minutes before taking the stage. From Coffs Harbour eisteddfods to performances at Casino, there are stories which have followed every performance. Once the all-female group was penalised at an eisteddfod by an adjudicator who accused the male conductor of singing along.
"But he wasn't a singer at all," says Margaret Cowell.
"It turned out to be a man in the audience who happened to know all the words and was singing along. But the adjudicator had a real go at us."
Most of the Grafton Singers are also members of other choirs, so it is the social aspect of the group which the ladies say they will miss the most.
"When we used to rehearse we'd play table tennis and all sorts of things. That part of it has always been really good," Mrs Zietsch says.
The Grafton Singers Farewell Twilight Concert will take place on Saturday, June 3, with all proceeds from the $5 admission fee going to Clarence Valley Early Intervention.
The afternoon will begin with wine and cheese from 3.45pm. The concert will start at 4.30pm and audiences are guaranteed an entertaining performance.
"We've been around a long time so it will be a sad day," says Mrs Taubman, "but we want to go out with a bang ? not a whimper."