The Bel Canto Choir is a female voice community choir based on the Mornington Peninsula who perform works in a variety of styles from Classical to Gospel and Blues. Three major concerts are staged each year, each one different from the last, professionally managed by founder/conductor Margaret Brown (see her bio below). Every year, the choir selects a local charity to support, donating all of the proceeds from the end-of-year Christmas concert. We also give a Christmas performance at Morven Manor Retirement Village, and have performed as part of the Mornington Peninsula Choral Festival.
The choir is lucky to have two talented and dedicated pianists, Scott Hamilton and Bev Sleep (see their bios below), who accompany rehearsals and performances, and a hardworking elected committee who ensure the smooth running of the choir.
A Short History of The Bel Canto Choir
The Bel Canto Choir was formed in 2003 by Margaret Brown, in response to interest from several singers who were familiar with her work and sought to join a choir under her direction. The choir began with 23 members and has grown to 40, some of whom have been singing in the choir since its inception. A special 10 year celebration concert was held in August, 2013 when many former members returned to perform.
The choir has recorded three very successful CDs, two of various genre and one of Christmas music.
Margaret began singing in her native Wales at an early age both at school and at church. As a child Margaret also learnt to play the piano and horn. She feels very fortunate that throughout her singing career she has performed as a soloist in all the southern states of Australia, New Zealand and the U.K., performing in venues from The Royal Albert Hall, London to the Hamer Hall, Melbourne. She has also provided vocals on sound tracks for film and TV and performed solo roles in opera and oratorio.
As a choral conductor, Margaret has toured Europe on three occasions. Her choirs performing in concert venues and cathedrals throughout Hungary, Austria, Switzerland, France, and the United Kingdom. One highlight for Margaret and her choir was an invitation to Evensong at St. Georges Chapel, Windsor Castle.
For many years Margaret was an examiner of Singing for the AMEB and is in demand as an adjudicator for choral and singing competitions and choral workshops.
Margaret formed and sings with the small vocal ensemble SoundWaves in 2002 and from that ensemble The Bel Canto Choir was formed in 2003. Both groups are still providing entertainment throughout the community. Margaret is also involved in the music team at The Village Church, Mt. Eliza.
Margaret enjoys travel, reading, crosswords, walking and, best of all, time with her husband and family.
Beverley Sleep, A.Mus.A., pianist with The Bel Canto Choir.
Bev is a founding member of The Bel Canto Choir, singing alto, and she has enjoyed being joint pianist since 2003. Bev’s career in music began very early – as an 11 year old organist for her church minister father’s services. She has been teaching piano since she was 18 up until recently. Bev’s first love is piano accompaniment and she has been involved in many wide ranging performances, including Gilbert and Sullivan light operas and 30 church cantatas and oratorios with a variety of groups in Melbourne including the Juneleigh Singers, Panorama Youth Theatre, MLC and Bentleigh High School. In addition, she has accompanied AMEB students, VCE students and many soloists. Bev is also part of the Musical Team at the Village Church, Mt. Eliza, accompanying services and the choir.
Bev loves spending time with her husband, cruising, walking, reading and especially spending quality time with her three children, partners and six grandchildren.
Scott Hamilton, B.Sc., Grad.DipEd, A.Mus.A., ATCL, LTCL, pianist with The Bel Canto Choir.
Scott was delighted to join The Bel Canto Choir as an accompanist in 2006. He originally trained in microbiology before changing to secondary teaching (science and maths). He also holds an A. Mus. A. in piano and Associate and Licentiate Diplomas in Voice from Trinity College, London which he studied under Margaret Brown. Performance credits include the role of Joseph in ‘Joseph and The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’, Carmen (Melbourne City Opera), Gorro in Madame Butterfly and He has been a soloist with The Melbourne Chamber Choir, The Leading Dramatic Society Theatre and The Bel Canto Choir. He has also performed with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and duets with renowned Australian soprano and recording artist Annalisa Kerrigan. In 2013, he performed in concert with American composer Daniel Carter in Salt Lake City, Utah. Scott has lent his voice to many ABC and 3MBS recordings as part of the Melbourne Chamber Choir. In 2014 an original Christmas composition entitled ‘Come, Little Shepherd Boy’ was published for the first time in the US.
As an accompanist, he has played for numerous theatre productions, musicals, concerts, competitions, examinations, eisteddfods and auditions. In his spare time he enjoys the outdoors, especially gardening and bush-walking.