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LEC Home : About Us : Our Archive
Recent history : The great leap forward : The millenium years : The early years

Our Archive

These pages comprise the choir's online archive. They record our history and provide details of important concerts and commissioned works.

This particular page provides a concise history of the choir. But, if you just want a quick browse, why not view snapshots of LEC's history through:
  - the annual chronicles page,
  - the souvenir programs page,
  - the key concerts page,
  - the key commissions page,
the photo galleries page,
  - the annual highlights page, or 
  - our YouTube channel.

It is due to the behind-the-scenes work of many dedicated people that LEC has grown and prospered over many years. The office holders page records and recognises the service of those who fulfilled the key roles over the years. 

A concise history of LEC

The Leichhardt Espresso Chorus is Sydney's contemporary choir, specialising in Australian art music for choir and orchestra. Since its inception in 1998, LEC has prospered under the leadership of Artistic Director Michelle Leonard and has redefined the capacity of community choirs.

The 2015 program

The 2015 program for LEC starts with Handel's Israel in Egypt in April. In June we present 'Til I end my Song featuring the world premiere of a new suite by Dan Walker with chamber strings and other repertoire, plus Lux Aeterna (Lauridsen). In July and October we join with Australia's premier vocal group, Song Company, to present a Mass by Gerard Brophy in Sydney and Dubbo respectively. And we will produce the 14th annual Carols on Norton in December.

Sublime Songs in 2014

In 2014 we surpassed our previous record number of newly-commissioned pieces, premiering 17 new works. This total included three suites: This Paradise Now by Sally Whitwell (6 movements); Mass of Deliverance by Dan Walker (5 movements); and The Sseucle Song Cycle by Anastasia Pahos (2 movements). We also premiered new songs by Alice Chance (2), Tom Knapp and Owen Elsely, making a total of 17 newly-commissioned pieces for the year. Performance highlights included the S is for Seuss, Silly Sayings and Sublime Songs concerts in June and the G is for Gloria in October.

Community focus (2011 - 2013)

During these years, LEC ran an annual program that was built around four concerts per year. The March/April concert focussed on a work from the classical choral canon. Then, in June, we built a program of Australian art music that included the world premiere if a new work commissioned by the choir for the occasion. In September we participated in the Moorambilla choral festival in Baradine and Coonamble as choir-in-residence. And at Christmas time we produced Carols on Norton for our local community in Leichhardt.

In promoting choral music to our communities, we extended our reach beyond the annual Moorambilla festival and Carols on Norton. In 2011 we worked with many musicians in Sydney's inner-west to stage a Queensland Flood Appeal concert at very short notice. The following year we produced A Marrickville Messiah in which a massed choir sang Handel's Messiah after a weekend of workshops open to all members of the community. Later in 2012 we joined with a number of local and overseas Chinese choirs to sing the Cantonese cantata Ask the Sky and the Earth at the Sydney Opera House.

In 2013 our Ristretto chamber choir was privileged to be able to work with Australia's premier vocal group: Song Company. They combined to present Howls of the House in Sydney and Canberra before the full LEC choir joined Song Company to sing this program in Coonamble during the Moorambilla choral festival.

Also in 2013, LEC started Espresso Kids, enabling kids from Sydney's inner-west to sing regularly in a choir and to have the experience of singing with an adult choir and orchestra at LEC concerts. 

Notable programs included Sonnets and Sax (2011); Eternity and Grace (2012); Magnificat Luminosity (2013) and Aesop's Fables (2013). 

Click on any of the following links for a detailed chronicle of the choir's activity in the given year.

      2011 chronicle      2012 chronicle      2013 chronicle 

Growth (2008 - 2010)

By the end of the first decade of the new millenium, LEC had grown into a large choir comprising 80 to 100 singers for most performances. While we continued to welcome all singers without audition, we established a reputation for innovation and for giving a very good choral sound in every performance. This was reflected, for example, in our performance at the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre for Sunday Live on ABC radio's Classic FM in March 2009. 

Then in early 2010 we performed three shows for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo at the Sydney Football Stadium. 
We continuoued to commission fresh new Australian music, including suites by Dan Walker (Lines in the sand and Seven Deadly Sins) and Luke Byrne (Salmos de Santiago and Such Country) and songs by David Basden, Andrew Schultz, Billie McCarthy and Sally Whitwell.

Notable programs included: Deadly Confessions (2008); Midwinter Messiah (2008); A Moment to Breathe (2009); Beyond Bach (2009); Carmina@Carriageworks (2010); Haydn's Heiligmesse (2011); and Sonnets and Sax (2011). LEC also produced the Queensland Flood Relief Concert at Marrickville Town Hall in 2011 which raised $11,600 for the Premier's flood relief fund.

LEC continued to develop the annual Carols on Norton concert in Leichhardt's Pioneers Park, provided to the public for free thanks to the support of the Leichhardt Municipal Council and our other partners. In 2011 we celebrated the tenth anniversary of Carols on Norton. We also participated in the annual Moorambilla Festival in western NSW as choir-in-residence.

Click on any of the following links for a detailed chronicle of the choir's activity in the given year.

      2008 chronicle      2009 chronicle      2010 chronicle

The great leap forward (2006-2007)

Towards the end of LEC's first decade, the choir took some big strides forward. Our aim to always give audiences a very good choral sound was recognised in August 2006 when we were awarded second place in the NSW final of the ABC Classic FM Choir of the Year Awards. Our evocative performance of new Australian art music struck a chord with both audience and judges.  

Later that year the choir traveled to Baradine and Coonamble as choir-in-residence for the first Moorambilla Festival to be staged in western NSW. This festival was a great success and has gone from strength to strength over subsequent years. Moorambilla became an integral part of LEC's annual calendar as a wonderful contribution to our aim to promote the value of choral music in our community and especially to remote rural communities and to children. Carols on Norton was also developed in 2006 and 2007 with this aim in mind. 

During February 2007, LEC had the wonderful opportunity to perform 8 concerts with the Lost and Found company and their show Stomp at the Sydney Opera House as part of the annual Sydney Festival. This show was the sold out hit of the festival and a great experience for LEC. Later that year we recorded two songs that were used by the Sydney Theatre Company in its production of the play Lulie the Iceberg.

Notable programs that we produced during this period include: Mass of the Children (2006); In Times of Distress (2007); and Luce (2008). We also performed at the 2007 opening of Carriageworks (Singing the space) and at the Harmony Concert (2007).

      2006 chronicle       2007 chronicle

Millenium years (2002 - 2005)

During the early years of this millenium, LEC went through a process of refining the choir's identity. The outcome was a focus on commissioning new music, mentoring children's choirs and working with rural and local communities.

2002 was a huge year for the choir with lots of new projects, including our very first commission, Paul Jarman's Outback Suite. We took this music on a very successful tour of western NSW. Many of the singers from that tour remained at the heart of the choir for many years later. After the tour, we brought a bus load of outback children to Sydney to help us record the tour music on CD. And we rounded out the year with the first ever Carols on Norton which has since been established as an annual institution for the Leichhardt community.

The next couple of years saw us focus on bringing choral music to rural and local communities. Our Artistic Director, Michelle Leonard, initiated the Moorambilla Festival in 2003 at Paddington Town Hall where LEC premiered Dan Walker's Freshwater Suite. We continued to participate in that festival as it developed over the next few years.

LEC had to extend its capability in order to do justice to Carl Orff's Carmina Burana in 2005. That we succeeded was reflected in a wonderful performance that revealed a real step up in our performance standard.

This experimental phase of the choir's development concluded as it began: with a tour of western NSW in late 2005, featuring the Freshwater Suite as well as new songs written to celebrate the centenary of Narrabri (Paul Jarman's Narrabri) and the sesqui-centenary of Coonamble (Jarman's Ride the spirit).

      2002 chronicle      2003 chronicle      2004 chronicle      2005 chronicle

Early years (1998 - 2001)
During its early years, the Leichhardt Espresso Chorus laid the foundations for the strong and vibrant organisation that it has since become. 

The formation of LEC in 1998 was an initiative of Elizabeth Mulrennan of Leichhardt's Norton Street Bookshop. A notice in her shop window flushed out ten keen people who "simply wanted to sing". They decided to call themselves Leichhardt Espresso Chorus to reflect the local area's reputation as the coffee hub of Sydney!

Months later, a fledging group of 22, under the tutelage of Michelle Leonard, performed the first concert at Leichhardt Public School.

The choir rapidly found its feet. By the end of 2001, LEC had participated in a performance of David Fanshaw's African Sanctus at the Sydney Town Hall, sang John Rutter's Requiem at St James Church and released two CDs.

      1998 chronicle      1999 chronicle      2000 chronicle      2001 chronicle

LEC's first publicity photograph. Four of this group sang in the choir for many years: Maria Criado, Shae Fleming, Kate Allnutt and Cath Stevens.