top of page


Colors in the Choral Aesthetic: the soloist and the ensemble  

The art of ‘solo singing’ often abandons the importance of the ensemble skills that are crucial for our young singers who aspire to be professional artists. The singing teacher is often concerned that the developing soloist will be asked to blend, rather than sing with their solo colour, and they are consequently hesitant to allow their singers to sing in a choir.


In response to an evolving world view of the skills and attributes today's solo singer must acquire, it seems inevitable that choirs and voice teachingin the 21st century must reconsider their sound worlds and work together.


In New Zealand, we aspire to create a strong and supportive relationship between the choral rehearsal and the studio, and a partnership between traditional choral music and the music from Maori and Pasifika cultures. Such collaboration has ensured a healthy vocal technique with vibrancy and flexibility, coupled with stylistic understanding, and the desire to engage equally with the roles of the soloist and the ensemble.


In our choral rehearsals, expertise in language, story-telling and vocal pedagogy is no longer left solely to the conductor. Matters of vowel colour, breathing and language, both in rehearsals and sectionals become the domain of the vocal coaches and teachers. As a result, conductors have the possibility to create a sound world for the ensemble, inhabited by both solo and choral aesthetics.

Dr Morag Atchison is one of New Zealand’s leading sopranos and vocal pedagogues. She studied at the University of Auckland and the Royal Academy of Music (London), was a Kathleen Ferrier finalist, and a prizewinner in the Royal Over-Seas League Competition. She has sung many operatic roles working with NZ Opera, the NZSO, English Touring Opera and Aspen Festival Opera. In concert she has sung with the Toronto Children’s Chorus at the Glenn Gould Studio, throughout the UK, in Kenya, Seychelles, Australia, and with NZ’s major orchestras and choral societies. Morag also sings with the internationally acclaimed national chamber choir Voices NZ.


Morag is Lecturer in Voice at the University of Auckland, and works as vocal coach to New Zealand’s finest choirs, the NZ Youth Choir, the Auckland Chamber Choir, and Choralation from Westlake High School Girls’ and Boys’ High Schools. In 2013 she was awarded a DMA from the University of Auckland where her research looked at the vocal soloist in the ensemble setting.

Dr Karen Grylls founded Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir in 1998 and the choir has achieved great acclaim internationally in performance and recording. She is Associate Professor in Conducting and Programme Coordinator of Choral Studies at the University of Auckland where she teaches conducting and directs the University of Auckland Chamber Choir. She is also Artistic Director of the Choirs Aotearoa New Zealand Trust, the managing body for the NZ Youth Choir and Voices NZ.  Dr Grylls was Conductor and Artistic Director of the New Zealand Youth Choir from 1989 to 2011, and Artistic Director of Toronto’s Exultate Chamber Choir from 2011 to 2013.


Dr Grylls is much in demand as anadjudicator for competitions worldwide, including the Marktoberdorf International Chamber Choir Competition, Bavaria, and The World Choir Games in Xiamen, China. She is sought internationally as a choral clinician and regularly conducts masterclasses and workshops in Wales, England, North America and Canada.


In 1996 Auckland University honoured her with a Distinguished Teaching Award in Music and in 1999 she became an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for her services to choral music.


Karen is delighted to return as an adjudicator for to the 48thTolosa Choral Competition in 2016 .

Bio en CAT

bottom of page