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NEWS AND PUBLICATIONS > From the Archives > From the Archives - 50 Years of Music Festival

From the Archives - 50 Years of Music Festival

On 25 March, our School community came together to celebrate the anniversary of this beloved Loreto Normanhurst tradition.
1995 - conductor Sarah Nowlan (1995) with Barry Choir, The Hills Centre
1995 - conductor Sarah Nowlan (1995) with Barry Choir, The Hills Centre

2022 is a big year for Loreto anniversaries; together our community has marked the 200-year jubilee of Teresa Ball, 125 of Loreto Normanhurst and 50 years since our Music Festival was founded. 

Last Friday, 25th March, we gathered together at the ICC, Darling Harbour to celebrate a night of music, felicity and house-spirit. The rain certainly did not dampen the occasion; this year's theme 'A Journey of Empowerment' shone through in each song selection, and all performances demonstrated the talent and hard-work of our girls. 

A big congratulations to Kendall (best choir) and Kuring-gai (Spirit Cup) houses for their award-winning choral performances, and to all students for their involvement. 

To mark the evening's special anniversary, our program and displays paid tribute to previous Music Festivals. We were also delighted to have had the opportunity to hear from Sr Deidre Browne IBVM, the founder of our Music Festival in 1972. She shared her thoughts on the occasion, which you can watch below: 


As Music Festival has traditionally been a bursary event, the Year 12 Bursary Committee also launched the 'Hottest 50' - a playlist of songs sung in previous Music Festivals. Voters were encouraged to make a donation to the Bursary Fund or purchase a special edition Music Festival pin. 

The top 3 songs, as chosen by our community, were: 

  1. Somebody to Love - Queen (sung by Mulhall, 1993, and Kuring-gai, 2019) 
  2. It's My Life - Bon Jovi (Maye, 2021) 
  3. Africa - Toto (Ward, 1995 & Ward, 2012)

Congratulations if you were among the winners! If you'd like to listen to the playlist, you can stream it on Spotify here. We'd also be grateful if you considered making a donation to the Bursary Fund, which you can do through the Giving page

If you would like to purchase a 50 Years of Music Festival Commemorative Pin, there are still some available for sale here. 

The First Music Festival 

An initiative created by Sr Deirdre Browne IBVM, the inaugural Music Festival held on 14 July 1972 was met with much excitement and enthusiasm. Quite different to our contemporary format, the first Music Festival was the 'grand finale' to several rounds of the competition. There were 14 different entry categories, including folk song and variety, piano and vocal acts, composition and creative ballet. House choirs performed both a spiritual and a set secular piece. 

On the evening itself, audiences and performers packed into the School hall (the Deirdre Rofe Centre). It was the first time the four school houses competed outside of a sport setting; the occasion also resulted in the creation of house music leaders and roles for student conductors and accompanists.

Ward house won best choir and Barry received the Margaret Evans Music Trophy. 

Left: Sr Deirdre Browne IBVM, Centre: 1972 Music Festival programme cover; Right: Margaret Gallagher with the Margaret Evans Music Trophy

Margaret Evans (Class of 1976) was generous enough to donate her prize-winning essay earnings towards the commission of a music trophy. Carved by Sr Francine, the trumpeting angel trophy was named in her honour and eventually became known as the Spirit Cup. You can read more about Margaret's story and the trophy here

Helga Palmer (Burfitt-Williams, 1972) was the winner of the senior vocal solo on the evening, singing 'White Heather'. Helga has very generously donated her winning music medal to our School Archives Collection, which we are immensely grateful for. 

Music medal awarded to Helga Palmer (Burfitt-Williams, 1972) at the inaugural Music Festival

All participants enjoyed the evening of performances and friendly competition. Sr Deirdre was elated with how the School responded to the Festival. In the 1972 LN School magazine, she reflected, 

"It was a wonderful beginning of a tradition that I hope will grow with the years and continue to retain the genuine qualities of happy group music making and co-operative creativity."



The Times They Are a-Changin'

2002 Music Festival at the Sydney Town Hall

Still with the same level of student involvement, creativity and heart, Music Festival has inevitably evolved over its 50-year history. With the increasing number of performers as well as concert-goers, Music Festival has 'toured' several venues, from the DRC to The Hills Centre, Sydney Town Hall, the Opera House, the State Sports Centre, and finally the International Convention Centre. The format of the evening has become less of a grand finale, but the culmination of months of rehearsals for the entire School. 

Kathleen Kelleher (Lodder, 1983) fondly remembers her time participating in Music Festivals, as the accompanist and then conductor for Mornane. The Music Quiz was an evident highlight from this time, just as Light Entertainment became a much-loved feature for other Music Festivals. 

1989 Music Festival - Light Entertainment

Music councillors - Katherine Frost (1995) and Clarissa Qasabian (1995) reflected in the 1995 LN School magazine, 

"Unquestionably, [Music Festival] was the high point of the school year, and it was our privilege and honour to be so closely involved in its preparation. Despite some stressful occasions in the weeks leading up to the big night (what do you MEAN we can't use the Hall?!?!?), the pride we felt that night is something we will never forget."

There have been some 'big' performances over the years, including the 1984 Boarder Choir's legendary performance of Bohemian Rhapsody - Queen, and considerable change in music tastes also (however, you'll still hear a few 'throwback' songs from time to time!). 

Despite how things may have changed over the past 50 years, the core of this tradition has remained. One of the most anticipated dates of the school community's calendar, it is hard to imagine a Loreto Normanhurst without Music Festival. May we have many years of this wonderful occasion still ahead! 

We would love to hear from you; please comment below your favourite Music Festival memories. What did you sing in your year? Did something funny happen at rehearsals or the auditions? Have you continued your love of music since leaving LN? 

Please enjoy looking at our timeline of Music Festival over the past 50 years. 



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