Updated: Jan 21
Words by Emma Higgins
The Townsville Choral Society’s ‘Three Cheryls’ - Cheryl Elliott, Cheryl Smith and Julie Dell (who is a ‘Cheryl’ in her own right), have spent a combined total of over 85 years with the Society. These ladies have dedicated thousands of hours sewing costumes, preparing music, preparing sandwiches during bump in, performing in shows, singing with the choir...the list goes on. We sat down with our Three Cheryls following the 2019 North Queensland Eisteddfod for their take on all things Townsville Choral Society (TCS) and what excites them about the future.
Cheryl Elliot, who recently obtained her 30 years badge, joined TCS in 1984 - the first of the three to become a member. After previously being a member of the Broken Hill Philharmonic Society she sought out a society when moving to Townsville.
Cheryl Elliott met Cheryl Smith when the two were parents at the same school; both teachers, who went to the same church. Cheryl Smith soon found herself recruited into TCS thanks to her ‘lovely voice’ at church.
Julie Dell, who is a life member of the society, joined around the same time in 1993 thanks to her daughter who wanted to be part of ‘The King and I.’ The show was the first of many that the three ladies would be involved in together. From there stemmed a friendship, a trio and many laughs.
"...many friendships and relationships built"
The three indisputably agreed that when it comes to eisteddfods they prefer away eisteddfods over those held at home because they really create the sense of the “choral society family”, with so “many friendships and relationships built” through the shared experiences while away from home. They also spoke fondly about friendships with the Cairns and Mackay Choral Societies that are renewed every year over the Easter weekend.
It has been said that these fun-loving ladies ‘crash’ the eisteddfod after parties of the other choral societies! Outrageous, right? The Cheryls avidly deny this saying that they are, in-fact, invited, due to the many friends and connections Julie has made through her position as Secretary of the North Queensland Eisteddfod committee. That's what they've told us - you decide. ;)
'Chariot Children' a most gloriously satisfying win
Discussing repertoire, the ladies noted that the challenging nature of many pieces picked by our conductors kept rehearsals interesting and exciting, reminiscing particularly about ‘Chariot Children’. This difficult ladies ensemble piece was first performed many years ago, becoming a memorable win for the women within that section. Placing first with the tough song yet again in the 2019 eisteddfod became a most gloriously satisfying win.
When questioned about what they were most excited about in the future of the society, the answer came as a surprise. Rather than being excited about a particular performance or social event the ladies unanimously agreed that “The most gratifying thing over the last five years has been all the young people who have been brought into the society.” As a result, the thing they are most excited about is the future they see for the society for many years to come.
"The most gratifying thing over the last five years as been all the young people who have been brought into the society"
The trio expressed that in the past many young people had moved away for university or job opportunities, leaving the average age of the choir sitting at around fifty. Recently however, the choir has “been lucky” to retain many of the younger group. The broad range of ages is something that audiences often remark upon and it contributes to the balance and fullness of tone that the choir produces. The ladies explained that a major aspect of the society is that people are a united “community” with a sense of “collegiality”.
When asked how they would describe the Choral Society in minimal words the three replied in unison, “family.” Continuing to say that it was also a “form of therapy”, with the ability to brighten a bad day or make a tough time a little easier to deal with. They described it as “positive,” then after searching for the right word together they concluded that it was both “life affirming” and “for some people, even life changing.” For the Three Cheryl’s, with so many positives colouring their experience as members of the Townsville Choral Society it all comes down to their favourite part: seeing their friends.
“To those who say they can’t sing..."
The three offered their advice for those considering joining the choral society or any choir or performing company. “To those who say they can’t sing, your voice is a muscle, if you don’t use it, it won’t get any better, [however] the more you use it the [stronger it becomes].” And finally, “Joining a choir is the best thing for you if you want to find out what you can do! Because you don’t know what you can do until you try.”