Leura Singers is under the auspices of Leura Uniting Church, founded by the Milgate Family in 1909. Professor Wesley Milgate has a colourful history being Professor at Sydney University and at ANU. He was a leader in the study of hymns and an organist who travelled from Canberra to Leura each weekend to play for services. There has always been a strong tradition of music in the church, and a singing group would often practise on a Thursday evening and participate in Sunday services. In 1994, Peter and Peggy Goldsmith visited the Isle of Iona where they learnt songs of the Iona Community; these were introduced into services at the church. In 1999, ‘Together in Song’, a national book of hymns replaced the ‘Australian Hymn Book’ published 22 years earlier. This was introduced into the congregation and the singing group was encouraged to learn from it for Sunday services.
The singing group grew in numbers with 24 members and became known as Leura Uniting Church Singing Group. Ron Marks became the Conductor and the Thursday practice was held in Ron & June’s home followed by scrumptious suppers. The convention of a concert and afternoon tea continues to this day – Leura Singers has a reputation of one of the most sumptuous afternoon tea on the mountains!
Following Ron Marks, in 1999, Ian Davies become Conductor. Ian introduced new music and the Thursday practice was at the Uniting Church. The Church was very supportive of the singing group and the then minister, Alan Kilpartick and his wife were active members of the group. Ian moved to Canberra in 2003.
In 2003 a Musical Director was appointed – Walter Sutcliffe. Walter took the singing group in a new direction and introduced composers such as Handel, Bach, Mendelssohn, Schubert, Vaughan Williams, Hubert Parry and John Rutter. The singing group evolved into a Community Choir and was often performing concerts and attending choir festivals. The group started to perform away from the church, and would often combine with Blackheath Phoenix Choir for concerts and festivals – in venues at Glenbrook, Blackheath, Lithgow, Katoomba and Leura. Although the group was still aligned with the church, works by Mozart, Mendelssohn and Bach were introduced. The singing group was still strongly associated with the church and would participate in Taize and Carol services – ‘Carols in the Mall’ each Christmas was another popular event.
A tradition of supporting local charities was started; this has evolved into an annual concert and presentation.
In 2008 the singing group evolved into Leura Singers and a Committee was formed – still under the auspices of Leura Uniting Church.
Walter stayed with Leura Singers until 2011 with his final concert being Handel’s Messiah in which he sang Bass solo as well as conducting. Walter was always ably supported by his wife Ann Sutcliffe both as singer and conductor.
Ben Hurley replaced Walter, and in 2013 was appointed Conductor/Musical Director. Ben took Leura Singers to a new level of presentation and would often combine with other local Community Choirs. A high point was a presentation of Handel’s Alexander’s Feast (aided by a grant from Blue Mountains City Council), a combined performance with Blackheath Phoenix Choir, Leura Singers and Orpheus Strings – at three venues in Glenbrook, Lithgow and Katoomba. Ben stayed with Leura Singers for 18 months.
Currently, Lyn Phillips is Musical Director. Appointed in 2015, Lyn is encouraging Leura Singers to a high level of excellence and exploring new works and presentation techniques.