About Us

The St Mary's Singers was formed in 1991 by David Russell, Director of Music at St Mary's Cathedral.

He had been keen to broaden the scope of the cathedral music and this was being discussed at the end of 1990 and the beginning of 1991 - about the time the St Mary's Cathedral Choir undertook a big European tour accompanied by many parents. A few months later an advertisement appeared in the Cathedral Sunday bulletin calling for interested men and women to form a new choir to be directed by Bernard Kirkpatrick, the then Assistant Cathedral Organist.

A number of choir parents became some of the original members - Jane Cameron, Avril Badder, Pam Smith, Patricia Burns, Lilian Mora, Lydia Merril and Judy Hopkinson.

A committee was formed during the first months; David Russell told members it was their choir and they should run it. Avril Badder was voted President, and except for one year when Damien Byrne became president, she held the office until the 2017 AGM when she decided to step down.

It was mainly due to Avril's hard work and dedication that the choir continued to grow and evolve, and there were several occassions during the intervening years that its future was in doubt.

Under Bernard's direction, the choir regularly sang Vespers on Feast days and Mass on the third Sunday of each month.

There was very little money of course, so the choir raise funds by catering for events - (as choir parents they were well used to the 'bringing a plate' routine). The choir also raised money by singing at weddings, often with Peter Kneeshaw playing the organ. The choir's first venture was at choir member Ray Palmer's wedding. The wedding gigs were mostly at the cathedral, though the choir also travelled to many parts of the city including the Cardinal Cerretti Chapel in Manly, Riverview, North Sydney and Rose Bay.

In 1993 the Singers joined the Cathedral Choir, the Sydney Conservatorium Choir and Chorale, and the Jubilee Orchestra as part of a big Jubilee choir marking the St Mary's Cathedral choir's 175th anniversary. The concert included one of the first masses sung by the Cathedral Choir- John Albert Delany's Mass in A flat and Ave Maria and Charles Gounod's Troisieme Messe Solennelle (de Paques). Two CD's were made of this concert.

During the March 30 1998 committe meeting, Bernard Kirkpatrick announced his resignation. He was due to leave after Easter that year.

Michael Hissey, a well-known musician who had sung at many big occassions with the Saint Mary's Cathedral Choir, had expressed an interest in becoming the Singer's Director of Music. Following discussion with David Russell, Michael became the Singers' second director. He began on Monday, May 4 1995; at this time the choir consisted mostly of women. Michael planned to increase the choir members and have a full SATB choir by Christmas of that year. The choir also started its own music Library, as until then it was a case of raiding the Cathedral Choir's music.

The choir continued to sing the 9am Mass on the third Sunday of every month and also the 10:30am Solemn Mass when the Cathedral Choir was on holiday. It also joined the Cathedral Choir for the annual Festival of Christmas Carols.

During 1999 weddings were still a fundraising opportunity though there were occassional outside performances including Handel's Messiah at Newington College.

Michael Hissey resigned from the choir on September 1, 2002 and Elizabeth Swain was engaged to take over which she did until 2003. During a brief period while Elizabeth was overseas Margareth McLachlan conducted the choir.

Michael Hissey then returned to direct the Singers in 2003 and was at the helm until the end of 2010.

Oliver Brett became choir director after Michael Hissey. James Goldrick joined as accompanist and at times when Oliver was away, took over as Director.

Thomas Wilson occassionally directs the choir and for Christmas 2017, the choir is delighted to welcome Doug Tang as conductor and Peter Kneeshaw as organist.

Organists for the St Mary's Singers include Peter Kneeshaw, Dominic Moawad, James Goldrick, Michael Butterfield, David Drury, Titus Grenyer, and others. Lauris Hansen was also an accompanist.

Early days choir members include Linda Allen, Ray Palmer, Jan Peasnell, Michael Dado, Edmond Park, Robert Stove, Esme Kreller, Jack Christie, Helen James, Pam Smith, Margaret Hills, Rachel Nolan, Meri Rios, Vincent, Catherine Stevens (now a Carmelite nun), Michael Cannon.

Founding members who still sing with the choir include Avril Badder, Lydia Merrill, Lilian Mora, Jane Cameron.

At the 2017 AGM, Chrissie Goldrick was voted President up until the 2022 AGM.

Current Organizing Team 

Peter Gluyas, President
Lynette Jetson, Treasurer
Jan Boon, Secretary
Susan Gordon, Membership Secretary
Chrissie Goldrick, Concert program coordinator
Louise Butterfield
Genevieve King
Kerry Stubley, Missive

Permanent Volunteer

Benni Pagdanganan - IT, Practice Tracks, and Web
Helen Hobbs, Gabrielle Claridge, Susan Staron - Librarians

Why I sing with St Mary's Singers

Just a few stories from some of the members of the St Mary's Singers choir. 

Avril Badder, Alto

I have been a member of the St Marys Singers since the first rehearsal when the St Mary's Singers was formed in 1991 by David Russell, then Director of Music at St Mary's Cathedral. During that time I had been on the committee in some capacity, as President for quite some time (1991-2017). 

I sing alto and have always sang in my parish choir but when my son joined the Cathedral Choir, I gave that up as he had to be at the Cathedral every Sunday.  I, together with some parents, went overseas with the Cathedral Choir and when we came back there was a notice in the church bulletin of the intention to form a miixed choir.  Our Director at that time was Bernard Kirkpatrick who is now Director of Music in Parramatta. 

I joined my local Musical Society as a teenager and performed many  musicals.  I have a great love of the Cathedral and thoroughly enjoy singing in the St Mary's Singers.  I have made wonderful friendships during my time in the choir.


Benni Pagdanganan, Soprano

It is a privilege and my great pride to sing at the beautiful St Mary’s Cathedral with the St Mary’s Singers. I admire the passion and dedication of the members of the St Mary’s Singers.

In 2014 I join the choir and my technology bond with a previous late member led me to develop and maintain the choir’s website, YouTube channel and social media platform, pro bono. I also replaced the choir’s email service. Not a pro in music, I self-taught in music notations using software to create practice tracks for the choir. I did two years of piano but no time to practice.

I was drawn to singing in church since my childhood years because of a close relative. In almost all Catholic groups I join in, I am always with the praise and worship team doing music ministry. I believe when you sing you pray twice.

With the Filipino Catholics in Sydney, we formed a choir that sang at St Jerome’s Parish for many years. We did several concerts and visits to nursing homes during Christmas to sing for the residents.

Singing at the St Mary’s Cathedral is a source of joy and energy for me, Thanks to all that have been the choir’s Director and Conductor.


Lydia Merrill, Alto

I became a founding member of the Singers almost by accident. My son had joined the St Mary's Cathedral Choir when he was nine, so when David Russell, the then director of music was forming a mixed voice choir and invited any interested choir parents to the first rehearsal. I decided I would like to be part of it.

I had not sung since school and I don't read music and, I still don't know what a B Flat looks like and I wouldn't recognise a C Major chord, but I wanted to give it a go.

Avril and Jane were there and I remember sitting next to Esme (who also had a long association with the Singers) and just watching the notes. Esme helped me a great deal and each week my confidence grew.

I love singing choral music but have no desire to be a "soloist". During the years our choir has grown and improved and, since taking on the membership portfolio a couple of years ago I have enjoyed it even more. I seem to have daily inquiries from singers interested in joining us and I love trying to persuade them to come along. We even receive emails from overseas from people who have discovered our website.

I have made some wonderful friends and, can honestly say Mondays are the highlight of my week.