Lifestyle The Arts Breathing Life into a Requiem
Breathing Life into a Requiem
Written by Mr Peter McClelland

 

WASOs-singing-doctors-Susanna-Fleck--Katie-Langdon-Olga-Ward-Jenny-Fay-and-Moira-WestmoreWASO's Singing Doctors, Susanna Fleck , Katie Langdon Olga Ward, Jenny Fay and Moira Westmore.And you thought a 36-hour intern shift was tiring? Talk to Bentley GP and Rural Health West’s Dr Olga Ward, who sang her vocal cords to a standstill in Hong Kong where her choir, the WASO Chorus, performed with the Hong Kong Philharmonic under the baton of Dutch maestro Jaap van Zweden.

“The man does not know the meaning of the word tired. He’s very detailed, so he just pushed and pushed. Most of us were as shattered as when we used to work 36 hours as interns.”

Olga, who is one of six singing doctors in the WASO chorus, took part in the monumental 80-minute A German Requiem by Brahms in December.

“We tumbled off the plane at four in the afternoon and by six we were in a four-hour rehearsal. I think Jaap forgot they we were a bunch of amateurs, but we all pushed ourselves and got to the mark. It was definitely not a holiday but great fun. It’s so nice to think that there is a whole bunch of doctors singing together. The only one who was missing was [retired GP] David Mathias, who is usually at the centre of the group but he had a stroke last year.”

Olga has been singing in the WASO Chorus since 2008 and works hard to keep her place as each chorister has to re-audition for their spot every two years.

“It requires a lot of effort and a lot of work though I’m lucky I speak German. I love the music, the challenge, the camaraderie and my husband also sings in the choir, so it’s something we can do together.”

Fitting music around a busy working life can be a challenge for the singing doctors.

“The hospital-based doctors have to swap shifts, I have a bit more flexibility. I just tell people that ‘Olga won’t be here on the following days’. Katie Langdon is a hospital doctor, Jenny Fay is a GP, Moira Westmore is an anaethetist and Susanna Fleck is an ED doctor.”

The occupational hazard for every doctor travelling abroad is being called to exercise their expertise, and so it was in Hong Kong where a fellow hotel guest had a grand mal seizure.

“Little did she know but she had an ED specialist, two ICU nurses and a country GP to look after her.”

2013 continues to be as busy as the last year ended for the WASO Chorus. It will sing the soundtrack of the first Lord of the Rings movies and then there’s Poulenc’s Gloria and Verdi’s Requiem as a big finish to the year.

WASO will hold auditions for interested singers on Sunday, March 10. Contact Stephen McAllan at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 9326 0051 for more information