Jobs Events Advertise Newsletter

First Nations tenor Elias Wilson joins River City Voices ahead of choir’s first 2024 performance

Phoebe Blogg -

Celebrated for his performances across churches, chamber concerts, operas and musical theatre, classical tenor and proud Biripi man Elias Wilson has joined the flagship symphonic choir for the City of Parramatta – otherwise known as River City Voices  –  for their first performance of 2024, Mozart’s Requiem.  

Set to take to the stage with River City Voices on Friday 17 May at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Wilson said he is thrilled to be joining the choir for the very first time.

“I have known about River City Voices for a few years now - a previous day job of mine was working in ticketing and venue hire at one of their performance venues, Riverside Theatres in Parramatta, and I was so glad to see that a great new choir had sprung up out west,” he said.  

“Sydney is a massive city, and the opportunity for people to get together and share their love of classical music shouldn’t be exclusive to those who are able and willing to trek into the city.

“I’m thrilled to get the opportunity to work with River City Voices this season, and Mozart’s Requiem is an absolute classic. I’ve had the privilege of singing the tenor solo once before, with the Illawarra Choral Society in Wollongong a couple of years back, and I’ve been itching for another go ever since.”

Promotional material for River City Voices, Mozart’s Requiem. (Image: River City Voices)

River City Voices artistic director, Sarah Penicka-Smith first experienced Mozart’s Requiem at The Arts Unit’s state music camp when she was just 17.

“As I was an oboist and Mozart didn’t write an oboe part, I ended up in the choir," she said.

"Although we only worked on the music for a week, I’m constantly amazed at how deeply the music is imprinted in me."

Whilst collaborations are a hallmark of River City Voices programming – the choir has previously joined forces with Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, Willoughby Symphony Orchestra and Choir, Ngarra-burria: First Peoples Composers program and more – this is the first time River City Voices will collaborate with Western Sydney Philharmonic (WestPhil).  

Chair of WestPhil, Max Holzner – an accomplished violinist who is also joining the performance – shared his excitement about working with River City Voices.

“This concert marks a significant milestone in bringing two emerging and dynamic western Sydney-based organisations together that share a commitment to excellence, diversity, community engagement and to fostering pathways for local emerging artists,” he said.

“The tragedy of Mozart’s death partway-through writing the work deeply affected Penicka-Smith’s imagination. It’s the conductor’s job to attempt to solve the musical puzzle Mozart left incomplete. Finding an honest way to tell Mozart’s story through this music – and the story of the people around him who saved the Requiem – is an ongoing challenge.”

Behind the scenes of River City Voices performing. (River City Voices)

For Wilson, who now lives only a block away from Paramatta, joining River City Choir felt like a natural and seemingly convenient opportunity he could not pass up.

“I think of our family as river mob - Nan and her family lived on the Manning in Taree, I grew up on the Cooks River in Belfield, and now I live about a block away from the Parramatta River at Wentworth Point, so perhaps it’s apt that I’m performing with River City Voices this year,” he said.

“I’m excited to get to work with some new colleagues, like River City Voices’ artistic director Sarah Penicka-Smith, and our soprano soloist Alice Girle.

"The Requiem is also a reunion with a couple of past colleagues - I performed onstage with our baritone soloist David Hidden a few years ago with Pinchgut Opera, and I know our mezzo Ellena Hicks through Sydney Conservatorium of Music - so I have more than a few reasons to look forward to the concert.” 

Behind The Scenes of River City Voices performing. (Image: River City Voices)

When discussing 2024, Wilson said whilst he has had a busy start to the year there are lots of projects the talented tenor has yet to engage in.

“The blessing and the challenge of working as a performer is that every year is different," Wilson told Style Up.  

"A few highlights from this year so far have been two concert programmes as part of Sydney Festival, a tour with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, a handful of performances of Handel’s Messiah around Easter, and most recently a children’s opera setting of the Banjo Patterson bush poem “Mulga Bill’s Bicycle” with Musgrove Opera.

“As for the rest of the year, I’ve got a few fun projects in the pipeline, including a performance in July curated by my friend Ria Andriani, called ‘Trace’, exploring music from the perspective of people with disabilities.

"Last year I performed in a First Nations opera, ‘The Visitors’ with Victorian Opera, so I’m also excited to be working with mob on another exciting Koori opera project, so stay tuned for that.”

Aside from being a performer, Wilson also said he continues his work with the Aboriginal Culture, Heritage & Arts Association (ACHAA).

“In between performances, I work for ACHAA, the Aboriginal Culture, Heritage & Arts Association, the peak body for 21 community-controlled cultural centres around NSW,” he said.  

With Wilson’s artistic vocals and the choir’s extensive variety of talented creatives, River City Voices is set to carry audience members through Mozart’s testament of power, faith, awe, and hope. 

For more fashion, beauty and lifestyle news subscribe for free to the Style Up newsletter.


First Nations stories to feature at the Australian National Maritime Museum during Vivid Sydney
Set to feature as one of the many ways Indigenous culture will be represented at...
Phoebe Blogg 23 May 2024
Handcrafted textiles showcased at Boab Metals Ord Valley Muster Art in the Park fashion show
Raptures of applause and cheers sang out from Celebrity Tree Park as nine Indige...
Dianne Bortoletto 23 May 2024
Naomi Hobson's 'WUKANTA: Life on the River' among finalists for 2024 Hadley's Art Prize
Naomi Hobson, a Southern Kaantju/Umpila woman and versatile artist residing in C...
Joseph Guenzler 23 May 2024
Raine Square presents Maar Koodjal, a seven week showcase of First Nations art and cultural experiences
A seven-week celebration will showcase First Nations art and artists during Nati...
Rhiannon Clarke 23 May 2024

   Phoebe Blogg   

First Nations stories to feature at the Australian National Maritime Museum during Vivid Sydney
Set to feature as one of the many ways Indigenous culture will be represented at...
Phoebe Blogg 23 May 2024
JUTE Theatre Company announces Queensland tour for David Hudson’s autobiographical play 'From Campfire to Stage Light'
David Bindi Hudson is set to tour his play ‘From Campfire to Stage Light’ across...
Phoebe Blogg 22 May 2024