Sr Colleen Roberts RSJ, Founder of the Catholic Schools Music Festival writes:

‘Choral singing has the power to lift spirits and change lives.’

Source unknown.


I was a Music Consultant with the CEO introducing Primary School Teachers to a Vocal Based Music Education Programme.  Logically, the next step was to involve these students in Choral performance.  Choral Music was and is a passion of mine.

I had long wanted our Catholic schools to combine with the Primary Schools Music Society Festival.  They suggested I start my own.  This was a daunting task given my main role was to the teachers in the classroom.  However, I managed to convince the Deputy Director, Bill Clohesy that I could do both - without sacrificing the standard of work in the schools.  He gave me his blessing and support and the rest is history!

The majority of the schools involved in this Vocal based programme were from what was then categorised as disadvantaged schools. I didn’t want our children to miss out on the advantages that being involved in such a Festival would bring.  Most of these students had never been inside the Festival Theatre.

So, with a great deal of assistance from the Stage Manager of the Public Schools Music Society and with a small committed band of teachers on the committee, we launched our Festival.  We expected the highest possible standard from all students involved in both the Choral and the Support Acts.


Sr Colleen Roberts RSJ founded the Catholic Schools Music Festival. She conducted the first performance on August 16 in the St Peter's College Memorial Hall.
16 schools participated .
There was a massed Festival Choir and 5 Support Acts.
The accompanist for the first Festival was Caroline Pomeroy.

The Festival relocated to the Adelaide Festival Theatre, where it is still being held.
Denise Rothall is made Support Act Coordinator for three years.
Mary Le Page, OAM takes over as Festival accompanist.

The Festival grew to being held over two nights.

Ros Mattner takes over as Support Act Coordinator from Denise Rothall.

Michael Griffin takes over as Music Director from Sr Colleen Roberts.
Ivy Hill takes over as Chariperson of the Music Festival.

Denise Rothall takes over as Music Director from Michael Griffin.

Jonathon Rice takes over as Support Act Coordinator from Ros Mattner.

Due to demand from schools wanting to be involved, the Festival was held over three nights.
Julie Dobo takes over as Festival accompanist.

Deb Hepworth takes over as Music Director.

Denise Rothall takes up the now full-time position as the Festival's Music Director.
Pamela Buccini takes over as Festival accompanist.
Ben Chambers takes over as Support Act Coordinator from Jonathon Rice.

The Festival moved to being held over four nights due to the number of schools participating.

Tim Donovan takes over as Support Act Coordinator from Ben Chambers.

Peter Watermann and Timothy Davey take over as Support Act Coordinators from Tim Donovan.

The role of Catholic Schools Music Festival Consultant is created and Vicki McGregor is appointed to the job.

Timothy Davey takes over as Support Act Coordinator on his own.

Gennaro Mannella takes over as Chariperson of the Music Festival from Ivy Hill.

Stephen Millar takes over as Support Act Coordinator from Timothy Davey.

Samantha Taylor takes over as Festival Coordinator from Vicki McGregor.

Russell McGlone takes over as Support Act Coordinator from Stephen Millar.

James Musci takes over as Support Act Coordinator from Russell McGlone, who maintains his role as Rhythm Section Coordinator.

The year of the state-wide blackout, with 2 shows cancelled, and then re-imagined at St Michael's College in Term 4. 

2017 & 2018
Closure of the Adelaide Festival Theatre due to major building works & plaza renovations;  relocated to the Adelaide Entertainment Centre Arena and Theatre respectively. 

Covid-19! Reinvented the staging of the performances and provided a professional recording studio environment to create 4 distinct concert videos to stream to families. 

Meredith Wilson joins the team to share the role as Festival Accompanist with Pamela Buccini.

2016 Twilight Concert

Statewide blackout - A year to remember!

During the Festival in September 2016, the statewide blackout occurred on Wednesday 28th, and further, on Thursday 29th, the weather alert was announced. Approximately 1,000 school children who had been preparing for their performance for over 8 months, had their performances cancelled. It was the first time in the history of the Adelaide Festival Centre that an indoor event had been cancelled.

In lieu of the weather events, we were delighted to be able to reschedule a concert for as many students as possible whose performance night did not occur.

The Twilight Concert held at St Michael’s College in Henley Beach on Saturday November 19 was a huge success, with the students receiving a standing ovation! You couldn't have wished for a better response from an audience of 800 people, who came to support over 300 students who were able to participate.

From the time the Committee arrived at 12.30 to set up Founders Hall, the feeling was of excitement that we were doing this. St Michael’s College have tiered seating in their hall, which acted as our choir riser, and it worked beautifully. The SMC Friends of Music set up a sausage sizzle which created a wonderful family outing. There were smiles on everyone’s faces.

When the students arrived at 3pm for a short rehearsal, to be honest, they didn’t need it. They were so excited, so prepared, so ready, they were bursting to get out there and perform.

Looking around at the choir trainers, as we ran through the songs, you could so easily see how important this was for everyone. They are to be commended on the extra work put into preparing the students for what was an amazing performance. Our thoughts were also with those schools that were not able to join us for many reasons. You were not forgotten!

Students from the rhythm section, some from the combined boys vocal ensemble and some from the festival string ensemble were also able to perform. All soloists were there including some Year 12 students (even though their time at school had finished), and we had some support acts who were to perform on those cancelled nights, with St Michael’s College providing extra support from their talented Vocal Jazz Ensemble and Big Bands. Pamela even played on a grand piano!

But the moment that was truly special, was having the choir trainers sing (in Italian) the secondary girls vocal line (who were unable to attend) in the beautiful arrangement of Nella Fantasia. It ended up being a magical spot in the program.

Our congratulations and thanks go to everyone for the enormous work you do throughout the year in preparing your students. It is a privilege to work with you all.

Bring on 2017!

Denise                 &               Sam

Musical Director                   Production Manager

Catholic Schools Music Festival Sept 20-23, 2021
Adelaide Entertainment Centre Theatre