The Conductor

Widely regarded as one of Australia’s leading choral directors and conductors, Andrew Wailes was the inaugural winner of the prestigious Australasian International Choral Conducting Competition. He enjoys a busy schedule of performing and teaching engagements both in Melbourne, around the country, and increasingly overseas.

Andrew commenced his musical training as a chorister in various Royal School of Church Music choirs and as a Flautist, later studying advanced orchestral conducting with the late Robert Rosen, and voice with David Ross Smith. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree and Certificates in Applied Music (Orchestral and Choral Conducting) from Monash University, and has also worked extensively with international choral conductors including John Rutter, Peter Godfrey and Simon Halsey (UK), Stephan Parkman (Denmark), Rodney Eichenberger and Jo-Michael Scheibe (USA), as well as many of Australia’s leading conductors.

The combined choirs of the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Society and the Melbourne University Choral Society, under the leadership of Andrew Wailes, outlined the passion of this work with aplomb. The dedicated preparation was obvious on all levels: first-class diction, intonation and vocal power were all abundant. The Age (Brahms Requiem)

For twenty years Andrew has directed the Melbourne University Choral Society, and during that time he has overseen the development of MUCS into one of Melbourne’s most respected large choirs. He has directed an impressive number of large scale choral and orchestral works with the choir since becoming its conductor the end of 1992. These include works such as

to name but a few. Many of his concert performances have been broadcast on 3MBS-FM and ABC FM.

...this concert once again gave evidence both of the willing spirit infusing both choir and orchestra and also the organisational prowess of their young conductor. The Age (Bračanin Symphony No. 2)

Andrew has also prepared MUCS for performances for organizations such as the ABC, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Victoria, and the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic, of works such as Mahler’s ’Resurrection’ Symphony II and Symphony VIII, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony ; Dvorak’s Stabat Mater, Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder; Verdi’s Requiem, Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe and Bizet’s Carmen.

In recognition of his dedicated service to MUCS, Andrew was awarded Life Membership of MUCS in 2005; only the second life membership ever awarded by the choir in over sixty years.

The Orchestra was under the skilful baton of Andrew Wailes - a lively, upbeat conductor of a lively and upbeat orchestra... they carried us along with their passion and energy. Geelong Advertiser (The Concert of the Decade)

Andrew holds numerous important posts apart from his position as MUCS Conductor. He has been the Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra since 1998, making him one of the youngest persons ever to hold that position in over 150 years and in 2015 became the RMP’s first Artistic Director. In 2009 he was awarded Life Membership of the RMP, the second awarded to a conductor in the RMP’s history. Andrew is also the Artistic Director and Conductor of The Australian Children’s Choir, having led that choir on numerous tours throughout Australia, New Zealand, Europe and Asia. In 2012 he was awarded Life Membership of The ACC in recognition of over 15 years leading that organisation. He also directs The Chamber Strings of Melbourne.

Conductor Andrew Wailes coaxed some creditable dynamic ranges and phrasing... under Wailes’s musical persuasion, the choir had crisp diction and dynamics. Herald Sun (Fauré Requiem)

An experienced teacher at tertiary level, Andrew has taught and directed choirs at the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Music, the School of Music Conservatorium at Monash University, the Melba Memorial Conservatorium of Music, and at the Australian Catholic University, where he directed the Melbourne Campus Choir and lectured and supervised conducting to honours level for ten years. He has also lectured in Music History at the SAE (School of Audio Engineering) Institute, Melbourne.

A former Principal Conductor of the Australian Classical Players Orchestra, Andrew is also Musical Director of the Box Hill Chorale, and a former Conductor and Life Member of the Monash University Choral Society, founder of the Geelong Philharmonic Orchestra and for three years from 2007 was director and conductor of the prize-winning Symphony Orchestra program at Blackburn High School. In 2010 he became a ‘visiting guest maestro’ at the Escuela de Dirección de Orquesta y Banda in Spain, working with conducting students preparing for the Royal Academy of Music Examinations in London.

Very much reminiscent of a young Sir Malcolm Sargent, conductor Andrew Wailes formed a dashing and elegant figure on the podium, whipping up his troops with fervent energy and passion... In this performance, conductor Wailes controlled an impressive reading of the work, notable for its sense of drama, a wide range of dynamic variation and a canvas of orchestral colors... Wailes provided a tellingly precise focus for both soloists and orchestra. Independent Arts Review (The Last Night of the Proms)

Andrew made his international conducting debut with the Christchurch Sinfonia (New Zealand) in 2001 and since then has been guest conductor of ensembles such as the Stuttgart Radio Orchestra, Camerata Academica Freiburg and Orchester der Universität Stuttgart (Germany), Guangzhou Philharmonic Orchestra (China), Yale Glee Club (USA), Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum (USA), and local ensembles such as Orchestra Victoria, VCA Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Youth Orchestra, Melbourne Sinfonia, Stonnington Symphony and Monash University Orchestra.

Andrew assisted Maestro Valery Gergiev as backstage conductor and extra chorus director for the Kirov Opera’s acclaimed performances of Prokofiev’s The Fiery Angel for the Melbourne International Festival, and has prepared and directed choirs for the Perth International Festival’s performance of Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder with the Australian Youth Orchestra, and co-conducted the world premiere season of Julian Yu’s opera The Posessed for Australia’s leading contemporary music ensemble, Chamber Made Opera. In 2006 Andrew was nominated for a prestigious Green Room Award for best opera conductor, for his work on Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia (Lyric Opera of Melbourne). Other operas conducted include Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, Handel’s Rinaldo, Mozart’s Bastien and Bastienne and Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi.

Under the prodigious musical direction of Andrew Wailes, last Sunday's performance ... did not disappoint ... He restrained his orchestral and choral musicans who, though capable of lifting the roof, provided subtle light and shade throughout the choral classic. Kylie Stotnicki, Sunday Herald Sun (Handel’s Messiah)
While the famous Hallelujah chorus is always a highlight of the production, this year the strains of Since By Man Came Death were exceptionally moving. The chorus delivered both subtlety and strength, providing sweetness and darkness. Kylie Stotnicki, Sunday Herald Sun

Andrew has recorded and directed choral music for many major televised events including 7 AFL Grand Finals, the Australian Film Industry Awards (twice), The Melbourne Cup, the Logies, the Tri Nations International Rugby Series, Melbourne’s Millennium Celebrations, the opening of Stadium Australia in Sydney, 6 International Comedy Festival Galas, the opening ceremony of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, and at the Closing Ceremony of the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games. He also conducted the opening ceremony of the opening of the new SBS Television Studios at Federation Square in Melbourne, and appeared with the legendary American Rock band Kiss and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at the Telstra Dome. He also conducted at the Prime Minister’s Olympic Dinner and the President’s Cup Gala at Crown Casino. In 2016 he was Chorus Director for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

He has prepared choirs for most of Australia’s professional symphony orchestras, and numerous professional recording ensembles for film and television.

... under RMP music director and chief conductor Andrew Wailes' inspired direction, (the combined forces) gave the two-part masterwork a thrilling performance. The music-making defied the amateur status of the 130-voice choir and the excellent 60-member orchestra ... it was the choir that shook the town hall walls and rafters with their volume. Bob Crimeen, Sunday Herald Sun (Mendelssohn’s Elijah)
Conductor Andrew Wailes was in control of all his forces throughout, ensuring confident entries from the choir and band, as well as good balance between the two. The RMP orchestra is neither a permanent nor a full time professional ensemble but it played with purpose and attack. ... The singers are disciplined and attentive ... Martin Ball, The Australian (Mendelssohn’s Elijah)

Andrew has also been engaged regularly as a chorus-master with the Australian Intervarsity Festival Choir in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Hobart, Brisbane, Canberra and Adelaide and has appeared as conductor at major festivals including the Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne and Castlemaine State Festivals.

In 1999 Andrew was the winner of the prestigious Australasian International Choral Conducting Competition in Brisbane, and appeared with the acclaimed Candomino Choir from Helsinki, Finland. He has also appeared with major choirs from the USA, Sweden, Germany, Finland, England, South Africa, Ireland, Canada and New Zealand as guest conductor.

Andrew Wailes conducted intelligently, steering the choir through the dangerous a capella Barber piece [Agnus Dei] and encouraging everyone in the Vaughan Williams, from the unabashed bass drum to Jonathan Bradley at the Town Hall's massive organ, to perform the entire program with full commitment. Clive O'Connell, The Age (Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem)

He has commissioned and conducted numerous first performances of new works by Australian composers such as Peter Sculthorpe, Gordon Kerry, Carl Vine, Stephen Leek, Christopher Willcock, Stuart Greenbaum, John Peterson, Colin Brumby, David Howell, Dindy Vaughan, Jane Hammond and Nicholas Buc, with whom he has collaborated and provided the libretto for a number of major works including the Mary MacKillop Mass, released on DVD following performances in Melbourne, Regional Victoria and South Australia in 2009 and 2010.

Andrew has frequently appeared overseas, performing in countries such as England, Scotland, Germany, Austraia, France, Italy, Slovakia, Russia, Cech Republic, New Zealand, Canada and the United States of America. He has conducted over 50 concerts in more than twenty cities in China (including concerts in Beijing, Tianjin, Xían, Luoyang, Guangzhou, Shenzen, Shijiazhuang, Huanyang, Xin’Ing and Shanghai).

The Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra delivered a vibrant and polished reading. Music director Andrew Wailes conducted with precision and infectious energy urging the chamber-sized orchestra and 100-strong choir to some stirring renditions of the big choir pieces including the famous Hallelujah, Glory to God and For unto us a Child is born. Wailes favouring brisk tempos made for exciting listening. Martin Duffy, The Age (Handel’s Messiah)

In 2005 Andrew undertook a six-week study tour of Russia, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and the UK, observing rehearsals and performances of various orchestras, opera companies, and choirs in cities such as Moscow (The Bolshoi), St Petersburg (The Mariinsky), and Manchester (The Hallé). He returned to China the following year, leading a 16-concert tour to over a dozen Chinese cities by the RMPO, in some of that country’s most prestigious venues. In 2010 he toured to Germany, Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic with the Melbourne University Choral Society, and also adjudicated competitions in Shanghai, Auckland and North Queensland, as well as directing performances at the Festival of Voices in Hobart.

2011/12 highlights included a tour to the UK, including concerts at Canterbury Cathedral and London’s Southwark Cathedral, and to Germany / Austria, as well as another season of twelve opera and orchestral concerts in China with the Victorian Festival Orchestra. He also accepted an invitation to participate in an international conducting symposium and appeared at a series of new music concerts presented by the Weil Institute at Carnegie Hall in New York.

Conductor Andrew Wailes engineered some splendid passages in Sunday evening's reading of The Dream of Gerontius, eliciting a powerful and evenly distributed dynamic range from the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Choir, Melbourne University Choral Society, and the Australian Catholic University Choir; a large body of singers with praiseworthy responsiveness and precision… the female voices gave exemplary service. Clive O’Connell, The Age (Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius)

2013 included tours to China with the RMPO and The ACC, as well as to Germany, Austria, France and Italy with MUCS and the Chamber Strings of Melbourne, and concerts in New York and Auckland. In 2014/15 further tours included the USA and Canada, as well as Adjudicating Eisteddfods in Queensland and at the Washington D.C. International Choral Competition.

Andrew has extensive experience as a singer, with ensembles including Opera Australia, and groups such as IHOS Opera, the ASO, Past Echoes Early Music Group, National Youth Choir of Australia, Vocal Consort as well as numerous professional recording ensembles. Andrew’s experience is extensive both as a chorus member and as a soloist, having performed as soloist in works as diverse as Handel’s Messiah, C.P.E. and J.S. Bach’s Magnificat, Orff’s Carmina Burana, Mozart’s Requiem and Coronation Mass, Ramirez’ Missa Criolla, Stravinsky’s Mass and Rachmaninov’s Vespers (for the Australian Intervarsity Festival Choir and Sydney University). In 2002 he performed the title role in Handel’s Acis and Galatea with Past Echoes Early Music Ensemble, and performed the Monteverdi Vespers of 1610 in Canberra for the 54th Intervarsity Choral Festival, and Bernstein’s Mass with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. He made his professional operatic debut with the Australian Opera (OA) as an Apprentice in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg in 1994, and has performed extensively with ensembles including Opera Australia, IHOS Opera, the National Youth Choir of Australia, Collegium Musicum of Western Australia, the Vocal Consort and with numerous professional recording ensembles. He was a founding member of the Geelong Early Music Ensemble (with which he toured Victoria for Musica Viva). In 1995 he sang opposite Judi Connelli Rhonda Burchmore and Nancye Hayes in Miss Ceremonial Velvet at the Victorian Arts Centre. As a recitalist he has appeared for groups such as the Music Lover’s Society of Victoria and the Victorian College of the Arts, performing works such as Britten’s Serenade for tenor horn and strings, and Canticles (both at the Victorian College of the Arts) Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel and Five Mystical Songs and Schumann’s Dichterliebe.

Since 1998 its reputation for fine music-making has been entrusted to the inspirational leadership of Music Director and Chief Conductor, Andrew Wailes. Audiences have come to expect uplifting, dynamic performances with carefully nuanced attention to detail. On Sunday evening that is exactly what they got… the orchestra responded to Wailes’ brisk tempi with enthusiastic energy. As with the choir, attention to detail added to the drama and vitality of the entire performance. Heather Leviston, Arts Hub Review (Handel’s Messiah)

Andrew is a former President of the Australian Intervarsity Choral Societies Association (AICSA), and Artistic Director of the Music Glenelg Take Note Music Festival, and is in demand throughout Australia as a workshop leader, guest conductor and adjudicator. He also founded the RMP Aria Competition in Melbourne and is a consultant to several International music organisations.

Andrew mentors and teaches a number of Melbourne’s emerging young conductors, and is listed in the inaugural edition of the Who’s Who in Victoria and the International Edition of Strathmore’s Who’s Who.

The highlight of the program was Prokofiev’s great cantata, Alexander Nevsky. After hearing this wonderful performance I have to wonder why it is not heard more often. However, its massive concept and complexity could only be tackled by a few choirs in this country – and they would need the support of a great orchestra. On this occasion both factors were present plus, in Wailes, a conductor who could hold it all together. . The choir impressed with the rounded sound needed for Russian music, and singing that was harmonious and full... I could not imagine a better performance – even in Russia! Suzanne Yanko, Arts Hub Review (Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky and Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances)