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Lifetime Membership Award

A life devoted to music, particularly the love of voice, has seen Fay Baker honoured by the Sunshine Coast Oriana Choir with the presentation of Life Membership. Fay's career in music has spanned four continents and a variety of roles.

A magnificent contribution

Choir president Melissa Innes said it was an absolute honour to present the award to a woman with such magnificent virtues, remarkable talent and generous character.

"After joining the choir as an alto in 2006, Fay Baker completely blew Oriana away with her piano talent when she took the helm as official accompanist,'' Melissa said. "I feel extremely privileged that Fay has provided absolute world-class accompaniment and piano performance in some of the biggest choral works and compositions available in the world."

"Not a week goes by that I don't reflect on how lucky we were when Fay walked into Oriana's world, willing to offer her generous nature, extraordinary knowledge and perfectionist approach to accompanying.

"There are some awesome people in this world, but they really don't come better than Fay Baker.

"Not only an outstanding pianist and accompanist, Fay also makes an enormously valued professional contribution to the musical aspects of Oriana.

"Her exceptional music knowledge has always been highly valued by Oriana's music directors; on many occasions providing much needed relief and guidance to the choir through stepping up to the mark as assistant music director.

"Fay's resilience and support of the committee over the years has been astounding. In addition to her general 'amazingness' as a musician, Fay is also a genuinely magnificent human being.

"I couldn't think of a more deserving individual than Fay to be the recipient of Oriana's first life membership.''

Fay's story

As an accompanist, Fay believes she has had a very full and exciting life, particularly with choirs. "I started out by accompanying and conducting school choirs. I very quickly decided that I didn't want to be a conductor - sitting at a piano was more my cup of tea.''

So Fay studied piano and cello at The Royal Academy of Music in London for three years. Then after marrying Howard, who shares her love of music, they moved to Africa where they spent two years in Zambia. Hong Kong and New Zealand were the next steps before the big one to Australia.

That was in 1978 and after a stint as an instrumental teacher in the Department of Education, in Brisbane, she took a job at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music as an accompanist in the vocal department. "It was there I met an amazing teacher Margaret Nickson and so began my love of the voice,'' Fay said. "I eventually became the accompanist of the two conservatorium choirs and also the Brisbane Chorale.

"I then joined Opera Queensland as a repetiteur (rehearsal pianist) which was the most interesting job of all, but very difficult. As such, I had to be able to play the whole opera score and also sing all the soloists parts. This was to make sure that I knew their cues so that they could rehearse with me.

"The language was either Italian, French or German or English. I also had to turn pages very quickly and follow the conductor perfectly.

"I got to this job too late in life. If I had known about opera and being a repetiteur when I left the Royal Academy I think I would have gone straight into it. I loved it.''

When the Bakers moved to the Sunshine Coast, Howard and Fay both joined the Sunshine Coast Choral Society as singers, where Fay eventually became the accompanist. Then, with daughter Jen, they moved across to Oriana.

"I quickly decided this was the choir for me and also it was probably going to be the last choir I would be involved with,'' Fay said.

"Many people have said to me that Oriana is like a family and I agree wholeheartedly.

"Now I have the great privilege of working with a delightful, generous, warm-hearted, funny, caring, multi talented individual - Sandra Milliken.

"How lucky am I? I only wish I was 10 years younger.''

Sandra Milliken to remain with Oriana

Sandra's contract as music director of Oriana has been further extended following an initial 12-month contract that involved taking the choir on its 2016 journey, including an overseas tour and their first performance with Queensland Symphony Orchestra.

"These past 12 months have offered the most incredible, supportive, educational, life-enhancing experience to each of us as choristers,'' Melissa Innes said. "Sandra's passion for choral music, and dedication to our organisation through the many hours of preparation, practice and planning is evident every single time we see her.

"And I can attest that Sandra is an absolute pleasure to work with. Her positivism, professionalism and desire to provide new and inspiring opportunities to choristers and our community is remarkable.''

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