Composer / Songwriter / Singer
Image: John Webber
Brooke has had formal classical training in Piano, Harpsichord, and Composition. She completed a Bachelor of Music (Hons) in Composition at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and a Master of Music in Advanced Musical Studies majoring in Historical Musicology at Royal Holloway, University of London.
Brooke's experience in choral singing has translated into the bulk of her composition portfolio being choral music for the liturgy, which has been performed by choirs such as The District Eight (Washington DC); Sydney Philharmonia Choirs; Sydney Chamber Choir; Adelaide Chamber Singers; The Choir of Christ Church St Laurence; The Choir of St James', Sydney; The Choirs of St John's Cathedral, Brisbane; The Choir of Trinity College, University of Melbourne; Ensemble Gombert; The Giovanni Consort; and Sydney Antiphony. She has been commissioned privately and by choirs such as Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, The Choir of Christ Church St Laurence and The Choir of Trinity College, University of Melbourne.
Although classically trained, Brooke has always loved popular music, particularly Scandinavian metal music. She formed the band, Resonaxis, as way of combining metal and renaissance music with the organ improvisations of renowned Australian organist, David Drury. Resonaxis was perhaps the only band in the world with a classical organist.
Brooke’s music has led her to be interviewed on a number of ABC Radio National programmes (Andrew Olle, The Rhythm Divine, In the Spirit of Things), and reviews of her music have appeared in European progressive music magazines and ezines.
Brooke has sung with a number of vocal ensembles in Australia and the UK. She has provided vocals for Nick Littlemore on projects such as Elton John vs Pnau, and White Shadows. Brooke also collaborated with Nick on his Two Leaves Project (Evening of the Sky).
Brooke is a founding committee member of A Distant Music: An Anthology of Australian Sacred Music published by Crescendo Music Publications.
Visit indidem.com for downloads and CD purchases
Brooke’s classical compositions are primarily for choirs, due to her experience of singing in a church choir and other vocal ensembles for many years. Her works have been performed by Australian and US choirs (including Sydney Philharmonia Choirs; Sydney Chamber Choir; The Adelaide Chamber Singers; The Choir of Christ Church St Laurence; The Choirs of St John’s Cathedral, Brisbane; Ensemble Gombert; The District Eight (Washington DC); Sydney Antiphony, The Choir of St James’, King Street, Sydney; The Choir of Trinity College, University of Melbourne. Her works are published by Crescendo Music Publications, and some are available in A Distant Music: An Anthology of Australian Sacred Music.
Praise the Lord; Heavenly Father (Sydney Chamber Choir)
"The only thing better than a concert with a composition by Brooke Shelley is a concert with two compositions by Brooke Shelley. The first [Praise the Lord] was commissioned by a parishioner at St James’ Church, King Street, who rightly wanted it to be a joyful and celebratory piece celebrating attaining the age of 80 (though cf Bach’s more sombre ‘Ich bin nun achtzig Jahr’). This it was. You can tell it was composed by someone classically-trained; it has hints of Baroque polyphony throughout (especially the opening, which was redolent of a Byrd composition), with the harmonies becoming progressively more inventive. Shelley’s Heavenly Father has a deep connection with Schutz’s Musikalische Exequien; it is based on permutations of some of its key musical phrases. Yet again we see the interposition of the old Baroque art of discreetly weaving a hymn into a tapestry of voices – this time being Schmuke dich o liebe Seele. The theme of ‘light and shade’ was captured nicely in the jarring harmonies that accompanied ‘joy’, which gave a delicious chiaroscuro effect."
- Aryan Mohseni, 22 November 2022, Sounds Like Sydney
Ein Bächlein im Bach (Sydney Philharmonia Choirs)
"There was more than one resurrection when Sydney Philharmonia Chamber Singers and Baroque Orchestra performed a “reimagined” St John Passion at a well-attended and long anticipated concert in Chatswood’s Concourse theatre.
The production under the baton of VOX Music Director Elizabeth Scott, which featured two contemporary new works dovetailed into Johann Sebastian Bach’s original score, had originally been planned for SPC’s 2020 season to celebrate the combined choirs’ centenary. COVID, of course, put a stop to that, leaving choristers to keep in practice via Zoom, while audience members made do with their record collections, virtual concerts and streaming platforms for musical entertainment....Shelley’s work was no less impressive, a beautiful interlude near the end of the Passion, taking as its starting point text and music from a Latin motet by Slovenian composer Jacob Handl, which traditionally followed the Passion in Leipzig and uses orchestra and chorus to interject action and motifs from Bach’s score. Its underlying reflective sadness captured the composer’s feelings over the death of a dear friend’s son."
- Steve Moffatt, 5 April 2021, Limelight Magazine
The following works are available on CD:
Emendemus in melius (A Voice from Heaven - Queen's Phoenix) - listen on YouTube
Ave maris stella (In memoriam – Sydney Antiphony)
Messe sans regretz (Metamorphosis – The Choir of St James’)
The Franco-Flemish composer, Josquin des Prez is one of the greatest renaissance composers we have available to us today. Friday, 27 August 2021 marked 500 years since this prolific composer died and Brooke wanted to mark this date by composing a tribute. Having long been a fan of Josquin's music, it was somewhat difficult to settle on one work on which to base the song (needless to say, Brooke steered clear of the 'classics' such as Ave maria and Missa Pange Lingua). Gaude virgo mater Christi plays a cameo in this song of lament about the current COVID-19 situation.
Song for Ruth
Wednesday 27 May 2020 marked the one year anniversary of the death of Sydney mountaineer, sailor, Executive Confidante, Coach and Facilitator, Ruth McCance. A song in memory of Ruth, Song for Ruth, written and performed by Sydney composer, Brooke Shelley is being used to raise funds and awareness for St Laurence House, a charity which has provided accommodation, support and care to homeless children and young people for the past 40 years. Ruth was Chairperson of St Laurence House (2010-2016) and committee member (2007-2016).
ABOUT THE SONG
Sydney composer, Brooke Shelley, wrote Song for Ruth in response to the news that Ruth McCance was missing on a trek in the Himalayas in May 2019.
ABOUT ST LAURENCE HOUSE
St Laurence House (SLH) is one of only very few organisations that provides medium to long-term accommodation for disadvantaged, homeless and at-risk youth. It provides a home for up to ten 13-18-year-olds at any one time, and helps to get them back on track and reach their full potential. SLH is recognised as setting the bench mark in Trauma-informed Care for young people. It has been operating for more than 40 years and has helped thousands of kids re-establish their lives over that period.
So much of the recent success of SLH has been due to Ruth's active involvement.
A Voice from Heaven
The vocal ensemble, Queen's Phoenix, was formed in 2021 specifically to record previously unrecorded works by the Franco-Flemish composer, Pierre de Manchicourt, and two new works by David Drury and Brooke Shelley. Read about the recording here on Indidem, where you can also purchase the recording. Listen to Brooke's work, Emendemus in melius, inspired by Manchicourt's work of the same name, on YouTube.
Sacred Music by Women Composers
In the middle of COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, Brooke organised a small group of singers to record music by women composers that had been recently published in the UK anthology project by Multitude of Voyces, Sacred Music by Women Composers, Volume 2. This volume comprises music for upper voices and Brooke hoped that by recording some of the music included in the volume, it would help to raise the profile of the project, as well as give the small group of singers the opportunity to perform during the COVID-19 restrictions. At the request of the singers, Brooke composed the work, Stetit Angelus, dedicated to The Rev'd Christopher Waterhouse. The publication of the work was reviewed in Choir & Organ Magazine.
Resonaxis was the only known rock band with a choral singer and an organist. It ceased in 2017 due to other projects and the expense of recording and staging concerts. CDs available via the online store.
The Choir Lab
The Choir Lab was an experiment to see what would happen when a group of classically trained choristers were put in a recording studio to sing songs in different genres. This collection of songs, written for trained choristers is available for purchase via the online store on this site.