Director of Music, Organists and Cantors


Director of Music (DOM)

Noel Debien S.T.B., B.Theol.

Noel_conductingDirector of Music from June 2006- (appointed by parish priest Peter McGrath ofm)

Noel began his musical studies at an early age under the Brigidine sisters, and by 11 was a boy treble in the Choir of St. Augustine’s College, Brookvale in Sydney under the direction of friar and musician Patrick Fahey O.S.A, Peter Bohrsmann and Ann Sutcliffe.

He studied music in the Music department of the University of Sydney under Professor Platt, Winsome EvansPeter Sculthorpe, Nicholas Routley, Allan Marret and Graham Hardie where he sang in Pro Musica Choir, the Sydney University Chamber Choir and the Choir of St James, King st. Sydney 1979-80 (directed by Walter Sutcliffe). He joined the Choir of St Mary’s Cathedral choir in 1981-82 (directed by David Russell), touring Europe with them in January of 1982, and began his theological studies in 1982 at St Columban’s seminary and then St Patrick’s Manly 1983-87. He became the Praefectus Musicae for the Seminary Choir (ATTBB) 1985-87. During this time he founded and directed the Ars Gratia Christi Chamber choir (SATB). On the completion of the S.T.B. (the Roman degree) and the Bachelor of Theology (the Sydney College of Divinity degree) he began teaching at Mercy College Chatswood (1988), where he directed the SSA choir, and then at St Vincent’s College Potts Point (1989-1994) where he directed the SSAA choir. He was also appointed Director of Music at Mary Immaculate church Waverley (1988-94) for the Vigil Masses, and also directed the John Paul Choir. During this period he also sang on Sundays with the Choir of Christchurch St. Laurence (directed by Neil McEwan) and was a member of the concert tour choirs to both New Zealand and Europe. In 1995 he taught theology and literature at the Masaryk University in Brno, the Czech Republic, where he was a professional member of the Brno Madrigal Quintet, directed by Roman Valek, and toured in Europe. He was also a member of the Choir of the Brno Konservatoř (Conservatorium), also under the direction of Roman Valek – competing in the international choral competition at Cantonigros in Spain. During 1995, he also toured Austria with the choir of St George’s Cathedral Limburg (Lahn) under the direction of Hans Bernhardt. On returning to Australia in 1996, he sang with the Choir at St Francis Paddington, as well as subbing with the new professional choir at St James’ King St and the Australian Chamber Orchestra Voices on Australian tour. He was appointed director of Music at St Francis Paddington after the Easter Season of 2006.


Bransby Byrne

Bransby Midnight Mass 2015His private studio in Parramatta and in more recent years in Pitt St Sydney has been a centre of teaching for many students of Singing, Pianoforte, Organ, Conducting, Theory, Aural Training and Harmony. Many students have gone on to professional careers as performers or teachers.

Some important appointments have been:

  •  Organist and Choirmaster All Saints’ Church Parramatta for 13 years directing a boys’ choir of 20 voices and an adult choir of 18 voices. An occasional choir of 25 singers was established to present larger choral works with orchestra [eg. Stabat Mater (Dvorak), Magnificat (J.S. Bach), ‘Nelson’ Mass (Haydn), Ceremony of Carols (SSA with harpist June Loney) (Britten)].During this time, Bransby was Artistic Director for an annual Patronal Festival of Music and Arts. This was established at All Saints’ featuring visiting choirs, Sydney Dance Co., Art Shows, Organ and Chamber Music Recitals.
    A new pipe organ was commissioned by the Parish and completed in three instalments by firstly, Hill Norman and Beard and completed by Pitchford & Garside with modifications to the specification by Bransby Byrne. On completion, the required funds had been raised by the Parish and no outstanding debt was incurred.
  •  Director of Music at The King’s School, Preparatory School for 5 years
    This included class music teaching, training the Prep School choir, the Prep School Chapel choir, organising private music tuition in Violin, Flute, Clarinet, Trumpet and Piano and teaching private piano lessons in both the Prep and Senior Schools.
  •  Repetiteur with Opera Australia for the opening season of the Sydney Opera House. Productions included- War and Peace (Prokofief); Tannhäuser (Wagner); The Magic Flute (Mozart); The Marriage of Figaro (Mozart); Il Trittico (Puccini); The Barber of Seville (Rossini); Cavalleria Rusticana (Mascagni); Pagliacci (Leoncavallo); Nabucco and Requiem (Verdi) working with conductors- Sir Edward Downes, Sir Charles MacKerras and (Sir) Mark Elder.
  •  Musical Director of The Sydney Gilbert and Sullivan Society for 14 years, conducting all the G. & S. operas at least twice.In 1975 Bransby conducted the first complete G. & S. (Mikado) in the Sydney Opera House, which was then followed by The Gondoliers (1977) and the Golden Jubilee Season of the Society.
  •  Assistant Organist at St Andrew’s Cathedral. During this time the Cathedral Choir toured to New Zealand as well as England where services/recitals were sung in 10 cathedrals including Canterbury, Salisbury, York and St Paul’s London. In each venue, Bransby accompanied the choir on some of the best organs in the world.Bransby also established a symphony orchestra of 60 players — The Western Sinfonia, together with The Western Choral Society and a chamber choir, The Brabyn Singers.
    For 16 years these ensembles presented subscription concerts at Macquarie University, Sydney University, Sydney Town Hall, Sydney Opera House and St Andrew’s Cathedral (where St Matthew Passion (Bach) and Messiah (Handel) were presented, alternate years on Good Friday).He also toured extensively around Australia for many years as official accompanist to June Bronhill.

Bransby Byrne has been involved in the music-making of Sydney and Australia for many years, as Organist, Pianist, Accompanist and Conductor.

Organist Emeritus

Edward Theodore A.mus.A., Dip.Mus(S.Caec.,Roma) 

et1Shown at the console of the Letourneau organ of St.Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney (Photo: Max Herford)

Edward began his musical studies at an early age and at 13 began to teach himself to play the organ.

He studied pianoforte with Alexander Sverjensky at the NSW State conservatorium of Music and in 1969 went to Rome where he studied for six years with the celebrated Italian organist Fernando Germani, obtaining the Diploma in Organ and Organ Composition. He also studied Sacred Music with Domenico Bartolucci, formerly Director of the Choir of the Sistine Chapel.

Edward Theodore has participated in the summer courses at the Accademia Musicale Chagiana in Siena, in the Cours d’Interpretation de Romainmoteir(Switzerland) with Lionel Rogg and Guy Bovet and has also studied with Andre Marchal and Maurice Durufle.

He has given numerous concerts in Italy, Germany and the United Kingdom as well as sydney Town Hall, Opera House, Great Hall Sydney University, St. Andrew’s Cathedral and St. Paul’s Cathedral Melbourne.

Edward returned to Sydney in 1982 and is presently organ and piano tutor at St. Ignatius College Riverview, SCEGGS Darlinghurst and The Scots College, Bellevue Hill. From 1984 -88 he was Deputy Organist at St. Mary’s Cathedral. His 1992 CD of the organ music of Maurice Durufle, recorded in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne, (on the Move label, md3102) received many favourable reviews, including a written accolade from the late composer’s widow, Marie-Madeleine Durufle-Chevalier, herself a well-known organist and composer.

Chief Assistant Cantor

Nicole Smeulders B.mus(Ed), L.T.C.L, A.mus.A

Nicole JPEG

Nicole Smeulders, has sung as the chief assistant cantor at St. Francis Paddington for twenty years. During that time, she has performed as alto soloist in numerous orchestral Masses for the St Francis Choir, including: Mozart’s Coronation Mass, Missa Brevis’ in Bb, C and D, and Haydn’s Laudate Populi, St. Nicholas and Nelson Masses.

A graduate of the NSW Conservatorium of music, Nicole has studied singing both in Sydney and London and has twice been recipient of the Lauris Elms’ Contralto Award. She is much in demand as a soloist in Oratorio, having performed with ensembles such as the Manly Warringah Choir, Penrith Symphony, Sutherland Shire Choral Society, Kurringai Philharmonic, Newcastle University Choir, Orange Conservatorium, and Sydney University Graduates’ Choir. Her most recent performances include the alto solos in Haydn’s Requiem for the Australian Haydn Ensemble at St James King Street and a lunchtime recital at St Paul’s Church Burwood. In 2014, she sang the alto solos in: Mozart’s Coronation Mass and Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb for the Sydneian Bach Choir, Scarlatti Duets at Sydney University and Mahratta National Trust Property and was involved in operatic concerts for St Swithun’s Church Pymble, Opera Afloat and the Trinh Foundation. Previous performance repertoire has included Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, Scarlatti’s Christmas Cantata, Caldara’s Vaticini di Pace (recorded live with the Sydney Consort for ABCFM), Mozart’s Requiem, Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky, Tippett’s A Child of Our Time, JS and CPE Bach Magnificats, De Falla’s El Amor Brujo and numerous performances of Vivaldi’s Gloria and the Messiah.

Nicole has worked as a chorister for Opera Australia since 2001 and has performed in their most recent productions of Turandot, Madam Butterfly and Carmen and La Traviata on Sydney Harbour. With Cantillation, she has performed on numerous CDs and films and has been engaged in concert performances with the SSO and the ACO. Nicole has performed with Pinchgut Opera in their productions of Gluck’s Iphigenie en Tauride, Rameau’s Castor and Pollux and Haydn’s opera L’anima del filosofo at Angel Place Recital Hall. She has worked and toured with the ACO Voices, the Song Company and Hallelujah Junction.

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