Melbourne's Astra Choir has played a dynamic role in Australian musical life for several decades with presentations of new and original work from all musical periods. Its repertoire ranges widely from mediaeval and Renaissance music through Bach, 19th-century music and Schoenberg to the latest in electronic and post-minimal music from Australia, Europe and the USA. It frequently gives first Australian performances of music-works and experiments with various modes of presentation, including improvisation, spatial movement and sound technology.
Astra presents an annual concert series which in recent years has varied from 5 to 11 concerts. Within the series, the role of the choir may vary, but will always include a number of concerts with substantial choral works.
The Choir is a flexible ensemble of around 35 singers. New prospective singers are welcome to audition at any time, with an expectation of reasonable music-reading ability and musical experience. The Choir's members include a significant proportion of trained musicians, composers and music students.
Presenting a blend of such diverse repertoire and media in each concert has led to a particular Astra performance culture. Choral singing is placed in an environment of staging and movement, while professional solo voices within the Astra Choir are utilized to create a style of ensemble-theatre. Collaborations with composers have helped to develop this 'performance-art' approach to choral work. Each programme aims at a distinctive configuration of the choir with guest performers, providing varied contexts for a range of new works. Established composers are heard among younger Australian creators and performers.