Meet the man from Mortdale who conducts Carols in the Domain

Every Christmas the St George region makes it own special contribution to the traditional Carols in the Domain concert.

This is in the form of the musical director of Carols in the Domain, Graeme Press who has conducted the event for the past nine years.

Every year he inspires 80,000 people gathered at the Domain and countless others watching on national television to celebrate the Christmas spirit.

Graeme grew up in Bexley North and has lived in Mortdale for the past 20 years.

He grew up as a church musician and always had a fascination with Christmas music.

“One of the things my mother talks about is when I was two of three years old I used to stand in front of the television  and mimic the conductor of the Christmas Carols concert,” Graeme said.

“And here I am 50-plus years later conducting Christmas Carols in the Domain.”

Graeme first participated in Carols in the Domain as a member of the Salvation Army Choir for four years running.

He then lived overseas, based in Atlanta in the United States and touring as a guest conductor in Canada, New Zealand and the UK.

He also recently performed in a number of sell-out tours with The Seekers as the music director for the 50th anniversary tour.

He is also the music director for Andrew Rieu’s soprano Mirusia Louwerse touring in Europe and Australia.

But the highlight of his year is conducting Carols in the Domain.

“I’ve done it for nine years and I never get tired of it. I guess I am a Christmas person,” Graeme said.

“It’s an amazing experience when you are up on stage and you turn around and see thousands upon thousands of candles in the dark and then you turn back and see 60 instrumentalists, a choir of 100 voices, not to mention the artists, and knowing you are responsible for it all.

“It’s like being in charge of a huge engine.”

“It’s also such a big thing for the artists. You have an artist who gives up their one time to sing a Christmas song they don’t normally sing, with little rehearsal and before a national audience.

“We like to promote the Australian artists. Appearing at Carols on the Domain can be a turning point for a young artist’s career.

“Mark Vincent first appeared on Carols in the Domain after winning Australia’s Got Talent and has appeared with me every year since except for this year because he will be performing in England.”

This year’s concert will include Dami Im,   Samantha Jade,  Todd McKenney,  Penny McNamee from Home and Away,  Big T, the casts of Jersey Boys and The Wizard of Oz, Adam Harvey and Beccy Cole,  Justice Crew, Justine Clarke,  Jay Laga’aia and his kids and The Wiggles.

“We try to make memorable moments that people can think back on,” Graeme said.

“We don’t sing the old carols because they are old, we sing them because they are great,” Graeme said.

“We try to keep the old carols alive and bright and fresh with new arrangements to match the new Christmas songs.

“We do the same carols year after year because there is a therapeutic side to them. At the end of the year, no matter if it has been bad, there is a feeling that the spirit of season remains the same.”

The 35th year that Woolworths Carols in the Domain will be held on Sunday,  December 17.

The event will broadcast on Channel 7 at 8pm that evening.