Saturday, October 8, 2016

Christmas Oratorio in December

Christmas Oratorio

Friday 16 December 2016, 7:30 pm
Dunedin Town Hall

SOLOISTS  Lois Johnston (soprano), Claire Barton (mezzo-soprano), Iain Tetley (tenor), Robert Tucker (bass)

JS Bach: Christmas Oratorio

Bach’s Christmas Oratorio is a cycle of cantatas unified by the Christmas story and was first performed over six days (the first three days of Christmas, New Year’s Day, Sunday after New Year and the Feast of the Epiphany) in 1734/5. Like the St. Matthew Passion and St. John Passion, an Evangelist narrates this work.
From the splendid opening chorus of the first cantata, to the final chorale and trumpet fanfare the music takes the listener through a range of emotions from praise, joy and adoration to rage, fear and, finally, glory.

Tickets are now on sale!

Tickets are also available from the Regent Theatre box office or from the DVML office at Forsyth Barr Stadium Gate J, or phone 0800 111 999

Monday, October 3, 2016

Ritchie oratorio launched to heart-rending effect

1 October 2016, Dunedin Town Hall. Photo credit: Pieter du Plessis
Gallipoli to the Somme
Saturday 1 October 2016, Dunedin Town Hall

Dunedin Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Simon Over, performed another 50th anniversary celebration in the Dunedin Town Hall on Saturday evening with a world premiere marking 100 years since the loss of so many New Zealand soldiers at the Battle of the Somme.

Anthony Ritchie’s oratorio Gallipoli to the Somme for orchestra, choir and two soloists drew text from diaries, poems and traditional songs, taking its title from Alexander Aitken’s book of war experiences in the Otago Battalion.

Aitken carried his violin to war with him, and the 55-minute work began with a beautiful lyrical violin solo (Tessa Petersen) setting the mood for an enduring memorial performance by DSO, 120 members of City Choir Dunedin and Southern Youth choir (directed by David Burchell) and Dunedin’s internationally acclaimed soprano Anna Leese and bass Martin Snell.

The choir was superb, rising to every demand of shading and balance, especially in the strong anthems E te ope tuatahi and All the Hills and Vales Along.

Programme text and detailed references enabled the audience to follow the powerful content of this emotional work, as soprano solos farewelled a lover or mourned the loss of three sons.

Train journeys and military action were assigned bass solos.

Declamatory, often unaccompanied solos were all gloriously delivered, emotional and heart-rending.

Noticeable was the ingenious scoring, never too busy or overshadowing text, yet always in character.

Percussion was important throughout.

After the final chord, complete silence held the audience before prolonged applause and standing ovation rewarded this brilliant new work.

Ritchie will be remembered as one of the greatest composers of his time. There were three other items.

Le Tombeau de Couperin, by Maurice Ravel, originally a six-movement piano suite in memory of six friends killed in World War 1, was later orchestrated.

Swirling sound from tight, tidy strings impressed throughout, with melodic themes suitably prominent. Australian born F. S. Kelly (1881-1916) composed few works before he was killed in action in France.

Elegy for String Orchestra ‘In Memoriam Rupert Brooke’ was written after the death (also at war) of his great friend British poet Rupert Brooke.

Again, the strings (including harp) excelled with rich texture, haunting lyricism and an emotionally laced, soft peaceful final passage.

A big, full orchestral sound for Wagner’s Prelude to Die Maeistersinger ended a magnificent programme.

Review by Elizabeth Bouman, Otago Daily Times, Monday 3 October 2016.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Fine show; Ryan, Barton standouts

City Choir Dunedin. Photo credit Ian Thomson
Theresienmesse & Magnificat
Sunday 3 July 2016, Dunedin Town Hall

Two 18th-century choral works performed on Sunday afternoon by City Choir Dunedin under the direction of David Burchell with the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra gave the 85-strong group and four soloists a unique opportunity to shine.

The first half of the programme, C.P.E. Bach's Magnificat in D Major, is a slightly dated work, albeit one that the composer always regarded highly.

Tenor James Adams and bass Matthew Landreth seemed slightly tentative in this work; not so soprano Rebecca Ryan, substituting for Lois Johnston, who was unwell. Ryan turned in such a polished performance that it was difficult to believe that she had been called only a day earlier.

The pick of the soloists, though, was alto Claire Barton, whose duo with Adam seemed to lift his game, and her solo Suscepit Israel was a first-half highlight.

After the interval came Franz Joseph Haydn's Mass No. 12, Theresienmesse, the better of the two works. In it, the soloists work in unison with the choir rather than delivering long solos. This is an attractive technique, which has contributed to the popularity of the work since its debut in 1799.

Possibly because of this interweaving, the soloists all seemed more comfortable than in the Bach, with Ryan and Barton especially pleasing.

Throughout Theresienmesse, the choir gave a sterling performance, the hours of rehearsal showing in polished delivery.

The big disappointment was the thin attendance. The Dunedin Town Hall's acoustics work best with a larger audience and the concert would have been even better had more people made the effort to attend.

Review by Gillian Vine, The Star 7 July 2016.