Saturday, September 8, 2012

Chilling story brilliantly told

'Chilling story brilliantly told' - the heading of the review in the Otago Daily Times (ODT, 10 Sep 2012). Congratulations to all involved! The journey was completed...special mention to John Drummond (composer), Simon Over (conductor), Jeremy Commons (narrative text), Claire Beynon (poet), our soloists, City of Dunedin Choir and Southern Sinfonia. Well done to all...

A good sized audience gave a prolonged and profound applause for the world première of John Drummond's The Journey Home directed by Simon Over with guests - soprano Jenny Wollerman, tenor James Rodgers, baritone Robert Tucker (Scott) and the City of Dunedin Choir.

Drummond's oratorio is an extremely effective tale of Scott's ill-fated voyage home which starts with Scott's utter despair at finding Amundsen had beaten him to the Pole. The opening bars clearly define the dreadful chill of the Antarctic and the trudging trek homewards of the defeated explorers.
Overall the work is brilliant - encouraging great performances from all. Jeremy Commons' libretto uses Scott's own diary, poems by Claire Beynon, Bill Manhire and Chris Orsman and excerpts from the Common Book of Prayer.

Drummond's alternation of full orchestra, solo instruments and unaccompanied singing dramatize the story beautifully. Though there were some weaknesses, they are far outweighed by the work's strengths. Special mention goes to Rodgers and Wollerman's "As If", the staggered lines of choir and Turner in "There is Always a Blizzard", the icy strings counterbalancing Scott's acceptance of ultimate defeat in "The Ice is Cruel" and Wollerman and Choir in "In this Place" where the muttering of the Lord's Prayer in Latin provided an excellent voice to the encroaching fates.

The Journey Home is a seriously excellent work and a powerful piece of drama which the nation can be proud of.

Tchaikovsky's "Capriccio Italien" was suitably exuberant and excellently performed by the Southern Sinfonia. It served to diffuse the doom contained in The Journey Home.

Stravinsky's "Firebird" is also a strongly evocative work excellently performed and directed with precision and inspiration to the clear enjoyment of all.

The evening highlighted all aspects of the art involved with orchestral works and their performance and marks a significant achievement. Bravo to one and all.

Reviewed by Marian Poole for the Otago Daily Times, Monday, 10 September 2012.

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