Monday, September 4, 2017

Captivating choral cycle 'Lullabies' debuts

City Choir Dunedin. Photo: Ian Thomson
Saturday 2 September 2017
Knox Church

Knox Church rang with the sound of choral music on Saturday evening, as many singers contributed to a programme entitled "Lullabies", presented by City Choir Dunedin, with choirs from Columba College and St Hilda’s Collegiate. David Burchell conducted, Tom Chatterton (Wellington) accompanied at the organ, and the venue was almost filled.

This was Dunedin’s first performance of Anthony Ritchie’s Lullabies (2015), a captivating choral cycle with text from six poems by Dunedin-based poet Elena Poletti.

The songs differ in mood, depicting children’s bedtime and sleep, and are astutely scored with contrasting timbres of youthful choirs and adult mixed-voice harmonies.

Shush-a-shush opened with organ obligato, whispered "Shushes" and calm entreaties of slumber. Little One featured soprano Sophie Morris, in very professional deliveries of long sweetly toned phrases. Penguins brought a change of style with "tiny blue penguins" scurrying about as children prepared for bed, and The Night Singers featured Morris soaring above impressive harmonic choral textures depicting sounds of the night. Beddington and Hope of My Heart completed the half-hour cycle, which was highlighted throughout with colourful organ accompaniment.

The school choirs each presented a bracket of three songs and City Choir two choral pieces — a rather mundane delivery of Cantique de Jean Racine (Faure) conducted by Mark Anderson, and Tavener’s Song for Athene where exciting crescendo passages exonerated earlier intonation deviancy.

The second big work, Maurice Durufle’s Requiem contained some impressive choral endeavour, particularly in Sanctus, but overall rather too many untidy moments and pitch insecurity in the male ranks. Alex Lee sang strong baritone solos, and cello obligato came from Elaine Wilden. Soprano Beth Goulstone (replacing an indisposed mezzo at very short notice) coped admirably in the higher solo passages, however her low register lines were valiant but weak. My player-of-the-day went to Chatterton for virtuosic precision, clarity and balance of colour at the organ.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Bouman for the Otago Daily Times, 4 September 2017.

More accolades for the Lullabies concert...

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