Monday, May 31, 2021

Women soloists deliver intricate harmonies

Applaud! Women in Music 

Saturday 29 May 7:30 pm, Knox Church

A near-capacity audience in a comfortably warm Knox Church heard a programme devised by conductor and accompanist, David Burchell.

He was assisted in the long overdue recognition of some remarkable talent by the City Dunedin Choir, guest conductor Mark Anderson, and pianist Sandra Crawshaw and guest soloists Olivia Pike, soprano, Tessa Romano, mezzo, and tenor Benjamin Madden, to celebrate female composers and artists.

The notable exception to Burchell’s mission was Britten’s Hymn to St Cecilia, set to W.H. Auden’s poem, which asks its heroine to “wear her [marital] tribulations like a rose”, valorising the ‘‘virtue’’ of being long-suffering.

Nonetheless, it is an excellent and challenging piece of a cappella music that delves gently into modal idioms. The choir and its soloists performed it exceptionally well despite a somewhat inconstant flow of confidence.

Romano and Pike gave a powerful performance of Barbara Strozzi’s Mi ferrite, oh Begli occhi. They lent the work’s intricate harmonies an astonishing beauty.

Cecile Chaminade’s Ronde du Crepuscule and Amy Beach’s I send my heart up to thee highlighted Olivia Pike’s strength in high, clear held tones which soared to magnificent effect over the choir in the former and over the piano in the latter.

A selection from Felicia Edgecombe’s Shaky Places, which sets the works of (predominantly) male New Zealand poets, followed. Some worked — others didn’t. Sam Hunt’s bluesy Twelve Moon Lines, Bill Manhire’s atmospheric Erebus and Brian Turner’s awed Once in a While stood out for the way in which the music enhanced the words. Jeffrey Paparoa Holman’s After the Tremor had some beautiful moments while Lauris Edmond’s Tuatara undermined the poem’s allusion to the creature’s stoic profile.

Rosephanye Powell’s uplifting gospel The Word was God was performed with wonderful attention to its infectious rhythmic pulse.

Review by Marion Poole, Otago Daily Times, 31 May 2021.

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