Showing posts with label Anniversary Accolades. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Anniversary Accolades. Show all posts

Friday, September 4, 2009

Hear our sound

Hart.Here's a taste of the City of Dunedin Choir performing the opening chorus from Mendelssohn's Psalm 42: As the Hart Pants.

And, the final chorus from My Heart is Inditing, by Handel.

The Southern Sinfonia provided the orchestral support and the conductor for the Mendelssohn was David Burchell, and Michael Dawson conducted the Handel. The recording was made at the recent Anniversary Accolades concert (4 July 2009).

Don't we sound just too grand?!

Monday, July 6, 2009

What the reviewer said

Anniversary Accolades - Celebrating Classic Choral Composers, Saturday 4 July, reviewed by Marian Poole for the Otago Daily Times:

Mellow sounds from the Southern Sinfonia and the City of Dunedin Choir, with excellent highlights from soprano Lois Johnston, alto Claire Barton, tenor Stephen Chambers and bass baritone Andreas Hirt, directed by David Burchell and Michael Dawson, warmed a medium-sized audience at St Paul's on Saturday.

The programme celebrated the anniversaries of Purcell, Handel, Haydn and Felix Mendelssohn. It covered two hundred years of choral music and, as the programme notes inform us, the foundations of of the English sound.

While this demanding programme occasionally taxed the stamina of the choir, and while Barton seemed to be at less than her best, Johnston's strong confidence on the heights, Hirt's and Chambers' rich musicality and the excellent blend of all voices, and some good highlights from the woodwinds, brass and cellos, delivered some real pleasure.

Purcell's joyous welcome Come ye sons of art has a sweetness which lingers in the ear, but was unfortunately marred by a lack of vigour. The languorous invitation diluted the sense of impending fun.

Haydn's Spring taken from The Seasons was, despite the sense of joy in the words, a musically ordered, balanced and mild change of season at times frustratingly poles apart from Vivaldi's exuberance.

Handel's My Heart is Inditing, introducing Michael Dawson as conductor, was performed with good lilt. Dawson is commended for the precise performance from the choir. However, the words of the concluding exultation "Kings shall be thy nursing fathers" are a bit hard to swallow. If sensored out, we would be left with the more palatable scenario of the "King shall have pleasure in thy beauty".

Mendelssohn's As the Hart Pants gave ample opportunity to celebrate the excellent balance of solo voices with the choir. The closing work, Handel's The King Shall Rejoice, though a little perfunctory and occasionally muddied, made a successfully triumphant close.

Solists, choir and Southern Sinfonia under the excellent direction of Burchell and Dawson contributed to a delightful, homogeneous evening. Bravo.

What the audience said

What they said of the Anniversary Accolades concert:

"Hugely enjoyed the concert yesterday afternoon - it really was wonderful. You all looked wonderful - and sounded so polished."

"The performance was excellent."

1, 2, 3, 4 - We're City Choir, now hear us roar!

I really feel sorry for the poor people in Dunedin who didn't make it to either one of our concerts this weekend. Because they missed a rip snorter of a time. Not just one major work, but four. Not just one Important White Dead Guy, but four! Yeeee haaaaw!

In fact, I was going to title this blog post "Yeeee haaaaw!" but I don't think Purcell, with his very pretty, curly wig, would have approved. Then again, with his lame in-jokes and buckle shoes, maybe he would have. Who knows?

Purcell - Come, Ye Sons Of Art

One thing that is certain is that he would have approved mightily of our rendition of "Come Ye Sons Of Art" with which our "Anniversary Accolades" concert opened. We tuned our voices, our instruments played, and it was all just beautiful. I could see the audience grooving along to the music, bopping their heads in time to the beat, and as I was singing I couldn't help thinking "Yeah, baby! We're rocking this town!"


Haydn - Seasons (Spring)

On to the next dead white guy, it was time for us to nail Haydn's "Seasons" - the "Spring" part of it anyway! More in-jokes with parts of the score that sounded rather familiar to those of us who know other works by this composer - but hey, what's a bit of self-plagiarism between friends? It's nice to know that these guys weren't as dismally-minded as their rather staid press shots would lead one to suspect:


Personally, I think Haydn hated sopranos. I mean, anyone who writes top B Nasties for choir sopranos that run on for nearly two full bars is asking for a fight. I'd deck him if he were alive today. Lucky for him he's not. But my fellow sopranos did a magnificent job - page 53 wasn't the first, or the last, point in the night that I was tremendously proud of the women of City Choir. We took that B Nasty and told Haydn exactly what he could do with it!

Not only were we singing well, but the Sinfonia and our soloists were sounding wonderful. In particular, Stephen Chambers, our Tenor soloist, was worth a mention. He sounded glorious, his diction and tuning spot on. While all the soloists were great, I particularly enjoyed his performance.

Two works down, it's half time, we're looking good. Several very snarly passages are under our belts, and it is time to grab a quick gulp of water and do a quick dash to the loo before we're back on stage in our sardine-esque positions.

Handel - My Heart Is Inditing

We're on for Handel with the wonderful Michael Dawson at the helm. And not only does Michael do an incredibly job in his orchestral debut, guiding us through the not-exactly-easy twists and turns of Handel, but he is also obviously completely in control of the excellent Sinfonia.

A few words of thanks

While I'm talking about Michael, I also want to say something about the fact that David has been generous and thoughtful enough to give Michael this opportunity. Few choral directors would have shown the trust and respect that David has in Michael. He has been supportive of Michael not just in City Choir, but also in St Pauls Cathedral Choir.

It is so important not just to direct a Choir and Orchestra well, as David does, but also to raise the next generation to follow in your footsteps. I can't say enough about how important this job is, and how highly I think of David for giving this opportunity to Michael in such a respectful way. Both men were a credit to City Choir and to Dunedin this weekend. I think we are all very fortunate to have them.

Back to the concert

At this point in the concert we were getting our teeth into "My Heart Is Inditing" with Michael. From where I was standing, the diction was good and clear, the notes precise, and the choir and audience attentive. The movements worked well. I'll admit I'm a bit of a fan of Handel - more so than of Purcell especially, or of Haydn. Purcell always sounds a bit wrong to me - like it was written for different tuning, or something. Don't ask me what exactly - I'm no music expert - but know what I hear. The chords don't quite fit together, and the notes somehow don't feel quite confortable with one another. They rub against each other as enemies, not as friends.

Handel, on the other hand, always feels bright and correct to me, and it did last night. It sits well in the voice, and if we had a few issues with pitch, they were not noticed by the audience as far as I could see. Michael had good contact with the choir, and overall the movements came off well.


Mendelssohn - As The Hart Pants

On to the last of our four composers - Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn is often touted as a composer who writes particularly well for the voice, and "As The Hart Pants" is a good example of his work. He works up to the high notes for the sopranos rather than dumping them at you, and the body of the line sits comfortably within your range, so you never feels stressed or strained when singing his work. Maybe this is why I like Mendelssohn, even though I don't much like this particular translation of the biblical text.

"As The Hart Pants" started off beautifully with the alto entry, and the altos entered so well that I really wished I was back singing alto again, like when I first started singing in choirs! They just sounded so smooth, so rich, and so beautifully in tune. It was a pleasure to listen to. The first movement in particular was performed well overall, especially in the second concert, when I think we peformed it better than in any rehearsal. Which is as it should be.

I am also really pleased to say that our men nailed No 6 "The Lord Hath Commanded". They really did well, and I know this had been particularly difficult for them in rehearsal, requiring a four part split. They did so well in both concerts. Yay us!

The Mendelssohn ends with my favourite of all choral playtimes - a fugue. Yeee haaaaw! I love fugues! Just the way all the lines deviate and fit together and pull apart, then come back together again, translating the melody in different ways and recreating the theme in each choral line. A good fugue is musical magic. I'm not a music theorist, who could no doubt tell you about contrapuntal composition and fugal subjects, and all that highfalutin stuff. Not me. Instead I'll just tell you it was great fun to sing, and I'd love to do it all again today, and tomorrow, and the next day, because fugues are just awesome. Brain food for the soul.


Handel - The King Shall Rejoice

Finally, to end the concert, it was back to Handel with David conducting "The King Shall Rejoice", which includes my favourite movement - No. 2 "Exceeding Glad Shall He Be", which is Handel trying his hand at Bluegrass music. It really is - I'm not joking! My only grumble is I was a little disappointed that of the Coronation Anthems we weren't doing "Zadok The Priest", which is a fabulous piece and a great sing - maybe next time!

The "Alleluia" was our closing movement, and it did stay together, despite worries in rehearsal. All eyes were on the conductor - I was too nervous to even look down on my score in some moments! We followed closely and tightly, and the piece worked. Friends in the audience told me the work was wonderful, and that they enjoyed it thoroughly, as they had enjoyed the works of the other composers.

In conclusion...

Four Important Dead Guys. Four major works. Four anniversaries. Four accolades. We came, we sang, we did them justice. City Choir once again proved that we can take on a huge amount of music and make it work. I think my extra work outside of rehearsal paid off - I know that others in the choir studied the music at home too, and their work paid off too.

Now we have a week of doing nothing. No music for a week, and I'm off on holiday next weekend up to the north island for a few days, for a well-deserved rest.

Next concert isn't until September, with Haydn's Nelson Mass. It seems so long away, but right now all I can think is, Bring it on!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

It was cold, .. no really, it was!

This is us rehearsing on Saturday afternoon. During a patch where the orchestra are practicing their bit. Note scarves, hats, overcoats...

... and mittens!

The only person wearing just a shirt was David; clearly waving your arms around in a meaningful fashion (aka conducting) is sufficient exercise to keep warm.

We had been forewarned. Friday evening rehearsal was distinctly chilly, even though the heating had been on for six hours. The Cathedral is, after all, a large space to heat.

So, a decision was made that meant that the ladies could wear dress black pants for the performance. Though suggested Judy the long black skirts were more forgiving of things that could be worn underneath to keep warm. I checked with her today, and true to her word, she admitted she had on tights, a pair of long-johns, and black socks tucked into her boots. However, what she hadn't realised was that I had managed to wear my summer weight track-pants (usually worn in the garden) under my dress pants!

So if we moved onto the 'stage' rather sedately, it was due in part at least, to lots of layers of clothing under our choir uniform!

Never mind, hope you all enjoyed it ... we did!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Hillarious moments in rehearsal

During the final rehearsals for this weekend's Anniversary Accolades performances there were these two hillarious moments. For those who missed the joke, I'll try to tell it here, but you really had to be there!

David Burchell, our esteemed conductor, has a wonderful sense of humour, but these utterings were quite innocent and unintentionally funny, which makes it even more enjoyable.

He was talking to the tenors and basses, trying to encourage them to sing with confidence in a passage where the two voices were rather exposed, so he says to them: "You have no ladies on top of you at this point..." - and we all cracked up! The gents should be so lucky... ??!!

And then there was the bit where he was organising sits and stands. When we enter stage, someone has to keep an eye on proceedings and when everyone has filed onto the stage, give the signal so we can all sit down together. So he asks alto Rosi Crane who stands at the far end: "Rosi, can you see the last ones on without too much craning?" Again - raucous laughter. I don't think the orchestra got this one; they did not know Rosi's surname is Crane!

Good luck to all for tonight's performance; it's going to be very good! And then we get to do it all again on Sunday - yippee!!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Anniversary Accolades coming soon

Saturday 4th at 7:30 pm and Sunday 5th at 3:00 pm, July 2009

Anniversary Accolades - Celebrating Classic Choral Composers

St Paul's Cathedral, Dunedin
Get your tickets NOW!!!

The City of Dunedin Choir presents music by Handel, Purcell, Mendelssohn and Haydn. In 2009 we celebrate 200 years since the birth of Mendelssohn, 350 years since the birth of Purcell, 200 years since the death of Haydn and 250 years since the death of Handel.

* Handel: The King Shall Rejoice
* Purcell: Come ye Sons of Art (Birthday Ode for Queen Mary)
* Mendelssohn: As the Hart Pants (Psalm 42)
* Handel: My Heart is Inditing
* Haydn: The Seasons - Spring

The soloists are soprano Lois Johnston, alto Claire Barton, tenor Stephen Chambers and baritone Andreas Hirt, and the conductor is David Burchell.

The Choir gratefully acknowledges the valuable assistance received from:
Dunedin City Council, The Southern Trust, Bendigo Valley Sports & Charity Foundation, Perry Foundation

Saturday, June 13, 2009

News from Stephen

Stephen Chambers, the tenor for Anniversary Accolades (4th & 5th July) has been recently awarded the ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) International Scholar for the RSAMD (Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama) in Glasgow, where he will commence further studies in September. He tells me there will be a story in the ODT, but you read it first here!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Claire at rehearsal

Claire Barton.
We were delighted to have Claire visit and sing along with the altos on Tuesday. If you don't know yet, Claire will be singing the solo mezzo role in our Anniversary Accolades concert on 4 and 5 July (St Paul's Cathedral).

Claire told me before she left that the Choir is sounding really great!

Here is more about Claire:

Claire Barton is a mezzo soprano born and bred in Dunedin. She has recently completed her Masters of Music in Performance Voice with Isabel Cunningham and Prof. Terence Dennis at the University of Otago. She also has two undergraduate degrees, graduating in 2003 with a Bachelor of Arts (Hons, 1st class) in English and History and in May 2007 with a MusB (Hons, 1st class) in performance voice. She is a past recipient of the Colin McDonald Memorial Prize (2004), the Muriel Herbert Prize, and the Simon Gibson Memorial Prize (2006) from the Music Department of Otago University and in 2008 received a Postgraduate Award from the University of Otago to continue her performance studies at Masters Level. She was the Dunedin Returned Services Association Vocal Scholar 2004-2006.

In 2006 Claire made her operatic debut with the Dunedin Opera Company, singing the role of Mrs Slender in Salieri's Falstaff. Later in the year, she understudied the title role of Bizet's Carmen in Otago University's professional production.

2007 was a highly successful year for Claire. She won the NZ Opera Society Scholarship at the New Zealand Singing School in Napier in January, was a finalist in the Lexus Song Quest in April, sang the role of Katisha in The Mikado for the Really Authentic Gilbert and Sullivan Company in Dunedin in June, and in the space of six weeks in August and September, won the Sealord Aria Contest in Nelson, the Wellington Regional Aria and the Otago Daily Times Aria in her hometown. In November she placed second in the prestigious New Zealand Aria Contest (formerly known as the Lockwood Aria) in Rotorua.

In 2008 she attended the Wanganui Opera School in January. Engagements during the year included Opera on Mokoia Island in Rotorua; Schubert's Mass in A flat major with the City of Dunedin Choir and the Dunedin Youth Orchestra; singing the national anthem of South Africa before a rugby test at Carisbrook; a performance with the St. Kilda Brass Band and performing the role of Mad Margaret in a season of Ruddygore for the Really Authentic Gilbert and Sullivan Performance Trust.

Claire also works as a student library assistant at the University of Otago Medical Library, is a consummate cat-lover, and enjoys writing, visiting museums and attending the ballet.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Anniversary Accolades

Purcell, Handel, Haydn and Mendelssohn.
Anniversary Accolades - Celebrating Classic Choral Composers
We are already rehearsing for this concert in July and it is going well. Working under David's direction is always fun! Note that all the choir midi learning files for this concert can now be accessed from the links panel on the right.