Showing posts with label Britten. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Britten. Show all posts

Monday, December 7, 2020

Outstanding programme to celebrate Christmas

Photo by Ian Thomson

Rejoice! Music for Christmas
Saturday 28 November 2020, Dunedin Town Hall

Last Saturday evening City Choir Dunedin, supported by the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra presented an outstanding programme to celebrate the Christmas season.

The concert opened with Charpentier’s Messe de Minuit. The mass, which featured soloists Lois Johnston (soprano), Caroline Burchell (soprano), Claire Barton (alto), Andrew Grenon (tenor), and James Harrison (bass), offered an opportunity for the choir to display their skill at performing challenging, less well known repertoire. The work features beautiful and interesting harmonic moments, which the choir handled admirably, although a degree of uncertainty or perhaps lack of commitment (in comparison to that displayed later in the programme) meant that the magic was at times lost, leaving the piece to feel a little long.

In Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols the skills of the upper voices of the choir were showcased, supported by the phenomenal talent of Christchurch-based harpist Helen Webby. Featuring soprano soloists Burchell and Johnston, this performance had some extraordinary moments. Johnston’s performance in That YongĂ« Child was so hauntingly beautiful, you could have heard a pin drop in the audience, while Burchell’s rendition of Balulalow, supported by the women’s chorus, was truly exquisite. Webby, accompanying the choir and soloists throughout, plays with fantastic skill and musicality, with her Interlude being one of my personal favourite moments of the concert. This challenging work displayed the choir’s skill in handling complex polyphony, although at times the diction left a bit to be desired. On the whole, however, it was a great performance of a Christmas classic.

Bach’s Magnificat brought with it a significant step up in the choir’s energy level. Conducted by David Burchell from the harpsichord, this piece brought the choir, orchestra, and all five soloists back together for the second half of the concert. This monumental work showed the full range of the choir’s strengths, in which they gave great dedication and spirit to the music throughout. All five soloists were absolutely thrilling, with Claire Barton in particular giving a standout performance. A fantastic evening! It sounds like City Choir has a great programme lined up for 2021, so keep an eye out for future concerts!

Review by Ihlara McIndoe for The Wave, 7 December 2020.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Choir sang it beautifully

The performance on Saturday evening - well done everybody, that was great! Here is what the reviewer, Marian Poole, had to say (ODT, Monday 22 November 2010):

A capacity house to St Paul's on Saturday evening applauded an all-British twentieth-century programme directed by David Burchell, very enthusiastically.

There is a problem, however, with presenting wordy liturgical works as pieces of performance art. Musical cohesion in Burchell's setting of "Te Deum Laudamus" was, as the programme notes predicted, mired by words. Presented with obvious pride by City of Dunedin Choir and Southern Sinfonia Ensemble under the composer's baton, it becomes, as work of art, happily innocuous.

Likewise, Finzi's "Dies Natalis" sung excellently by David Hamilton, gets itself bogged down with words. Finzi's ethereal music transports the ear to celebrate that everyday miracle - the birth of new life - and again speaks more effectively than the words.

By way of admittedly unfair contrast, Vaughan Williams' "Valiant for Truth" successfully conveys a similar message - that of hope in adversity or wishful thinking - weaving musical airs with poetically economical words. The Choir sang it beautifully without accompaniment and with confidence.

Britten's "Saint Nicolas" gave David Hamilton another opportunity to display his devotion to opera-like drama. The work explores many musical languages from Royal Schools' tonality to something close to serialism, while remaining less than dissonant, thus overcoming some of the verbal shortcomings - for example "And leaping from his mother's womb [St Nicolas] cried: God be Glorified"  (- yeah, right!).  The work is chilling at the start and ends with auspicious lines from the choir. St Nicolas's birth becomes a street carnival sung by St Paul's Choristers. James Burchell cries God's glory with knowing eyes. While overall the work is uneven, the word painting in the sea storm, the prison scene and Nicolas' ascent to heaven was most successful. Special commendation goes to pianists John van Buskirk and Sandra Crawshaw, the organist Rachel Swindells, the percussion ensemble and, of course, the pickled boys.