Showing posts with label Nature's Bounty. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nature's Bounty. Show all posts

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Nature's Bounty sounds

Thinking back to the "Nature's Bounty" concert on 23 March 2013, the first concert in City Choir Dunedin's very exciting and successful 150th anniversary celebration year, we are pleased to present these recordings from that performance. The Southern Sinfonia provided orchestral support and David Burchell was the musical director and conductor.

A happy coincidence was the celebration in 2013 of the 150th anniversary of the Dunedin Botanic Gardens, and the theme of this concert also reflected that milestone.

For What Can Be More Beautiful? was composed by Christopher Marshall to mark the 150th anniversary of the Dunedin Choral Society (now performing as City Choir Dunedin). Although now living and working in Florida, Christopher Marshall is a New Zealander, and lived in Dunedin for two years while a Mozart Fellow at the University of Otago in 1994-6. When we approached him we mentioned the confluence of the Botanic Garden’s anniversary with our own, and so texts involving natural imagery seemed right for the occasion.

Christopher Marshall's For What Can be More Beautiful? Into the Garden commissioned and premièred by City Choir Dunedin (Photos credit: Ian Thomson)

Christopher Marshall's For What Can be More Beautiful? The Joy of Fruit commissioned and premièred by City Choir Dunedin (Photos credit: Ian Thomson)

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s cantata Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast 
Tenor: Matthew Wilson
(Photos credit: Ian Thomson)

The text for this cantata, describing the splendours of an American-Indian wedding banquet, is from the well-known epic poem “The Song of Hiawatha” by the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Anthony Ritchie reviews Nature's Bounty

Review of City Choir Dunedin’s concert ‘Nature’s Bounty’, Sunday March 23, 2013.

‘Nature’s Bounty’ was an excellent way to open celebrations for the City Choir Dunedin’s 150th anniversary, this year. It successfully presented a mixture of the contemporary with the Victorian: a new work by New Zealand composer Christopher Marshall, a recent work by renowned Dunedin composer Jack Speirs, and a late 19th century work by Coleridge-Taylor. It was an ambitious programme, with plenty of taxing music for the choir, which they tackled very well.

The choir has good numbers at present, but suffer from a lack of tenors, a perennial problem for choirs. Their sound projected well in Knox Church, against lively orchestral accompaniments in the Marshall and Coleridge-Taylor works, and diction was generally strong.

The focal point of the evening was the specially commissioned work ‘For What Can Be More Beautiful?’ by Christopher Marshall, funded by Creative NZ. Marshall’s work is unashameably polystylistic, shifting from romantic sounds at the start to more exotic, almost Latin sounds in the second movement, with harmonic twists that belong to a more contemporary style. In this respect he is unusual in the NZ compositional scene. As he himself said, the music borders on cliché on occasions but has a fresh ‘take’ on ideas from the past. The romantic style of the opening seemed a suitable way to celebrate a choir who originated in the 19th century. The choir relished these early passages, with full lyrical tone that floated above the lush orchestration. Contrapuntal passages were simply scored and effective, and there was some nice word painting. The climax of this long first movement was striking, and strongly executed by the choir.

I personally found some of the scoring too busy for my liking, as it infringed on the choral sound rather than enhancing it. This was especially so in the second movement where the tricky rhythms undermined the choral tone – the members were concentrating so hard on staying in the right place that the sound weakened a little.  Despite this, the general mood and pace of this movement was upbeat and lively, thanks in no small part to the conductor David Burchell, who kept the forces together very well.

The new work was well received by the audience, and those I talked to were enthusiastic about it. It presented challenges but the hard work put in seemed to bring rewards to both performers and audience.

The new work sparkled with many orchestral colours and lush choral scoring; by contrast, Jack Speirs ‘Cantico del Sole’ seems austere and economical. For me this was the highlight of the evening, in that the work is perfectly scored for choir and has some lovely orchestration, coupled with a stunning soprano line, sung beautifully by rising star, Grace Park. The men in the choir were secure on their chant-like lines, and modal passages were very nicely in tune. On the whole, the choir’s intonation was excellent in this concert. ‘Cantico del Sole’ shows the influence of Arvo Pärt, is strong in character, and is arresting for the audience. It is a work that deserves more performances.

Rounding the evening was Coleridge-Taylor’s ‘Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast’, a piece of entertaining and exotic Victoriana. The challenge of this work is the text: the huge number of words meant that diction is crucial, and by and large the choir managed well. In some places the orchestra were rather too exuberant for both choir and soloist, Matthew Wilson, and they were rather drowned out. Otherwise, this was a solid performance, and a pleasant way to conclude the concert.

In conclusion, I would say the risk of putting on this programme of new and old worked well, and the audience went away satisfied. The choir has started its anniversary year in good form, having been expertly directed by David Burchell.

By Anthony Ritchie

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Photos of Nature's Bounty

Singing in the Nature's Bounty concert on 23 March at Knox Church was an awesome experience for all choir members. Hats off to everyone, also Musical Director David Burchell, soloists Grace Park and Matthew Wilson,  and Southern Sinfonia.

The music was not easy (to put it mildly) and it was a demanding time for the choir with several additional Sunday afternoon rehearsals leading up to the performance. But, we are all in agreement, the hard work was well worth the effort. We are pleased that the audience enjoyed a beautiful concert.

Congratulations to Christopher Marshall, composer of the commissioned work For What Can Be More Beautiful? for a hugely successful composition!

Follow this link for a selection of photos from the performance:  Nature's Bounty concert on 23 March 2013 at Knox Church

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Choir rises to a great challenge

ODT reviewer of the Nature's Bounty concert, Elizabeth Bouman,  says: "Choir rises to a great challenge" and "...compliments to all musicians and singers called upon to negotiate the endless rhythmic intricacies, and such fast-paced verbosity on growing all manner of fruit...". 

Yes, Verdi's Requiem will definitely be a piece of cake after this! The singers and musicians enjoyed performing all the music in the concert to a very appreciative audience. It was quite a thrill seeing all the smiling faces and hearing the thundering applause! Hats off and many thanks to Christopher Marshall for a beautiful composition: For What Can Be More Beautiful?.

What the audience said:

"I very much enjoyed the concert, especially the Marshall work -- a very exciting piece; the composer made deft use of his resources."

"The Southern Sinfonia did a marvellous job with the music and the choir's singing was a pleasure to listen to."

"Why did you put a seed catalogue to music?"

"Your words were very clear - often I didn't need to read the programme to know what you were singing about."

"Loved the Hiawatha - wanted to get up and dance around with a tomahawk in my hand"

“I found Saturday night's performance by Dunedin's choir, especially the pieces before and after the interval (Marshalls and Hiawatha) were my favourites:^) Just lovely:^ Transformative! I did not want the music to end.”

"I thought the concert at Knox was splendid - it came across very well indeed, full of energy and vitality."

Do you have any audience quotes to share? Please leave a comment here, or email us to
Thank you!