Thursday, April 27, 2023

Choir rises to the occasion for concert

Alleluia! Music for Eastertide
Dunedin City Choir Saturday, 22 April 2023, Knox Church

In "Alleluia! Music for Eastertide", City Choir Dunedin rose to the occasion on Saturday evening, presenting a programme of music from the 16th to the 21st century.

Staged in a well-filled Knox Church, the concert, under the baton of David Burchell, opened with a nicely balanced, unaccompanied rendition of Samuel Scheidt’s Easter carol Surrexit Christus Hodie.

An early cantata, J.S. Bach’s Christ lag in Todes Banden, followed.

The gloomy introduction from Dunedin Symphony Orchestra players led into a more joyous mood from the choir, then soprano Caroline Burchell and mezzo Erin Connelly-Whyte sang the duet, each voice perfectly complementing the other.

Tenor Brendon Shanks and bass Edward Smith were soloists, the latter impressing with a powerful voice, while in Shanks’ duet with Burchell, the tenor seemed more confident than in his solo.

One of the evening’s greatest challenges for the choir was Josef Rheinberger’s Osterhymne.

The 19th-century German composer wrote this for two choirs, so the City Choir was divided in half, singing unaccompanied in Latin. The result was a pleasure to listen to, as the two groups portrayed the battle between life and death.

Conductor Burchell’s own new work, O Sons and Daughters, opened the second half and was even more challenging for the choir.

Unaccompanied, the hymn – based on a medieval text – had complex interwoven elements and the many hours of rehearsal paid off in delivering the irregular metres with an aplomb a professional choir would have envied.

From its rich introduction, Georg Philipp Telemann’s Zwei Junger gehn nach Emmaus delighted the audience.

In his solo, Shanks was at his best, clearly enunciating the story of Christ’s two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Then Smith and Connelly-Whyte provided the sermon central to the work, leading into the choir’s joyful conclusion.

For a crowd pleaser, the final work had it all. Mozart was only 16 when he wrote Regina Coeli in B flat, yet it showed great maturity.

The first movement, with its extended orchestral introduction, gave the choir another opportunity to shine, while the second and third movements were dominated by the splendid voice of Burchell.

Completely in control and most ably supported by the choir and Dunedin Symphony Orchestra, she delighted throughout.

"Alleluia! Music for Eastertide" was a triumph for City Choir Dunedin, musical director Burchell, the four soloists, Dunedin Symphony Orchestra, and organist Micah Xiang.

Reviewed by GILLIAN VINE for The Star, 27 April 2023