Monday, July 1, 2024

Full house for celestial fare

Visions of Heaven

Friday 28 June 2024, St Paul's Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral was the venue for City Choir Dunedin’s midwinter concert on Friday evening, attracting a full house for a celestial musical programme of joy and peace to celebrate Matariki.

The event also gave performance opportunity for organists attending the New Zealand Organ Association Festival, and some magnificent organ textures accompanied the choral items. Heavenly titles and texts matched a theme of "Rising Stars" depicting both the universe and Christian heaven. David Burchell conducted and compered.

The programme began with Stars, by Eriks Esenvalds, an ethereal choral soundscape highlighted with extra sparkle by ringing wine glasses. Blessed City, Heavenly Salem by Edward Bairstow (1874-1946), an organist at York Minster, was full choral part-singing and featured organ accompanying from Jeremy Woodside (Wellington) and soloist soprano Cathy Sim.

Organ solos came from "rising star" organ scholars Max Toth in arpeggiated layers with overlaid lyrics of Theodore Dubois’ In Paradisum, and See-am Thompson with Le Banquet Celeste, by Messiaen, a subdued legato fabric from hands with short chordal sequences from the foot pedals.

Mark Anderson conducted The Stars Above the Sea, by David Hamilton. Burchell accompanied with his organ transcription of this movement from the 2020 seven-movement work for orchestra and choir.

The highlight of the programme was Woodside’s dramatic delivery of Apollo, by James Whitbourn. Woodside absolutely revelled in commanding the organ to interpret various sections of Apollo’s voyage into space from countdown, ignition, thunderous launching, views of Earth from space and the safe return to Earth marked with a final resounding perfect cadence.

Review by Elizabeth Bouman, Otago Daily Times, 1 July 2024