The Geelong Chorale
All Saints Church, Newtown
It is some time since the Geelong Chorale presented a concert at All Saints Church. Since the last time, the church has been carpeted, with flexible seating. The new configuration is much more comfortable than the original wooden pews. However, the carpet has adversely effected the liveliness of the acoustics.
In order to redress this, the choir was placed in the chancel, which retains its tiled floor. This meant some loss in volume, but enhanced the blend of the choir, which has rarely been better.
The music was contemporary: all the composers are still living. Allister Cox has directed the Chorale since 2012. The choir have blossomed under this directorship.
The first three items were by Australian composers. The concert began with Kooraegulla, by Stephen Leek in 2002. The text, Kooraegulla, means ‘meeting place’. Leak’s setting exploited the rhythmic potential of the one word text most effectively.
Malcolm John was in the audience to hear his lovely setting of Let Your Song Be Delicate, a setting of a poem by John Shaw Neilson. This work is a favourite with the Chorale.
Three Bush Songs, by Iaine Grandage followed. This work evokes the atmosphere is the Australian bush, and has challenging harmonies, and a requirement that singers make bird and insect noises. The third movement, ‘Sunset’ evokes the searing heat of last rays of the sun and the cooling relief of the coming of night after a torrid summer’s day.
American composer Eric Whitacre’s first foray into composing followed – a setting of Go Lovely Rose composed in 1991 for the choir in which he was singing at Nevada State University. This piece has challenging harmonies, considerable splitting within parts, and requires a full range of dynamics. I hope that the Chorale consider adding some more songs by Eric Whitacre for future concerts, despite the challenges they pose.
The final three pieces in the first half of the concert were by British composers, the carol My Guardian Angel by Judith Weir (the text is a poem by William Blake), Welsh composer Karl Jenkins’s Healing Light and Scottish composer James MacMillan’s traditionally harmonised motet O Radiant Dawn. The Chorale produced exciting crescendos and some lovely harmonic colour.
The second half of the program was Lux Aeterna, by American composer Morten Lauridsen’s, originally scored for choir and orchestra. The version for this performance was for choir and organ (played in the Chorale’s performance by Frank De Rosso). The performance was most successful when the choir and organ performed separately. When working together, the organ overpowered the choir. Hopefully, the choir will present this work in a future concert, where there is a better choral acoustic and more time to work on balance. The text for this sacred work comes from sections of the Latin mass. The theme is ‘light’. There are contrasts in dynamics, harmony and unison, and polyphony and homophony, and a gentle Alleluia ending.
Much of the music in this concert was challenging for the choir, made more difficult by the challenging venue – extremely cold on this icy winter’s afternoon. Despite this, it was a most satisfying concert for the small audience. The Geelong Chorale are to be congratulated for stepping outside their comfort zone to present contemporary music.