Great Moments: The Geelong Chorale – Sunday, 18th August, 2019

St Luke’s Uniting Church, Highton

Conductor:  Allister Cox OAM

Accompanist:  Kristine Mellens

The Geelong Chorale is a chamber choir.  Therefore, a foray into musical theatre, opera, operetta and musical comedy is rather outside the choir’s usual musical fare.  Allister Cox, musical director for some years, is a long-time performer in musical theatre, and directed the choir and two excellent soloists with assurance.

The first half of the program was devoted to grand opera, with choruses, solos and duets from Verdi, Mozart, Donizetti, Gounod, Puccini and finishing with a rousing performance of the Easter Hymn from Cavalleria Rusticana.  There was a little staged drama – the program began with Brindisi (a drinking chorus) from La Traviata.  The choir (as people at at party) chatted animatedly during the introduction till the tenor, David Campbell, entered from off stage singing the well-known verse followed by the chorus with the choir before soprano Lisa Breen entered to sing the verse reprise.  It is good to hear Lisa’s lovely singing after some time.  We hope to hear more of her in future concerts.

David Campbell’s acting skill came out throughout the program, no more so that in his aria Un Furtiva Lagrime with a stunning love-lorn cadenza.

Kristine Mellens, the Chorale’s accompanist, had a near impossible task – attempting to emulate an orchestra.   Kristine wrought all possible tone from the available upright piano playing with drama, a sense of style and sensitivity (especially in David Campbell’s aria from L’elisir d’amore).

Deputy conductor, Anne Pilgrim conducted the women of the choir in The Witches’ Chorus from Verdi’s Macbeth.  There was a fine sense of dynamics, and some percussion in the background as the witches announce Macbeth’s arrival.  Unison singing brought out the excellence of the choral lines, even though the sopranos were depleted somewhat in this program.

The second half of the concert produced lighter fare – with excerpts from Yeomen of the Guard, Die Fledermaus, The Merry Widow, Porgy and Bess, West Side Story and concluding with a rousing performance of the title song from Oklahoma with soloists joining the choir.

The choir was in its element in an a capella arrangement of Summertime from George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess with Lisa Breen excelling in a jazz style performance.  This arrangement, which includes intricate scat singing from the choir, would be well worth keeping in the choir’s repertoire.

The near capacity audience included many who are not regulars to concerts from Geelong Chorale.  Judging from the warmth of the applause, they were not disappointed.

The Geelong Chorale’s final performance of 2019 is Magnificat: Music to Celebrate Christmas, on December 7th at 5pm at Christ Church, Geelong.

 

 

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