In Flanders Fields: Friday 9th November, 2018

Windfire Choir conducted by Rick Prakhoff, Tim Reynolds – tenor, Fiona Squires -soprano, Ben Mitchell – narrator, Wendy Rechenberg – piano, Brighid Mantelli – flute, Philip Healey – violin, Chris Skepper – trumpet, John Seal – tympani, Frank De Rosso – organ.

Presented by Music at the Basilica Frank de Rosso – artistic director.

A review of this concert can be found at Entertainment Geelong

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In Remembrance: Sunday, November 11, 2018

A concert to acknowledge the centenary of the WWI Armistice and to commemorate the sacrifice made by many in all wars.

The Geelong Chorale

Sunday, November 11th, 2018, St Paul’s Anglican Church, Geelong

This concert to mark the end of the “War to end all Wars” began with poet Siegfried Sassoon’s short poem Aftermath which was read with simplicity and dignity by Tim Gibson.  Sassoon reminds us of the horrors of war and asks ‘Have you forgotten yet?’  The fact of today’s concert, and other events and concerts marking the armistice that ended World War I, show that Australians have not forgotten.  Sassoon, a recipient of the Military Cross, took a stand against the war – not the first or last soldier to elucidate the futility of war and devastation it causes.

The Geelong Chorale, conducted by Allister Cox, then sang Lest We Forget composed this year by Australian Matthew Orlovich.  The work is for soprano soloist, choir, clarinet and piano.  Fiona Squires’ beautiful soprano soared above the choir and piano, with an ascending scale enunciating the words of the Lux Aeterna from the Requiem Mass.  The work is punctuated with the chant Lest we Forget which interweaving clarinet and piano lines.  The music’s end is marked by an expiration of breath from the choir – like the last gasp of a dying soldier.  The talented clarinet soloist was Jess Morris, and the choir’s regular and most accomplished accompanist, Kristine Mellens, was the pianist.

The sombre mood continued with the poem Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen, another poet of WWI.  Imagery like ‘The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells’ shows some of the horrors of this war which killed many millions of people, and wounded countless more, leaving whole nations in mourning.

Edward Elgar’s longer work, For the Fallen from The Spirit of England, op. 80, completed the first half of the concert.  The poem, written in 1914 by Lawrence Binyon, though written without the first hand experience of the front line of Sassoon and Owens, contains some of the best known words to commemorate the war dead –

They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old

Age shall not weary them, not the years condemn

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

The music, for choir, tenor soloist, piano was completed in 1916.  It begins with a steady slow marching beat from the bass notes of the piano, before a more romantic section which heralds the entrance of the choir alternating unison and harmony.  The music rises in intensity and pitch heralding the soloist’s entry – ‘Death, august and royal/Sings sorrow unto immortal spheres’ – a much more glorified view of war’s destruction than the stark reality of Sassoon or Owen.  The work is dedicated “to the memory of our glorious men, with a special thought for the Worcesters”.[1]  Nevertheless, this moving work honours the heroes of war, and was written in a time of bleakness to strengthen the resolve of the people of Britain.  The Geelong Chorale’s performance showed a choral richness, with the choir demonstrating once again a beauty of tone in the gentle passages – none more than in the unison last line ‘to the end…’  David Campbell’s fine clear tenor and faultless diction cut through the choral texture and shone out in the solo sections.

Mess de la Déliverance was composed in 1918 by Théodore Dubois to give thanks for the end of WWI.  It is dedicated to the bishop and choirs of Orleans.  In this performance, this extended work for tenor and baritone soloists and choir, was accompanied on the fine organ of St Paul’s church, played by Beverley Philips.  The work begins with an Introit, a stirring setting of Psalm 150, which makes the most of the brass stops of the organ.  The traditional movements of the Latin mass follow.  This music is lusciously romantic with a wide range of vocal colour and emotion.  The soloists were David Campbell and Manfred Pohlenz.

The final poem of the concert, To Germany, was written by Charles Hamilton Sorley, who was killed by a sniper’s bullet at the Battle of Loos at the age of 20.  In it, Sorley does not allocate blame, but states that ‘the blind fight the blind’, and hopes that with peace, vision of each other’s humanity will return, ‘But until peace, the storm, The darkness and the thunder and the rain.’

The concert ended with God Shall Wipe Away All Tears the final chorale from Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace, composed to mark the Millennium.

A large audience showed appreciation for this moving concert which was a fitting tribute to those who fight and fall in war.

The Geelong Chorale’s final concert for 2018 is CAROLS AT QUEENSCLIFF, on Saturday, December 8th at 5pm, at Queenscliff Uniting Church.

 

 

 

[1] http://www.elgar.org/3spirit.htm

The Mighty 9th: Beethoven’s 9th Symphony: October 27th, 2018

Costa Hall, Geelong

Geelong Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, conducted by Fabian Russell

Choristers from all over the Geelong region including Winchelsea and Melbourne amassed to create the Geelong Symphony Orchestra Chorus for the first ever performance in Geelong of Beethoven’s ultimate work The Ninth Symphony in D Minor, Op. 125. 

The soloists were Lee Abrahmsen – soprano, Belinda Patterson – alto, Brenton Spiteri – tenor, and Manfred Pohlenz – bass.

This concert marked the GSO’s third anniversary.

For a review of the concert by Colin Mockett, go to Entertainment Geelong.

Choral Grapevine choirs represented in the GSO Chorus were Coryule Chorus, Windfire, The Geelong Chorale, St Mary’s Choir, Vox Angelica, Wondrous Merry, Geelong Grammar School Choir, Geelong U3A Choir, Geelong Harmony, Geelong College Community Choir, Geelong Sings, and Choir of St Paul’s, Geelong.

True Romantics – AUSTRALIAN CHAMBER CHOIR: Sunday, August 26th, 2018

St Paul’s Anglican Church, La Trobe Terrace, Geelong

Musical Director:  Douglas Lawrence

Presented by Music at the Basilica

At first it may seem a misnomer to title this divers program of choral music ‘romantic’.  However, the romanticism of this concert lies in the sense that each work evokes its own atmosphere and each demands the listener to feel a strong emotional response.  If that was the aim of this program, then it was supremely successful.

A change of venue worked to the advantage of both choir and audience.  St Paul’s Geelong has perfect acoustics for singers.  Music at the Basilica was rewarded in this change by a good-sized audience, who clearly appreciated not only the acoustics but also the warmth and comfortable seating.

The music ranged from Brahm’s substantial motet Warum is das licht gegeben dem mühseligen? to madrigals of love and loss by Monteverdi to works by Samuel Barber and Edward Elgar, modern Australian music by Anne Boyd, Alan Holley and Brenton Broadstock and concluded with Trois Chansons by Maurice Ravel.  Joseph Rheinberger’s gentle Abenleid provided a most fitting encore.

This ensemble goes far beyond technical expertise. Douglas Lawrence has melded the Australian Chamber Choir into a perfectly honed instrument of musical perfection. There is not a voice out of place.  The depth of talent in the choir was demonstrated by the two finely matched quintets who performed two of the three Monteverdi madrigals Lasciatemi morire and Si, ch’io vorrei morire and the selection of soloists, including the impeccable singing of soprano Elspeth Bowden in Barber’s taxing Agnus Dei, and the quartet of fine soloists in Maurice Ravel’s Quatre Chansons.  Of special note was the shimmering intensity of Anne Boyd’s As I crossed a bridge of dreams, composed in 1975.

Helen Lyth

The final presentation of this program will be the Art Gallery of NSW on Sunday September 16th at 6.30pm. 

If you missed TRUE ROMANTICS, the Melbourne performance was recorded by ABC Classic FM and presented as part of Evenings on 3rd August.  You can listen to this recording at http://www.abc.net.au/classic/evenings/australian-chamber-choir-true-romantics/9833258. 

Review of True Romantics Melbourne performance by Julie McErlain at https://www.classicmelbourne.com.au/reviews/acc-true-romantics/

Geelong audiences will once again have the opportunity to hear the Australian Chamber Choir in their final program for 2018, A BAROQUE CHRISTMAS, to be presented on Sunday 2nd December at 3pm, at the Basilica of St Mary of the Angels.

 

 

From Dufay to Tchaikovsky: Melbourne Chamber Choir – Sunday, 19th August, 2018

Basilica of St Mary of the Angels

Geelong

A small but appreciative audience was treated to a splendid concert of varied choral music on a cold, blustery afternoon.  The Melbourne Chamber Choir was conducted by David Kram (Musical Director) and Assistant Musical Director Alan Cook, who also provided organ accompaniments for the first half of the program.

The first half of the program comprised ‘a panoramic view of the history of French choral music’ from the  fourteenth century (Guillaume Dufay and Guillaume de Machaut) through to the nineteenth and twentieth century with music of Faure, Maurice Durufle and Olivier Messiaen.

The choir showed its musical versatility, leaping through the centuries from the pre-diatonic harmonies of de Marchaut’s Sanctus (from Messe de Nostre Dame) to the romantic lyricism of Cantique de Jean Racine and three movements from Requiem of Faure.  Of particular note is the Melbourne Chamber Choir’s beautiful pianissimo singing, for example, in the final unison note of Cantique de Jean Racine. There was a warmth of tone in these Faure works, especially in the final movement of the Requiem (O Paradisum). 

The first part of the concert ended with Messian’s early composition, O Sacrum Convivium, which references the music of earlier centuries and is based on plainchant.

The second half of the program was Nine Sacred Pieces, composted by Pytor Ilyich Tshaikovski, and sung in Russian.  This work is unaccompanied, with a large vocal range and full dynamics from extremely soft to full-bodied fortissimo. This work is rarely performed.  It was a pleasure to hear it in the beautiful acoustic of St Marys.

The Melbourne Chamber Choir’s final concert of the year will be a performance of the oratorio Solomon by George Frederic Handel on Sunday 25th November at 3pm at Temple Beth Israel, 75 Alma Road, St Kilda. 

MUSIC AT THE BASILICA

The next concert in the Music at the Basilica 2018 series is on Sunday, August 26th, at 3.30pm at St Paul’s Anglican Church, La Trobe Terrace, Geelong when the Australian Chamber Choir will perform a program titled True Romantics. Please note the change of time and venue.

 

National Youth Choir of Australia: Thursday, July 6th, 2018

Basilica of St Mary of the Angels, Yarra Street, Geelong

A Music at the Basilica presentation.

Take 28 of Australia’s best singers between the ages of 18 and 26.  Bring them together for a few days as a chamber choir.  The result was on show at the National Youth Choir of Australia‘s concert at the Basilica of St Mary of the Angels on July 5th

Despite only a short time rehearsing together, Noel Ancell OAM, Director of the AYCA produced an outstanding program of challenging and varied sacred choral music.  The blend was impeccable; technique never in doubt; musicianship and style faultless. 

The program began with Swiss composer Ivo Antognini’s 2015 Canticum Novum.

This was followed by the world premiere of young Sydney composer William Yaxley’s Mass for Seven Voices.  This is a magical work.  Each movement evokes its own mood.   Examples of this are the stillness of Sanctus, with its rhythmic whispered ‘Pleni sunt coeli’ and upward glissandos, and the contrasting  rhythmic Benedictus sung by the lower parts.  The audience were forewarned that the music might appear ‘strange’, especially  the in the final Agnus Dei, where soprano and alto are in one key and tenor and bass another.  This movement was largely antiphonal, with a final satisfying resolution.

The NYCA then presented a spirited performance of Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden, by J.S. Bach.  There was a joy to this performance – a lightness and deftness evocative of a dance.

Benjamin Britten’s A.M.D.G (Ad maiorem Dei Goriam), composed in 1939, followed – a challenging setting of 7 poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins, not published or performed in Britten’s lifetime.

Despite the few days of rehearsal time, members of the choir have also formed some small groups to perform motets and madrigals.  The Geelong performance included a six-part motet by Carlo Gesualdo composed for Holy Saturday. 

The program concluded with a moving performance of Timor et Tremor, one of Francis Poulencs Quatre Motets our un Temps de Penitence.

After warm applause from the small but appreciative audience, an encore, Lux Aeterna – a choral setting of Edward Elgar’s Nimrod ended this beautiful concert. 

There is still time to hear this outstanding group, before they disband to all corners of Australia.  There are performances in Bendigo on 6th July, Flinders on the Mornington Peninsula on July 7th at 11am, and Melbourne (Carlton) at 7.30 on Saturday July 7thhttp://www.nyca.org.au/tickets

There was a notable absence of Geelong district choristers at the Geelong performance.   Where were you?

For a taste of what you missed watch the NYCA performance of Canticum Novum by Ivo Antoghini, performed in Brisbane in 2017.

 

 

 

 

Western District Choral Festival 2018: Review

Colin Mockett, entertainer and writer extraordinaire, has written a review of the 2018 WDCF at Geelong Grammar’s SPACE.

Read Colin’s review here.

Colin Mockett as billionaire philanthropist Sir Richard Cranberry, before the opening of the Superfictional “Cate@The Smelter” Centre for Art and Technology Experimentation at the old Alcoa Smelter, Point Henry, Geelong, in 2012.

https://catethesmelter.wordpress.com/2014/10/16/billionaire-to-launch-cate-richard-cranberry-in-geelong/