For the Joy of Singing the Classics: Opera Choruses

Around 50 singers enjoyed an afternoon singing the classics under the able direction of Daryl Barclay with the help of Hugh Davidson, accompanist.

The music was challenging – with all parts needing to divide (in one case, within two choirs).  With opera, the chorus play many roles.  This afternoon the chorus were asked to play peasants, matadors (and their molls), pilgrims, country bumpkins and courtiers.

With many choruses sprinting along at allegro, even English words were a challenge.  However, undaunted, the group attempted Italian for choruses of Verdi, but reneged on trying Russian for Tchaikovsky.

Thanks to Daryl and Hugh for an afternoon of enjoyable singing.  Thanks also to Anne Pilgrim, who devised the concept of Singing the Classics as a chance for singers to attempt repertoire that is outside of their choirs’ usual scope.  The series is sponsored by The Geelong Chorale.

The second For the Joy of Singing the Classics for 2018 will be on June 10th, when Allister Cox (director of The Geelong Chorale and a G & S veteral), will conduct singers in an afternoon of choruses from Gilbert and Sullivan light operas.

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Haydn’s Creation – The Geelong Chorale – review

Thanks to Colin Mocket (That’s Entertainment, Geelong)

Hayden’s  Creation – from woe to go in song

Joseph Haydn’s Creation sung by the augmented Geelong Chorale conducted by Allister Cox, Wesley Church, Yarra St, December 5, 2015.

It’s not every day you get a chance to review the creation of the earth.
In Geelong, it happens only once every couple of decades, because 1994 was the last time this work was sung in our city, by the same group, then known as The GAMA Singers.
Ironically that was the last concert in what was then Geelong’s premier vocal auditorium, the west wing of the Town Hall concert hall, before it was  taken over as a base for local politicians. At the time they promised to build a replacement venue. As this never happened,  Geelong must be the only place on earth where The Creation was so swiftly followed by local council annexation.
But leaving all that aside, there were, surprisingly, several voices remaining from that 1994 event in the 2015 Chorale, and more survivors in the audience. And most were in agreement that this was the superior performance. This was, in short, a luscious piece of choral work that was (literally) magnificently delivered.
Technically, it was beautifully balanced, with a highly competent 30-piece orchestra in front of the Chorale’s 46 voices with four soloists seated to one side – all controlled with musical elegance by one conductor, Allister Cox. And  there was not a microphone or mixing desk in view.
None were needed because the soloists had the ability and power to project over both choir and orchestra to tell the stories of Haydn’s masterwork with clarity and beauty.
The structure of the work moves from chaos to order,  giving prominence – and characters – to those soloists. So the wonderful soaring soprano of Lee Abrahmsen was singing the archangel Gabriel’s view of the creation, while Manfred Pohlenz’s rich, commanding bass gave voice to archangel Raphael. Later, in act three, these two became Adam and Eve, allowing them to assume the prominent, driving roles for the entire concert, with tenor Daryl Barclay singing the lesser part of archangel Uriel and the Chorale literally singing like angels extolling praise for their maker. Clearly maestro Haydn had little time for altos, as soloist Kathleen Rawson’s sole role was to augment the final amens, which she did as adroitly – and masterfully – as every other musician involved in this most glorious of concerts.
Aesthetically and acoustically, the Church venue was perfect for the occasion, and director Cox’s reverence and reference to his 1859 original score  added even more lustre.
I shudder to think of the enormous amount of work and expertise that went into staging this exquisite concert. It would have taken months of rehearsals and significant resources. But believe me, it was worth every moment. And there’s another irony in that it told of (literally) everything being created on a much shorter time-scale, just six days.
Here’s hoping we all get to see the next staging of this glorious work – perhaps in Geelong’s long-promised purpose-built concert hall.

Colin Mockett