All posts by Toni Adams

Toni loves classical music, especially opera and other ‘integrated’ art forms. Toni trained as a pianist but has pursued this only for pleasure in adult life. She has also sung in amateur choirs in Australia and France and has a strong appreciation of liturgical music, ancient and modern. Toni also enjoys theatre, especially Shakespeare and 18th century comedies, and film, including French films. She also likes theatre sports.

NELSON MASS (MASSES FOR DREAMING AND TROUBLED TIMES) @ CITY RECITAL HALL

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This was the final concert for 2016 for both the Sydney Chamber Choir and the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra (formerly known as orchestra seventeen88). The combination of these two groups, both under the direction of Richard Gill, delivered a wonderful evening’s entertainment to a large audience.

Ross Edwards. Pic by Bridget Elliott.
Ross Edwards. Pic by Bridget Elliott.

The concert opened with Ross EdwardsMass of the Dreaming ‘Missa Alchera’. This was performed a capella by the Sydney Chamber Choir. As a first time listener to this work, I was blown away by its beauty and, as always with Ross Edwards’ work, its deep roots in Australian culture.

The opening Kyrie used the basses to great effect to draw on the drone sound of a didgeridoo, which set the scene, and this led to a dialogue between the male and female voices. The Gloria set a strong rhythmic pace with sonorous syncopation which was very effective. The Sanctus and then the Benedictus captured our minds with sonorous yet delicate harmonies in a beautiful canon. Continue reading NELSON MASS (MASSES FOR DREAMING AND TROUBLED TIMES) @ CITY RECITAL HALL

LEICHHARDT COUNCIL PRESENTS THE CELLISTS OF THE METROPOLITAN ORCHESTRA

tmo- secondThis was a short concert presented to a full audience on a glorious sunny Sunday afternoon, which is a tribute to the growing fan base of the TMO, which very definitely includes me.

The selection of works written or scored for eight cellos ranged from Handel to ABBA via Ravel, Arvo Paert, Mark Grandison and Gustavo Tavares!

The highlight was the world premiere of a new work, Cellar Door, written especially for this group by Mark Grandison who conducted this piece as well. Continue reading LEICHHARDT COUNCIL PRESENTS THE CELLISTS OF THE METROPOLITAN ORCHESTRA

OPERANTICS PRESENTS MANSFIELD PARK @ THE INDEPENDENT THEATRE NORTH SYDNEY

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Production photography by John Kilkeary

It was with much interest that I went to see the Australian premiere  production of MANSFIELD PARK, a chamber opera adaptation of Jane Austen’s timeless novel. I am happy to report that it was wonderful! A really fun night!

The adaptation by Jonathon Dove with libretto by Alasdair Middleton sticks closely to the original story by Jane Austen, but suppresses some side plots with Tom the older brother etc. The only issue I had with the selected parts was that one of the love interests (Mr Yates) is mentioned but never seen, even though he plays a key part at the end. However, this did not detract from my enjoyment of the performance. Continue reading OPERANTICS PRESENTS MANSFIELD PARK @ THE INDEPENDENT THEATRE NORTH SYDNEY

SYDNEY CHAMBER CHOIR PRESENTS CARMINA BURINA @ CITY RECITAL HALL, ANGEL PLACE

 

Carmina Burina

The Sydney Chamber Choir delivered its first concert under the direction of Richard Gill OAM to an enthusiastic audience. Richard Gill needs no introduction as his contributions to music and especially music education are well known. The choir was in beautiful voice and the program was a wonderful mix of the very old, the very new and the in-between.

The first half comprised  Guillaume de Machaut’s 14th century work Messe de Notre Dame, interleaved with three new compositions from young Australian up and coming composers. Each brief interlude piece was different, yet each related to the prime text of the Messe. The contrast of the modern interludes with the classic polyphonic writing of the Messe illustrated the changes in music over the last 600 years and reflected the changes in taste and texture of music from then to now.

Continue reading SYDNEY CHAMBER CHOIR PRESENTS CARMINA BURINA @ CITY RECITAL HALL, ANGEL PLACE

THE METROPOLITAN ORCHESTRA PRESENTS STRING SERENADES @ EUGENE GOOSENS HALL

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The Metropolitan Orchestra (TMO) opened their 2016 concert series at the Eugene Goossens Hall on 20 February with a delightful program of string works by Rojas, Dvorak and Tchaikovsky.

This wonderful orchestra has a faithful band of followers, which adds an additional level of conviviality to all their concerts.

The opening item was a new revision of Little Serenade for Strings by Daniel Rojas. This exciting work features strong Afro-Cuban elements with a beautiful tangoesque second movement and percussive final movement which involves the whole body of each player. The third movement featured lyrical cello sections supported by the exquisite string playing of the whole orchestra. Continue reading THE METROPOLITAN ORCHESTRA PRESENTS STRING SERENADES @ EUGENE GOOSENS HALL

Operantics presents Cosi Fan Tutte @ The Independent Theatre

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Production photography by John Kilkeary

This chamber production of COSI FAN TUTTE was performed by a group of young opera students.  This gave it a freshness that was most enjoyable.

The opera was reset to modern Sydney with the main characters living on the North Shore (the boys) or in the Eastern Suburbs (the girls). The surtitles were written to reflect these changes. The set was simple, but worked, and the accompanying pianist, Nathaniel Kong, was excellent. Continue reading Operantics presents Cosi Fan Tutte @ The Independent Theatre

On The Harmful Effects of Tobacco

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Michel Robin delivered a memorable performance in this inter-disciplinary retelling of Anton Chekhov’s quirky one Act play

This Theatre Des Bouffes Du Nord production combined a quirky Chekhov one act play with classical French comedic theatre techniques along with powerful classical music to bring off a great night’s entertainment.

The quality of the musicianship was superb – Floriane Bonnani (Violin and Original Concept), Muriel Ferraro (Soprano) and Emmanuelle Swiercz (Piano) set a high standard for their playing of the Bach, Tchaikovsky and Berio pieces.   Continue reading On The Harmful Effects of Tobacco

Toni’s pick for 2014- The Elixir Of Love

Elixir Of Love-secondAlthough I saw many wonderful shows and operas in the year, my favourite show of the year was THE ELIXIR OF LOVE at the Opera House.

The production with its Australian setting at the start of WWI, was just hilarious. This production dates from 2001, but is still fabulous and well worth reviving.

I loved the use of corrugated iron to build the sets, even the horses and the shepherd’s dog, who appeared to be a corrugated iron kelpie! Continue reading Toni’s pick for 2014- The Elixir Of Love

Viennese Titans @ Sydney Grammar

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Flowers and plenty of acclaim for Georgia Browne, the concert’s outstanding soloist and prinicipal flautist. Pics by Nico Jonker

Orchestraseventeen88 is an orchestra which has been established to present the classical repertoire from the late Rococo to the Romantic era in Historically Informed Performance (HIP) style.  This means that the music is played on period instruments, in period style and using musical pitch relevant to each era and piece as well.

The Artistic Director of this new period instrument ensemble is Richard Gill OAM. For this Company’s first concert, eloquently titled AN EVENING WITH THE VIENNESE TITANS Racheel Beesley was the Concertmaster, Benjamin Bayl was the Conductor and Georgia Browne was the soloist and principal flautist.

The evening’s program consisted of three pieces:  The Creatures of Prometheus (Beethoven), Concerto No 1 for Flute and Orchestra in G Major (Mozart) and the very long Symphony in C Major (Schubert); that is, from an orchestral development point of view, Beethoven, pre-Beethoven and post-Beethoven. Continue reading Viennese Titans @ Sydney Grammar

SYO’s 40th BIRTHDAY CONCERT

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A wonderful combination- the exubrance of youth and a great passion for playing music. This photo was taken during the Sydney Youth Orchestra’s 1981 tour of Singapore.

It was a great pleasure to attend the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Sydney Youth Orchestra (SYO), founded by the late and great Peter Seymour.

The program opened with the Greeting Prelude by Stravinsky, a most apt to the occasion. This was followed by a Hayden Sinfonia Concertante in three movements, and then the major work: Mahler’s 6th Symphony.

The Greeting prelude was brief but fun, having been originally written to celebrate the 80th birthday of the conductor of the premiere performance of The Rite of Spring.

The Sinfonia Concertante gave the orchestra a chance to show off its technical proficiency and then some. This work is written for a quarter with orchestra; the four members of the quartet being cello, violin, oboe and bassoon. All four players were outstanding, but I must confess to having a real feel for the oboe in this piece. This work is particularly suited to a lazy Sunday afternoon and was performed professionally and with expertise. I really enjoyed it.

The major work was Mahler’s Symphony No 6. This large work in four movements requires a special instrument called, appropriately, a Mahler Drum. It looks like a large tree stump and is played with a wooden mallet. The sound is a great ‘thok’ like an axe felling a large tree. The drum was specifically commissioned for this performance. Consequently, I spent much of the performance waiting for ‘the drum’!

The SYO was augmented for this performance with several alumni. To give some idea of the scale of the augmentation, I counted 10 double basses, 8 French horns, 5 percussionists and 2 harps, not forgetting the celeste!

In the program notes, they mentioned that Richard Strauss thought the work a bit ‘overscored’. I must confess to be on Strauss’s side here and often find that with Mahler.

Nevertheless, the performance was excellent, with the large sweeping themes that Mahler is expert at writing, as well as his inventive and intensive orchestration, using every instrument in the orchestra; even if only twice, as in the case of the Mahler Drum! For Mahler lovers, this would have been a wonderful afternoon.

Congratulations to the SYO on its 40th. They are a really great group with impressive discipline and great technical expertise.

The Sydney Youth Orchestra’s 40th Anniversary Celebration took place on Sunday 3rd November within the Verbrugghen Hall at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

 

TMO’s 5th ANNIVERSARY CONCERT

The Metropolitan Orchestra in a celebratory mood
The Metropolitan Orchestra in a celebratory mood

The Metropolitan Orchestra (TMO) is an orchestra of people who play for the love of it – mostly unpaid. This dedication and enthusiasm translated into their playing and made the evening a very pleasant one, despite some venue issues with car parking, lack of signage, interrogator lighting in the eyes of the audience etc.

The program consisted of two well-loved fifth symphonies: Beethoven’s and Tchaikovsky’s.

Beethoven was at the start of the romantic era and Tchaikovsky represents its height.  It is easy for us to not realise how avant-garde and innovative Beethoven was. Symphony orchestras were never the same again after him, and all those who came after, including Tchaikovsky, built on his foundations.

This was the first time I had been in the Eugene Goossens auditorium. Despite its relatively small size, the venue has great acoustics and could well take the brass etc. of this orchestra and its chosen program. There was also a slight variation to the standard disposition of the orchestra, which worked well with this group in this space.

Both pieces being so well known, I will focus on the things I noticed about the TMO’s playing. Firstly, there was the freshness and enthusiasm of their playing. You could see they were really enjoying themselves, including the conductor! It seemed to me that the Scherzo movement was played a bit slower and more deliberately than one often hears it, but that was no problem really and encouraged me to really tune into it and not take it for granted. All the players were very professional, but I noticed the lead oboe in particular. Her sound was really beautiful, and, also it seemed to me her technique excellent (I am not myself an oboe player).

The second item was the Tchaikovsky 5th. Again, I noted the lovely oboe, but also some nice bassoon and French horn playing coming through. The Andante movement had a great cello lead and also made effective use of the clarinets and a lovely horn solo. The finale brought us to a triumphant finish and some great use of the timpani.

This was my first hearing of the TMO and I will certainly look forward to their 2014 Season. I was sitting next to some fans and found out that the TMO already have a regular following – in fact the concert was booked out. For those of you who like cruising, the TMO will be part of a cruise experience later next year on Radiance of the Seas. Sounds like a great holiday to me.

The Metropolitan Orchestra’s (TMO) performed their Fifth Anniversary Celebration Concert at the  at the Eugene Goossens Hall, ABC Centre, Ultimo on Saturday 2nd November, 2013.

 

35TH RUNNYMEDE POP FESTIVAL

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I really enjoy early (mediaeval) music and its instruments so was very happy to attend this performance. Sadly, the date clashed with the Fleet Review and the time with the fireworks! This meant that the audience was not as numerous as it would otherwise undoubtedly have been. Despite this, the program was well thought out, calling on the bawdiness and directness, which is a feature of this period and style of music.

The program choices ranged across Europe including English, Spanish, Italian and German. I did have trouble following the program, which was awkwardly set out, so I do hope I have attached my comments to the right piece! I would also have liked to know the instruments being played in each set, as my knowledge of mediaeval instruments is not what it used to be.

The ‘narrator’ of the evening, Geoff Sirmai, was superb, interspersing the musical episodes with excellent readings of funny verse and story.

One of the features of music of this period is the versatility that is allowed to musicians i.e. they are allowed to and expected to be proficient in many musical instruments as well as singing etc. I was particularly impressed with Winsome Evan’s skills, which demonstrated her life-time commitment to bringing this music to us all.

The concert opened with some beautiful singing from Jessica O’Donoghue as the group progressed into the Great Hall. The setting would have justified a banqueting table with jongleurs for our edification!

The first series of pieces used exciting rhythms and beautiful singing and virtuoso playing of the alto shawm. There was also the hint of the Moslem Call to Prayer in some of the sounds, which reminds us that this period of music was heavily influenced by the music that Europeans heard on the crusades. The foot-stamping rhythms and mediaeval line-dancing (with audience participation) in The Monks Soft-Shoe Shuffle were also a lot of fun! It made one wonder when whities lost their ‘dance gene’! A recurring theme in the poetry, stories and songs was the hypocrisy and bad behaviour of the clergy! Sounds very modern! The final item before the interval had a beautiful opening on the Dies Irae theme with nice use of castanets and bells.

The second half opened with music that reminded me of the dancing of the Hare Krishnas with its quasi-pentatonic sound, but with over-the-top ornamentation adding interest. One of the highlights of the second half was a great poem about snoring which was definitely LOL! We were also treated to a lovely duet on the gemshorn, a new instrument to me. It looked incredibly difficult to play, especially to play well, so I must commend Winsome and Jenny Duck-Chong on their superb playing. The evening closed with two great Saltarello dance pieces which left us all on a high.

I would like to recommend a better program layout which told us a bit about the instruments as not everyone in the audience will be familiar with mediaeval instruments. It would also have been great to have some refreshments, even water, available at interval.

TURANDOT at Covent Garden

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‘Colour, light and lavish fabrics dazzle the eye’ in a scene
from Turandot at the Royal Opera House

This was the first time I had attended a broadcast performance of an opera in a cinema. I was not sure what to expect as I am a regular opera-goer and lover of the art form. What I love about opera is that it is an integrated art form which incorporates music, theatre, dance etc.

Happy to say that there was the same mix of people looking forward to an evening that would be enjoyable on many levels as you get at the actual opera.

This Royal Opera production is sumptuous – on a scale that Opera Australia can rarely achieve, not just because of the small size of the Sydney Opera House’s Opera Theatre and orchestra pit, but also the sponsorship required to stage a multi-million dollar production like this one!

As you would expect from the Royal Opera, the singers were fabulous and the production pretty well perfect. Naturally, everyone was waiting for the Nessum Dorma aria, and we were not disappointed. However, the singing, acting, dancing and stage set were all at an incredibly high level.

However, the extra bit that I really enjoyed is the one you do not get with a live performance – the back stage interviews. It was really interesting to hear the director talk about the production, the conductor talk about his approach to interpreting the music, the costume designer talk about what themes she drew on (Mediaeval Chinese in this case), and the choreographer talk about how she based the dances on Tai Chi movements.

The cinematic presentation of these performances is a different experience to that of live opera – but still incredibly moving and engaging. The ‘feel’ of the audience seemed reflected this too.

I would recommend attending one of these cinematic broadcasts of opera if you are:

a) an opera lover and cannot be in London, New York etc. to attend the live performance or want to check out different productions, hear new singers etc; or

b) You are a newcomer to opera and want to test out how you feel about the art form – at cinema prices, you can afford to do a good lot of testing!

The Royal Opera’s production of Andrei Serban’s staging of Puccini’s TURANDOT screened  from Covent Garden, London at Verona Cinema Paddington on Tuesday October 1, 2013 with further sessions on Friday October 4 at 11.30am, Saturday October 5 at 11.30am, Sunday October 6 at 12pm abd Wednesday October 9 at 11.30am.

CHO CHO

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This innovative work, inspired by Puccini’s opera “Madame Butterfly”, uses a mix of drama, music, puppetry and Chinese and English language to deliver a strong and emotionally poignant evening. The setting of Shanghai in the 1930’s also supported this new interpretation.

The story of Butterfly always enthrals, whether in the well-known opera (which will be performed on the Harbour next year) or in the also well known and loved musical, Miss Saigon. Having said that, the line between opera and musical theatre is a thin one, and I would have described this new work as a chamber opera myself.

The music is a beautiful mix of English and Chinese theatre/opera traditions drawing on Kurt Weill, early 20th century jazz and old and modern Chinese theatre/opera music. There was also the use of what I suspect may be the Chinese equivalent of commedia dell’arte stock characters in the aunty and ‘marriage broker’.

I was not sure about the use of puppetry until the wedding night scene, when it was most incredibly effective in demonstrating the effective dismemberment of Butterfly’s soul.

This is a tightly woven work and draws the audience in intensely. In fact, I found the interval distracting and disruptive and would have preferred it delivered as a one-act production.

The star of the show would have to be Wang Zheng as Cho Cho, with her operatic credentials clearly on display not only in her beautiful singing but also her incredible stage presence, even when being the ‘voice’ of her puppet character in the flashback scenes.

I was also impressed with Du He as the aunty, whose beautiful and mellow voice had a few moments to shine when not in strong comic character. David Whitney as Sharpless was also memorable, playing the role of the lost ex-pat very effectively. Scott Irwin as Pinkerton was very believable. I must confess that I never see this plot in any form without being aware that in many parts of the world this situation is still occurring, which underlines the tragedy for me.

A special mention goes to the puppeteer who played the roles of Cho Cho’s child and the young Cho Cho. His capacity to efface himself, so that you saw and responded only to the puppet character and its story, was phenomenal!

I would recommend this show to all, but do sit at least three rows back so that you can read the surtitles.

The National Theatre of China and PlayKing’s production of the Sydney season of their award winning Chinese-Australian production Cho Cho, is playing six performances at The Concourse Theatre, Chatswood from September 24-28 and is then touring to Melbourne, playing the Arts Centre Melbourne from 2-6 October.

 

 

CROSS SECTIONS

Sydney Chamber Choir

Having attended and reviewed three performances now, I am rapidly becoming a fan of this Choir. Their latest offering is one that spans European and Asian, specifically Chinese, musical traditions.

The program opened with the traditional Western music for which this choir is renowned, including works by Hildegard of Bingen, Tallis and Josquin des Prez. However, these were paired with complementary works on the same themes, including traditional Jewish chants (beautifully sung by Rob Hughes and Sebastién Maury) and a 2008 work, “Deserts of Exile”, by Paul Stanhope, the Choir’s director. I especially loved the closing ‘sighing wind’ sections of the “Deserts of Exile”.

The opening work “O Quam Preciosa” took full advantage of the wonderful acoustics of the venue, delivering an ethereal, angelic sound, which really set the audience up for an evening of enjoyment. The accompaniment with the traditional Chinese instruments of the erhu (‘viol’) and guzheng (‘harp’) really worked and created a beautiful fusion of East and West. I look forward to more of this fusion music.

The second half of the concert was devoted to newer music, including several world premiers of works commissioned specifically for the choir. These included works by Percy Grainger, new settings by Julian Yu of traditional Chinese Flower Songs and the setting of “Poem 1”, written and composed by Xingzimin Pan.

It opened with Grainger’s “Australian Up Country” song (from his Stephen Foster inspired period) and “Brigg Fair”, which were both beautifully rendered. However, for many of the audience it was the piano performance of young Joshua Han (aged 11 years) in “In Dahomey” which really took our breath away. This young man has superb and mature technique which well supported his excellent performance of this fun work.  Expect to hear more of him. This was followed by Lucia Li (also 11 years old) playing the Grainger setting of the traditional Chinese song “Beautiful Fresh Flower” – a total contrast to “In Dahomey” and drawing on the traditional ‘feminine’ grace associated with this genre of songs! I would suggest downloading the sheet music to this one as it should be fun to play.

The final two works were a group of [Torres Strait] “Island Songs” by Stephen Leek and Ross Edwards’ “Mountain Chant”. In the Island group of songs, you could clearly hear the ‘canoe paddle’ rhythm underlying the song. Glad to say that I could hear every word of these songs!

The last work, “Mountain Chant”, took me back to my times in the Warrumbungles. For those of you who have not been there, I would give them a little time to recover from the recent devastating bushfires and then visit. This music will really help put you in touch with their spirit. The lovely use of bass, the reference to didgeridoo rhythms and frog sounds really helped create a strong sense of place.

We were also treated to a traditional Taiwanese song as an encore. The Choir is about to go on a tour of Asia, so we were all privileged to hear this wonderful repertoire with so many newly commissioned works prior to their departure. I am sure they will have a successful tour.

The concert, performed at Chatswood’s Concourse theatre on Saturday September 21, was recorded by ABCFM, so do make sure to catch it.

TALE OF TWO CITIES

The Sydney Chamber Choir
The Sydney Chamber Choir who shared the program with the Adelaide Chamber Singers

Appropriate to this anniversary year, the program for this concert entitled TALE OF TWO CITIES had a particular focus on Benjamin Britten, works he would have known and been influenced by and works which have been influenced by him and his predecessors in the great English choral tradition.

The concert opened with both choirs singing Jackson’s Sanctum est verum lumen. This beautiful work opens with a great chord which the program notes describe as a nebula, but which I would describe as a nova, so powerful is its impact. This piece demonstrated how well the two choirs blended.

The next group of works was sung by the Sydney Chamber Choir. First up was a selection of Britten works from AMDG, his settings of poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins. The opening section, Deus ego amo, was beautifully crisp and the Prayer 1 section displayed the delectable harmonies for which Britten is famous and to which the choir did justice. The final section in this group was The Soldier which uses military rhythms and relies on clear articulation from the choir to work. It did.

The next work was Jackson’s Cecilia Virgo in 24 parts. The beautiful descending phrases at the beginning and end really did sound like the bell peals they were imitating.  This work also has some beautiful dissonances.

The Lament to Saint Cecilia, composed by the choir director, Stanhope, to a poem by Veronica Pamoukahglian, gave the choir a chance to show what they could do in terms of a dazzling flow of melody. I look forward to hearing more works from Mr Stanhope.

The final work in this group was Britten’s well-known and loved Hymn to Saint Cecilia, based on Auden’s Anthem for St Cecilia’s Day. It was easy to hear that the choir loved singing this. They embraced the whole work and danced through the beautiful, floating harmonies and lovely canon sections. Special mention must be made of the soprano soloist whose bell-like singing was heart-piercing.

The second half of the concert opened with both choirs singing Britten’s A Hymn to the Virgin. This work was absolutely beautiful. Hard to believe that Britten was only 16 (and sick) when he wrote it!

The next group of works were sung by the Adelaide Chamber Singers. They opened with Maclean’s Et misericordiae. Maclean is a modern Australian composer whose work I had not previously heard. In this work, I noticed the difference between the two choirs. The Adelaide choir seemed to have a richer deeper tone. However, they sang this most challenging and complex work with finesse, drawing out the inter-woven melodies. Their soprano soloist was superb in the “He has the rain…” section and was supported by some beautiful drone singing. This is a beautiful composition, but sad as you would expect in a text from Job.

The next work saw a return to Britten’s AMDG with Rosa Mystica. This section of AMDG is very different to the earlier ones. It has a lightness and resonance which the choir brought out; altogether delightful.

The final two works from the Adelaide choir were Twist’s How shall we sing in a strange land, based on a poem by Oodgeroo Noonuccal, “Song of Hope” mixed with words from Psalm 137; and Whitacre’s Leonardo dreams of his flying machine. What a contrast! The Twist composition delivered a beautiful setting for Oodgeroo Noonuccal’s words of loss and sorrow. I thought I could clearly hear the coastal, rainforest sounds you would expect from this Quandamooka woman in the melodies of the words and the song. On the other hand, the Whitacre composition was just straight out fun! And the choir thought so too! They conveyed the flying, floating nature of the work, particularly in the susurrations depicting the wind with a gentle touch of light percussion for emphasis.

The concert closed with both choirs singing Tallis’s Spem in alium. This incredibly challenging work was sung in eight small choirs of 5 to 7 singers each. I have to commend Crossin’s conducting! The best way to enjoy this music is with your eyes closed. Talk about wall-of-sound. Eat your heart out Phil Spector,Tallis is better!

TALE OF TWO CITIES, a superb program of music, performed by the Adelaide Chamber Singers along with the Sydney Chamber Choir was performed at the Great Hall, Sydney University on Sunday 16th June, 2013. This concert will be broadcast on the ABC, so do try and catch it.

 

 

Julie Andrews Charms Sydney

Julie AndrewsMs Andrews is currently touring Australia with a one-woman show about her life: “An Evening with Julie Andrews”. Her press conference, held at the Park Hyatt Hotel yesterday, was to enable the press to photograph Ms Andrews and to also ask questions about her life, work  and her forthcoming show.

For those millions of fans out there, like myself, this will be a once in a lifetime opportunity to hear Ms Andrews talk about her life, her achievements and her interests – but sadly, not sing.

An operation that went wrong a few years ago robbed us of her beautiful voice prematurely. Fortunately, she has an exceptionally large recorded oeuvre, both film and music, which we can continue to enjoy forever.

In answer to a question I asked her about how she coped, Ms Andrews talked about the difficulties she had in reassessing her image of herself after her voice was damaged. However, out of this difficult time has come a new direction – setting up a publishing house with her daughter and writing children’s books which incorporate strong story telling and music. I had not come across them yet so will have to road test them with my grandchildren!

Ms Andrews briefly spoke about the people who had mentored and inspired her, but left further details for her upcoming show.  I was particularly struck by her emphasizing that her advice to young people wanting a career in the performing arts was to work hard and be prepared, which I have taken the liberty of paraphrasing as: Luck = Hard Work + Opportunity.

It was wonderful to hear Ms Andrews talk and realise that the person behind the screen and stage persona is such an intelligent and articulate woman with a lifetime of wisdom to share.

If you are lucky enough to get tickets to one of the two shows she is giving in Sydney, on either the 24th or the 25th May, I am sure that you will experience a wonderful evening.

© Toni Adams

17 May 2013

REMEMBER ME

This program of songs for soloists, choir and small orchestra was very well put together to display the musical talents of all. The first half of the program was a collection of old and modern works on themes related to flowers and love, interspersed with selections from Dowland’s LACHRIMAE, which were selected for their relevance to the following piece. The LACHRIMAE selections gave the orchestra a chance to showcase their skills, which they did.

Continue reading REMEMBER ME

7 LAST WORDS

The Sydney Chamber Choir

From the first notes to the final susurrations of the orchestra, this was a wonderful performance.

The choir displayed the expertise and discipline for which it is known and, despite the heat, the orchestra were an integral part of the pieces in which it participated.

The opening item, ‘Is it nothing to you?’ by Ouseley was notable for its crisp, clear finish and beautiful articulation – I could actually follow the text from listening to the singers! This was followed by the harmonically beautiful ‘Caliganaverunt oculi mei’ by Victoria and the moving ‘Vide homo by di Lasso’.

The Australian premiere of James MacMillan’s ‘Tenebrae factae sunt’ was a tour de force. Again, the excellent diction of the choir was appreciated as it enabled a full enjoyment of this complex piece. The reverberating finale was, as described in the program notes – “a roar of agony”, which reached into one’s heart.

The composer himself was present for the world premiere of ‘Nasce la gioia mia’. This is an adaptation developed for the Sydney Chamber Choir from an earlier work Missa Solis – Requiem for Eli written after the death of the composer’s son. It was a change to hear a treatment of grief and immortality that was not liturgical in origin and yet fitted with the liturgical works of the program, which were drawn from the Holy Week services. The intensely personal nature of the particular grief that was behind this work was apparent and added to its impact.

The last item was Heinrich Schulz’s ‘7 Last Words’. The integration of the choir and orchestra in this piece displayed the skills and expertise of both singers and players, including a promising countertenor in Chris Hopkins. Some highlights from the wonderful string playing included the violas and their notes of grief, in the Woman, behold thy son! … Behold, thy mother! movement, and the wonderful denouement of the last movement, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit, when the strings alone finish the work. The ‘ethereal’ singers, Megan Cronin and Liane Papantoiniou, also deserve a mention, not least because singers in that range seem rare these days.

Special mention must be made the of excellent program notes, which revealed a depth of scholarship that certainly enriched my enjoyment of the concert.

The concert, ‘Seven Last Words’ with the Sydney Chamber Choir and the Sydney Camerata Chamber Orchestra, was performed at the Great Hall, Sydney University on the afternoon of Sunday 24th March 2013.

© Toni Adams

25th March, 2013

Tags: Sydney Stage Reviews-SEVEN LAST WORDS, Sydney Chamber Choir, Sydney Camerata Chamber Orchestra, Great Hall Sydney University, Sydney Arts Guide, Toni Adams