I have just seen the most delightful concert,  THE ROYAL AFFAIR featuring the Sydney Chamber Choir, June 1st in the Great Hall Sydney University.

ROYAL AFFAIR was a most apposite title since this concert featured works by two Masters of the Queen’s/King’s music. The first was Australian, Malcolm Williamson(1931-2003) the only non Briton to fulfil this role from 1975 until his death. The second, the current Master of the Queen’s music, was Judith Weir. As well, the concert featured music by that most royal of royal composers, Handel.

The first half was entirely acapella with some beautiful poems set to music. The concert opened with Weir’s setting of the  e.e.cummings’ poem, blue true dream sky. A celestial soprano solo, masterfully delivered by, Belinda Montgomery,  set the tone for the whole concert.

The concert continued with Judith Weir’s setting of Love Bade me Welcome by George Herbert  and Malcolm Williamson ‘s , Love the Sentinel. The last was very interesting being a performance of three of the cantos from Tennyson’s In Memorium in honour of a British miner killed during a strike.

Perhaps the most challenging piece of the evening was Williamson’s Symphony For Voices, an exploration of the foreignness of Australia. Commendation must again be given to Natalie Shea who opened the piece with a strong but beautiful alto solo. These excellent singers made the piece interesting and full of spirit.

The final number before interval, The Song sung True, lifted the mood with four charming little pieces about love and singing.

After interval, the choir performed Handel’s Dettingen Te Deum and Zadok the Priest. This was more traditional choral music and the choir gave full throated versions of these pieces, their glorious voices bouncing off the excellent sandstone acoustics of the Great Hall. The choir were accompanied by the Muffat Collective, a group slightly larger than traditional ensembles and they included four period instrument specialists. The Great Hall of Sydney University, was a perfect setting for Handel. The sound was awesome and clearly the choir, even though none of its member are professional musicians, had a deep pool of talent creating a dedication and professionalism which has seen them tour extensively in Hong Kong, Taiwan, the UK and Spain.

The musical direction by conductor Sam Allchurch  was warm and dramatic, reflecting the confidence that comes with complete mastery of, and deep knowledge, of this form of expression. Sam Allchurch, holds a Masters in Music (choral Studies) from Cambridge and is Director of Music of Christ Church of St Laurence. I was musing during the concert that this choir must love working with such a talent.

Not surprisingly the concert was a sell out. What a wonderful asset the Sydney Chamber Choir is the classical music scene.