Many elements combined in the recent Sydney Chamber Choir’s concert, which focused on the Elements about us. CLOUDBURST was a performance event of sprawling and diverse influences, very well brought together. A satisfyingly strong Australian creative element was present in the mix.
This concert saw a busy choir switch stylistically from the Renaissance to the present day. Recited texts and solos were techniques managed by choir members. The playing of handbells, radios and use of finger clicking effects crossed centuries of choral and compositional tradition.
We were treated to a world premiere work, commissioned by the choir. The result was Stephen Adam’s interesting and compelling ‘Afterwards’ (2014) for choir and percussion, as well as transistor radio and digital devices controlled by choristers.
This work was a definite highlight. Its complex reference to social predicament, direction and our imprint on the environment used text, syllabic and sung choral textures. The piece showcased the choir and guest percussionist Claire Edwardes.
Ola Gjeilo’s ethereal and effect-filled choral writing evoked planets and stars in its opening Kyrie setting, ‘The Spheres’ (2014). An Early Music bracket with rich dissonances and pastoral text setting was comfortably juxtaposed.
Renaissance poems set by Morten Lauriden also reflected early traditions. The “Five Flower Songs” by Britten were later sung in accurate and inimitable style. The ‘Ballad of Green Broom’ was full of humour and character.
Claire Edwardes’ two percussion solos displayed her expertise as a percussionist and exponent of new Australian music. Firstly, Damian Barbeler’s “Deviations on White” (2014) for vibraphone with precise and angular articulation was well realized for this study of intense light on our landscape.
Other Australian works included Ross Edwards’ “Ab estatis foribus”, a 1979 commission from the choir. “Geography VI” (1997) by Sydney Chamber Choir musical director, Paul Stanhope joined the Edwards piece setting Australian poetry and celebrating aspects of Spring.
Two unique American contemporary pieces were interesting and accessible choices. “To the Earth” (1985) by Frederic Rzewski,with its prayer to Mother Earth saw Claire Edwardes playing 4 pitched flower pots and reciting text. This was a thrilling practice for audience to witness.
“Cloudburst”, (1995), by Eric Whitacre with Spanish text and increased percussionists required constant building of solo and group energies. This work with mixed forces was in excellent dramatic and sonic with choir, percussion and conductor Elizabeth Scott.
Whitacre’s scoring for choristers requested natural resonance with handbells as Nature moved towards a storm. This playing looked back at previous eras and earlier brackets of the same concert. Finger clicking from the choir and audience to create the ‘Cloudburst’ rain effect was a suitable climax for all to participate in.
During this concert, the choir demonstrated great flexibility, skill and a focus on the concept of illustrating the Elements. It combined many traditional and recent techniques whilst unifying a theme through the successful blend of voice and percussion. Exciting soundscapes and exposure to progressive compositions were offered to audience members throughout.
For more about Cloudburst: Sydney Chamber Choir, visit http://sydneychamberchoir.org