Music / “Rejoice the Lamb”, Canberra Choral Society. At Wesley Uniting Church, April 8. Reviewed by JAYDEN LOHE
THE Canberra Choral Society – a Canberra-based symphonic choir which turns 70 this year – is back on stage for the first time since July.
In the first of four concerts scheduled for 2022, the 50-plus member choir presented an exciting selection of lesser known and perhaps underappreciated works from the 19th and 20th century English sacred music tradition, including a much of it is the product of the English musical renaissance. occurring at the time.
A packed house at the Wesley Uniting Church welcomed the choir back, obviously thrilled to hear the sound of choral music that has been so lacking in concert halls since the pandemic began.
The choir, led by musical director Dan Walker and accompanied by organist Sam Giddy, sang with passion and brought out the contrast and character of each work. The ensemble highlighted the quality of the music of the English musical revival from the 19th to the 20th century, which Walker says was led by or greatly influenced many of the program’s composers.
The concert began with a joyful hymn by 20th century composer Gerald Finzi titled “God is Gone Up”. The anthem began with an exciting organ fanfare and was followed by the joyful sound of the choir. It was a great start to the concert.
This is followed by two thoughtful, unaccompanied works: Arthur Sullivan’s ‘The Long Day Closes’, a tonal work with rich harmony well transmitted by the choir; and a work titled “A Hymn to Christ” by Imogen Holst, Gustav Holst’s daughter.
Both provided a great contrast to the Finzi, although the diction of these softer works was sometimes slightly blurry, perhaps due to the performance space.
The next work was an energetic rendition of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Festival Te Deum”. Williams was a composer who was greatly influenced by the English musical renaissance and was trained by one of its supporters, Hubert Parry, whose work later appeared in the programme.
Organist Sam Giddy then performed a short work for solo organ by contemporary English composer Paul Ayres. “Fantasia 150 for Organ (Toccata for Eric)” was an exciting piece full of repeating rhythmic patterns and colorful harmonies underneath, and Giddy delivered an imposing performance.
The choir then sang a thoughtful and wistful part of Psalm 42:1-3 (“As the deer desires the streams”). by the 20th century English composer Herbert Howells, also a pupil of Hubert Parry.
This was followed by Benjamin Britten’s cantata “Rejoice in the Lamb”. Divided into short sections, each with its own character that explored the worship of God through God’s creations, the choir and organist did well to convey every character and idea. In addition, the four solos were excellently sung and well projected.
The last work on the program was Hubert Parry’s choral introit “I Was Glad”, written in 1902 for the coronation of King Edward VII, with text based on verses from Psalm 122. It was perhaps the best performance of the concert and provided a joyous finale, adorned with beautiful melodic lines by the sopranos.
Despite the significant challenges of COVID-19, the Canberra Choral Society presented an excellent first concert of 2022 which showcased the beauty of 19th and 20th century English sacred music. With 2022 being the 70th anniversary of the Choral Society, the year promises to be an exciting one for the ensemble.
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Ian Meikle, editor