Choir celebrates its seventieth anniversary with a live performance

Canberra Choral Society’s seventieth Anniversary live performance carried out by Dan Walker. Picture by Peter Hislop.

Music / “Attune – 70 Years of Music Making”, Canberra Choral Society. At Canberra Women’ Grammar Faculty Corridor, September 17. Reviewed by IAN McLEAN.

THE Canberra Choral Society (CCS) is one among a number of group arts organisations (Canberra Philharmonic Society is one other) this 12 months celebrating a 70-year steady contribution to the creative panorama in Canberra. 

The choir had humble beginnings. A be aware was positioned on the music room on the now Brassey Resort, then a guesthouse, inviting “anybody who can sing” to attend the primary assembly of the Canberra Choral Group. 

That band of singers grew into the CCS presenting two main symphonic choral works annually in addition to smaller, extra intimate live shows of a cappella singing and piano or organ accompanied items.

Formation 12 months was 1952, simply as Australia welcomed a brand new Queen. She was topped Elizabeth II a 12 months later so it was applicable that the good Handel coronation anthem “Zadok the Priest”, initially written for the 1727 coronation of George II and Queen Caroline, ought to open this anniversary live performance.

Choirs have been the musical mixture maybe hardest hit by the covid virus over the past three years. Canberra’s chorister numbers have been greater than halved in nearly all choirs and re-growth is simply now slowly on the uptake. 

“Zadok” is generally carried out with a choir of 200 or so singers plus a full orchestra – fairly unimaginable forces with a resultant large sound. Due to the virus the present choir energy is only a quarter of that dimension so, regardless of effectively disciplined and dynamically managed taking part in from the nonetheless full orchestra, voices have been understandably considerably overwhelmed.

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Not so in “Songs from the Excessive Nation”, a piece commissioned by the choir particularly for this live performance. Written by gifted Canberra composer Michael Dooley this work is a musical portrayal of pure landscapes round Canberra and the Snowy Mountains and an interpretation of how getting “out within the bush” brings peace and solitude. 

The opening “Daybreak Refrain” set the scene completely with flute, oboe and strings making a blissful daybreak image, brass imitating bush creatures and the choir singing such haunting phrases as: “Beneath the sky’s stained glass home windows the avian superstars carry out”. 

A magical environment was captured with glockenspiel raindrops in “Early Morning Rain” then a peaceable and tranquil oboe in “Moreover Nonetheless Waters”. Pulsating voices and devices signified “Cascades”, it was simple to envisage eucalypts as “Sentinels” then a broad and pastoral orchestral backing to the choir singing of gullies, valleys and hills within the “Outcrop” finale. This work is a nice addition to Australian choral repertoire, which it’s hoped is afforded many efficiency alternatives in coming years.

The second of Handel’s coronation anthems, “Let Thy Hand be Strengthened” was a contact heavy and ponderous and lacked vocal energy and projection, however the closing anthem “My Coronary heart is Inditing” was higher balanced with higher surety and confidence.

The second commissioned work was “Attune”, written by Sydney-based composer Ella Macens in collaboration with Canberra poet Sarah Rice. The piece displays on the themes of renewal, reconnection and togetherness and is an ode to the “components” of the choir that  be a part of collectively to create the “entire”. At occasions, it was tough to discern the phrases however the textual content was offered in this system, which was appreciated. 

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The soprano “half” sang: “Flying excessive in a shining winter / Alongside every department a glittering of lacework frost / You catch the sunshine” and this shifting phrase was indicative of the sharing of widespread values contained throughout the textual content. 

There have been some tentative entries, however all vocal work was strong in tutti passages and the wealthy full sound of the choir was most evident within the unaccompanied “You’re treasure within the backyard”. This complicated work requires additional listening earlier than gaining a extra full understanding of its grace and refined nature however it’s actually one other welcome addition to the Australian library of orchestra/choral works.

The orchestra was effectively led by Tim Wickham with nice taking part in in all sections highlighted by a splendidly blended and balanced woodwind staff.

Canberra Choral Society’s seventieth Anniversary live performance directed by Dan Walker. Picture by Peter Hislop.

Dan Walker offered clear, clear and decisive course to each choir and orchestra and he introduced an apparent ardour and enthusiasm to his conducting.

CCS rightly deserves honest thanks for its prolonged contribution to music in Canberra. Congratulations to all members, previous and current, for a nice 70 years of sharing the enjoyment of music making and offering musical pleasure. Lengthy might it proceed!