Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Collegium Symphonic Chorus - Carmina Burana review

Spring arrived with a blaze of sunshine on the weekend and so it was fitting that the Collegium Symphonic Chorus performed Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. The 1934 choral work celebrates spring, revelry and lust in a riot of musical energy. The profane was paired with the sacred - a setting of the mass by Argentinean composer Ariel Ramirez – in a concert brimming with life.

Collegium was supplemented by the Hale/St Mary’s Cantate so Carmina Burana’s opening number ‘O Fortuna’ was delivered with blazing energy. In Orff’s dramatic setting of provocative thirteenth century Goliard poetry plainchant references are laced with Debussian harmonies and Stravinskian syncopations. The choir and soloists were backed by trumpets and underscored by the metronomic rhythm of two pianos and six percussionists. The choir (under the brisk conducting of Margaret Pride) sang about meadows of flowers, a drunk abbot, a roasting swan and the delight of lost chastity with enthusiasm. The high notes were often a stretch for the soprano section but the work was dramatically gripping.

Jennifer Barrington
Within this spicy mix soprano soloist Jennifer Barrington sparkled like a gem, her immaculate solos delivered with lingering sweetness. The searing intensity of tenor Jun Zhang’s depiction of a dying swan was a showstopper, his golden tone unfailingly beautiful. Baritone Matthew Tng had less substance although his vocal range was impressive.

The two male soloists featured again after interval in Ramirez’ Misa Criolla. Ramirez’ setting of the mass drew on the appealing melodies and rhythms of Argentinean folk music; think Buena Vista Social Club and the Leningrad Cowboys meet Catholic liturgy. Perth Argentinean band Ackon Cahuak provided the accompaniment of charango (a five stringed guitar), guitar, pan pipes, piano and percussion. The band infused the piece with a hip-swaying groove so that a dusty cowboy or a smoky Cuban club came to mind more often than a stained glass window. The choir transitioned well into the South American folk idiom but were tiring by the end. The colloquial spirituality of the mass sat well alongside Orff’s elevated bawdiness and provided a fascinating contrast.

This review copyright The West Australian 2014.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Soiree Success

What a delight this winter has been, full of warmth, wine and friendship as I shared Women of Note at Soirees around Perth.

I was so privileged to be invited to contribute to these parties. I met neighbours, readers, writers and music lovers who all seemed as excited as me about the richness of Australia's women composers. Thank you to everyone for your extravagant hospitality and plenty of book sales!

We had some fascinating conversations about experimental/noise music. Listening to Cat Hope The Corridors of Pain:  "Do the people who create this stuff think the music is whatever you bring to it?"
Ros Bandt's Stack: electroacoustic symphony is still shocking for people who don't wouldn't consider this music.

During a blind 'listening test' of two choral works written in 1999 most people chose Dawn Mantra (Ross Edwards) over Choral Scenes (Helen Gifford) as the work most likely to be written by a woman. Many people were surprised to discover how many composers they did in fact recognise, and of course EVERYONE loves Elena Kats-Chernin's Eliza's Aria.

Here are some photos from Soirees hosted by a dear friend Wendy and another at Julie's birthday.

Fabulous host Wendy

Julie and friends listening to Kats-Chernin's Happy Birthday Rag
Engrossed audience

For your opportunity to host or attend a Women of Note Soiree please get in touch.

And stay tuned because plans are underfoot for some Spring Soirees at independent bookstores around town.