Geoffrey de Lautour Remembered at St Andrew’s

Karen Saunders in association with The New Zealand Opera Society Inc. (Wellington Branch) and the Wellington members of NEWZATS (New Zealand Association of Teachers of Singing)

St. Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday 7 July 2010, 12.15pm

Geoffrey de Lautour: opera singer, teacher of music in schools, private singing teacher, raconteur, was remembered, ten years after his death. Fellow Dunedin-born singer Roger Wilson introduced the concert with a brief biography of de Lautour. The latter’s involvement in opera in New Zealand, following a career in Britain, has been outlined in his autobiography. Wilson emphasised the hands-on work of the old New Zealand Opera Company, where everyone multi-tasked: driving, loading and unloading sets, singing, overcoming emergencies etc.

He saw the concert, involving nine young singers, as celebrating both de Lautour’s career, and his teaching at the former Hutt Valley Memorial Technical College. A charming photo of the man was printed on the front of the programme.

The singers varied in age from 14 to 20. This meant that some had almost mature voices, while others still had children’s voices.

Of the former, the outstanding singer was Tom Atkins, whose attractive and promising tenor voice we heard in a duet from Beethoven’s Fidelio with soprano Amelia Ryman, and again in the serenade from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. Atkins’s pitch was wayward a couple of times, but here is a dramatic tenor in the making.

Ryman’s voice had a surprising amount of vibrato for a young singer, but she had plenty of volume and confidence, and depicted her roles (she also sang a Handel aria) intelligently, using her voice well, especially in the drama of the Beethoven.

All items except the Beethoven were accompanied by Julie Coulson, always a tasteful and supportive pianist, never having to ask the question ‘Am I too loud?’ Mark Dorrell accompanied the Beethoven with flair.

Two younger singers sang arias from Edward German’s Merrie England. The second singer, Chloe Garrett, was older than Lauren Yeo, and this showed in her tone and her more musical performance. Both had good intonation and enunciation.

Matthew Ellison sang Handel’s ‘Where’er you walk’ accurately enough and with clear words, but it was a very dull performance, with no feeling. He tended to swallow the tone; his voice needed more projection.

A trio of Chloe Garrett, Nicole Petrove (there were variations in the spelling of her name in the printed programme) and Lauren Yeo sang an arrangement of the traditional Irish ‘Johnny has gone for a soldier’ in a rather restrained fashion, but they managed the rather complicated arrangement, including key changes, well.

Sophia Ritchie, singing ‘Vieni, Vieni o mio diletto’ by Vivaldi, revealed a good voice, especially in the lower register, although more projection is needed.

Mark Newbury, in Giovanni Legrenzi’s ‘Che fiero’ costume exhibited a mature voice of considerable promise; his intonation was unfortunately rather variable. However, a he made a good job of this aria.

Natasha Willoughby performed the traditional English folk song ‘Waly, Waly’ very attractively with clear words, but wayward pitch at times. At her age (15) lack of volume is not a concern, but the song was too low for her in places.

Tosti’s La Serenata is not much heard these days, but Nicole Petrove’s small but pleasant, attractive voice made good work of it. Her Italian pronunciation was commendable.

As a finale, all the singers sang an unaccompanied (and unconducted) arrangement of the Welsh air ‘All through the night’. This was very fine, showing excellent tone, balance and blend.

It was good to hear so many young people learning singing, and confident enough to perform in public. They all showed the results of good teaching, and it is to be hoped they will all carry on, building on their present skills.

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