Cathedral Choirs in Concert:
Choirs of Holy Trinity Cathedral, Auckland; Cathedral Church of St. Peter, Hamilton; Waiapu Anglican Cathedral, Napier; Wellington Cathedral of St. Paul; Christ Church Cathedral, Nelson; ChristChurch Cathedral, Christchurch; St. Paul’s Cathedral, Dunedin.
Wellington Cathedral of St. Paul
Saturday, 8 September at 5.30pm
It was a considerable enterprise to bring together the choirs of seven Anglican Cathedrals, especially when Wellington’s atrocious weather on the day prevented one choir (Dunedin’s) from arriving in time for them to be able to sing their item (it was to be sung in the next day’s Festal Eucharist instead). Approximately 180 singers assembled for the weekend of singing.
The combined choirs sang first, ‘Hear my words, ye people’ by Hubert Parry. This music was written for such a building as this one, and it certainly worked. There was a resounding organ introduction from Richard Apperley, who accompanied the first two items, followed by quite a lengthy choral anthem. There was lovely shading of the dynamics throughout, but the solos did not carry well. The work was not as attractive as some of Parry’s better known anthems, and its length probably precludes it from frequent performance. It was ably directed by Michael Stewart, of Wellington Cathedral.
Next came ‘I saw the Lord’, by John Stainer. This had the grandeur we associate with late Victorian England. Wagner might have been proud of the chromatic writing. In the quiet passages there was a charming stillness, and throughout, effective word-painting. As in the previous work performed, there was some difficulty in keeping organ and soloists in sync. Musically, the piece is rather conventional, with effect rather than feeling or subtlety of expression. It was conducted by Rachael Griffiths-Hughes, Director of Music at the Cathedral in Hamilton.
The choir of Auckland Cathedral sang one of the many unaccompanied church compositions of 16th century Englishman John Sheppard: ‘Libera nos, salva nos’. There was a splendid introduction from the men’s voices, and wonderful interweaving of the lines. The singing of the whole motet exhibited sustained beauty. A gradual increase in volume continued through to the ending.
Junior choristers from Nelson, Napier, Wellington and Christchurch cathedrals combined under the baton of Brian Law of Christchurch to sing two more modern anthems: John Ireland’s ‘Ex ore innocentium’ and ‘Prevent us, O Lord’ by English/Canadian composer, organist and choral director Derek Holman. The choir of boys and some girls sang with clarity and sweetness of tone. The organ was very competently played by Richard Apperley.
The following items were performed by the Hamilton choir, under conductor Rachael Griffiths-Hughes. First was Palestrina’s ‘Agnus Dei’ from Missa Aeterna Christe Munera. Mainly an adult choir, it sang with full tone, the female voices more obviously such than was the case with the Auckland choir. It was a very polished performance, the tone superb and the singers’ mastery of the music very evident.
At this point I had to leave, to attend another concert, so I missed the train; that is, ‘It was on that train’ by Barry Ferguson, from the same choir, combined choir items by Timothy Noon (conductor of the Auckland choir), Bruckner and Elgar, and the Christchurch choir’s singing under Brian Law ‘My beloved spake’ by Paul Halley, an American church musician and composer.
Despite hearing only six items out of ten on the programme (with the removal of the Dunedin choir’s item), I was impressed with the musicianship, confidence, and splendid singing and playing of all concerned. Words do not travel well in Wellington’s Anglican Cathedral, but the sound was beautiful and the programme (or what I heard of it) very pleasing on the ear.