School of Music voices on display with varied and interesting programme

Voice Students, New Zealand School of Music

Songs and arias

St. Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday, 15 July 2015, 12.15pm

It is always interesting to hear the voice students.  Some are undoubtedly more advanced in their studies than others, although the good-sized audience were not vouchsafed that information.  All were accompanied by Mark W. Dorrell.  It was interesting to note that the piano lid was not raised at all – a very sensible decision when accompanying young singers.

Declan Cudd, tenor, was up first, with ‘Ah, se fosse intorno al trono’, from La Clemenza di Tito, by Mozart.  He has a strong voice and great breath control, making for flowing lines.  It was a very good presentation, and there was a lovely top note.

He was followed by perhaps the highlight of the concert: Olivia Marshall (soprano, as Susanna) and Lisa Harper-Brown, one of the lecturers in voice (Countess), with ‘Sull’aria?  Che soave seffiretto…’ from The Marriage of Figaro (Mozart).  Semi-acted, this duet had Susanna, the maid, taking instructions from the Countess – which she wrote down and then handed the list to her ‘employer’.  Here were two fine voices, neither one dominating.  Olivia Marshall proved to have quite a big voice, easy vocal production and splendid tone – a joy to hear.

Joseph Haddow sang ‘Come raggio di sol’ by Antonio Caldara (1670-1736).  The bass-baritone made a good sound, with a lovely dark quality.

He was followed by Luka Venter (tenor).  This was a different type of voice from that of Declan Cudd.  There was not a lot of power or volume, but his German language was good in his aria ‘Mit Würd und Hoheit angetan’ from Haydn’s Creation.  He used the music score (others sang from memory) but did not appear to refer to it much. Other repertoire might have suited him better (see below).

Another duet followed, with Esther Leefe and Alicia Cadwgan (sopranos) singing from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, the operato be presented next month by the School of Music.  Dido is usually sung by a mezzo rather than a soprano; one thinks of Kathleen Ferrier and Janet Baker, and their mellow tones.

Alicia Cadwgan was not really suited to this role.  However, she next sang ‘Mattinata’ by Leoncavallo, which was much more appropriate for her voice, and she performed it in fitting style, featuring fine top notes.

Declan Cudd returned, singing Verdi’s ‘Il poveretto’ with smooth production.  He is certainly on the way, but to be a Verdian tenor he will need more volume.

Next came a Russian bracket: Rebecca Howie sang the first of three Rachmaninoff songs: ‘Before my Window’.  She has a clear soprano voice with apparently easy production and good top notes, plus plenty of volume without apparent effort.  It was an appealing song, tastefully sung.

Luka Venter returned, with ‘Lilacs’ (without score this time). There was better projection and more variation of dynamics.

The third song was given by Alicia Cadwgan: ‘Oh, never sing to me again’.  Actually, I would happily have her sing again in this mode: words were particularly clear, and she gave an accomplished performance of a song full of emotional content, which she conveyed strongly.  She varied the tone and
expression superbly.

A confident Olivia Marshall sang a Tchaikovsky song: ‘It was in early spring’ (words by Tolstoy).  What a beautiful voice!  It is even throughout the range, and she uses the words (I’ve heard it described as ‘chewing’ the words), emphasising the important ones.  She has ample volume, and filled the church with this exquisite song.

Joseph Haddow returned, with an aria from Bellini’s La Sonnambula: ‘Vi ravviso’.  What a contrast this was to the Russian songs!  Some notes were a little raw, but the low ones were delicious.  The
dynamics were handled judiciously.

Following this, there came a French bracket of songs, pointing to the other work in the forthcoming opera season: L’Enfant et les Sortilèges, by Ravel.  Olivia Marshall began with his ‘Chanson de la mariée’. This was a beautifully varied rendition, as was her Russian song.  In every other respect, the French songs were very different from the Russian ones; this different character seemed to be lost on some of the singers.  Marshall was thoroughly in command of her performance, with again excellent voice production.

Rebecca Howie’s ‘Les Papillons’ by Chausson was sung rather too heartily for its character.  Butterflies are fragile, floating, flying creatures, and the poet is contemplating them, but the rendition we heard was more like a speech than a subtle observation.
(Grove and my record both say the poem is by Gautier, not Jean Richepin as given in the printed programme.)

Similarly, Luana Howard’s ‘Après un rêve’, Fauré’s magical song, required more subtlety.  It’s not about volume and projection in this case, but about nuance and meditative musing, after a dream.  This was missing.  We need the words to be clear, but it is not a declamation; it’s a solo song, not an operatic aria.  More variation of dynamics was needed.

Esther Leefe had the right approach to Ravel’s ‘Le Paon’.  Singing with the score, she had a quieter, more pensive style.  Her words were beautifully enunciated.  It is notable that her teacher is Jenny Wollerman, a mistress of the French repertoire.  This one had the French ambience, not least due to Mark Dorrell’s accompaniment.

She then sang ‘Thanks to these lonesome vales’ from Dido and Aeneas with again much attention to the words and their meanings.

The concert ended on a lighter note with ‘Mister Snow’ from Carousel by Rodgers and Hammerstein.  Rebecca Howie sang it in the appropriate style.  Her voice is suited to this repertoire and she used it well, expressing the meaning of the words with clarity and very musically.

A very varied programme and a variety of voices made for an entertaining and interesting concert.



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