Capital Choir and the Wainuiomata Choir
Musical Director: Sue Robinson, with Rhys Cocker (bass baritone), Jamie Young (tenor) Belinda Behie (piano accompanist)
Felicia Edgecombe: “World”, from Shaky Places song cycle
Puccini: Messa di Gloria
Morton Lauridsen: Sure on this Shining Night
Fauré: Cantique de Jean Racine
Sacred Heart Cathedral, Wellington
Sunday, 27 May 2017, 3pm
Capital Choir opened the programme with a piece by former long-serving choir director, Felicia Edgecombe, with words by choir member Rachel McAlpine. I had not heard the performance in 2015 of the full song cycle, but this was a pleasing taste. Like most of the programme, the piece was sung with appropriate tone and mood, but occasionally, especially early on in each work or movement, intonation slipped. Not severely, but just under the note. The choir could be a little tired, having sung the programme the previous evening in Lower Hutt.
Most commendable was the flier for the concert, which in full colour was absolutely beautiful, but inevitably not so attractive in black and white, as used for the programme cover. It featured stained glass windows depicting angels, one playing a small harp and the other holding a long natural trumpet. More importantly, the information between the angels was set out clearly, with all the necessary details, including the composers and titles of works to be performed. Some choirs do not include such information, which I believe to be vital to anyone considering whether or not to attend.
Puccini’s mass was composed for orchestra and four-part choir with tenor, bass and baritone soloists. Doubling up the deeper-voice solos and using piano instead of orchestra obviously saves money, but the lack of even a small group of instrumentalists takes much from the music and its enjoyment, thoroughly capable though the accompanist was.
The opening Kyrie had charming music, and the combined choirs’ performance was of equal character. The following Gloria positively bounced along, the opening music more akin to a school song than to a religious work, but its nature changed to sombre for the ‘Et in terra pax’. Excellent Latin pronunciation was a feature, as was the splendid singing of the basses. Here and elsewhere in the programme the choir’s pianissimo singing was suitably subtle and worshipful.
Tenor Jamie Young was strong and confident in his arias After his beautiful first aria, the jolly Gloria theme took over again, to be followed by an almost swinging ‘Qui tollis peccata mundi’, that sounded, especially from the men like a happy operatic chorus. Repeated notes tended to fall in pitch, but overall the tone, intonation and projection were very good.
A broad, chorale-like ‘Tu solus sanctus’ was followed by a fugue before the jolly ‘Gloria’ returned again. The Credo had the choir sounding a little tired, but it was always very precise with the words. There was very good gradation of dynamics. ‘Et incarnatus est’, a solo from Jamie Young, was very fine. ‘Crucifixus est’ was set for bass solo with chorus. Rhys Cocker has a fine voice, though it is not always projected well, especially when singing with choir accompaniment. His low notes were quite lovely.
The ‘Et Resurrexit’ and the rest of the Credo were variable – both musically and in performance, but the Sanctus was beautiful, as was the short bass solo Benedictus. Tenor Jamie Young finished the work with a florid Agnus Dei.
There was a lot of work for the choir in this Mass, which contains some lovely music, but it couldn’t be considered to be in the forefront of great choral compositions.
The Wainuiomata choir sang, following the interval, the most popular piece of American Morten Lauridsen’s considerable choral output: ‘Sure on this shining night’ written in 2005. It was performed with assurance and sensitivity. Cocker sang very effectively in this.
The programme ended with the combined choirs performing Fauré’s beautiful Cantique de Jean Racine. Here again, the pianissimo singing was an absolute delight. It was a perfect end to the concert.
Not so, however, the speaking at both beginning and end of the concert by a male choir member. The answer to the persistent speaking by performers to the audience, if they will not use a microphone, is to try it out before the concert with someone listening. Almost always, the voice needs to be raised to enable audience towards the back of a large church or other venue to hear what is being said.
The church was not full, but well over half-full, and the audience was very appreciative. I find it curious that now all the choirs are dressed entirely in black; it was not always so; I find it dull.