NZSM voice students in admirable and highly varied recital at St Andrew’s

NZSM Classical voice students
Emma Cronshaw Hunt, Nino Raphael, Eleanor McGechie, Garth Norman, Pasquale Orchard, Joe Haddow
Piano accompanist: Mark Dorrell

Songs and arias by Debussy, Fauré, Bellini, Schumann, Franchi, Dring, Mozart, Britten, Berlioz, Rachmaninov, Loewe, Lloyd Webber

St Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday 20 September, 12:15 pm

We are at that time of the year, when music students are welcomed at St Andrew’s to given them some public exposure in connection with their end-of-year assessments. Here we heard six students at varying stages of their studies. Most of them had been seen in the past year or so in the school’s and other opera productions, particularly in the recent Cunning Little Vixen which had such a large cast of curious, minor characters.

Emma Cronshaw Hunt opened the recital with songs by Debussy and Fauré; her voice is attractive and seems produced with ease, though the ease tended towards some gentle scoops that detracted slightly, but they were certainly within acceptable bounds. In some quarters scoops, or portamenti, are anathema, but the technique has its place, when used tastefully. Her two songs were Debussy’s ‘Aimons-nous et dormons’ (modesty constrains a translation) and ‘Adieu’, which she sang in comfortable French, alive to the songs’ mood and meaning. In Fauré’s ‘Adieu’ there was a touch of sadness.

Nino Raphael sang one of Bellini’s gorgeous arias, ‘Vi ravviso’, from La sonnambula. He’d recently honed his opera skills as the Priest and the Badger in the Vixen. And last year he sang Leporello in Eternity Opera’s Don Giovanni. While I’d enjoyed those performances, here I detected slightly shakey intonation here and there. He followed with four short songs from Schumann’s Dichterliebe; though he caught much of the pithy characterisation and emotion, they were not, understandably,  invested with quite the intimacy and depth of feeling that the songs of the wonderful Dichterliebe cycle delineate. But that calls for considerable maturity.

Eleanor McGechie sang three songs in English: the first by New Zealand composer Dorothea Franchi – Treefall and then two by mid-century English composer Madeleine Dring whom I’d come across only last year in a St Andrew’s lunchtime concert. All three were approachable, written with a clear aim to entertain an audience, and McGechie knew how to present them in a lively and colourful way.

Garth Norman sang Figaro’s ‘Se vuol ballare’ in which he gained in confidence as it went, and then Britten’s ‘Seascape’ from From this Island. Britten can be given to accompaniments that are excessively detailed and harmonically clever and here was a case, where Mark Dorrell’s piano overwhelmed rather. But this was an attractive rendition nevertheless.

Pasquale Orchard has caught my ear several times, as Susanna in Eternity Opera’s Figaro recently, and most strikingly as the Vixen in the school of music’s Janáček production in July. ‘Le spectre de la rose’ from Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été, is a gorgeous song and I’d been very predisposed to enjoy it: I did for the most part, but Orchard’s voice in inclined to lose dynamic control towards the top and it interfered slightly with the dominant ‘spectral’ spirit of the music. However she navigated its sense and tone with great sensitivity. Her second song was early Rachmaninov: ‘O never sing to me again’ from Op 4. It was a little too loud at the start, and I wasn’t sure for some time what language she was singing it in, until certain distinctive syllables identified it as Russian. I sense that I’d have perceived that at once if the intensity of her voice had been modified a little.

Joe Haddow sang another Rachmaninov song: ‘When yesterday we met’, from Romances Op 26. His words were very distinct and even though my Russian is a bit rusty, the emotions were clear enough, and sensitively expressed. His control of tone and dynamics right across the range, are excellent.

I’m not very familiar with Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot. Haddow sang ‘If ever I would leave you’ which surprised me by starting in French (it’s from Lancelot, and showed how rusty my knowledge of the Arthurian legends is, too), but continues in another language and a familiar tune. Haddow performed it in authentic style.

Haddow stayed there and Pasquale Orchard then joined him to sing a duet: another ‘musical’ number, this one a French story but in English: ‘All I ask of you’ from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera. The two engaging young voices were vividly contrasted, but in a convincing manner.

The concert was an interesting way to get a different impression of promising young singers who have been more familiar recently in staged situations.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *