‘Magic in the air’
Wellington Young Voices, conducted by Christine Argyle and Anya Nazaruk, accompanied by Rosemary Russell
Old St. Paul’s, Thorndon
Sunday 3 December 2017, at 4pm
About 30 young singers between the ages of 8 and 14, 10 of them boys, performed a delightful programme to a substantial audience. The programme included four Christmas carols for the audience to sing with the choir.
The concert began with an attractive carol ‘Sing with the angels, Gloria!’, with words and music by Tawa music education supremo Shona Murray. The young singers soon showed that they were well-trained – not only musically; all their items were sung from memory. This item was conducted by Christine Argyle; she interspersed throughout the programme with assistant conductor, now to be Music Director, Anya Nazaruk, conducting some items. Throughout, Rosemary Russell was a supportive and sympathetic accompanist. The choir sang in parts here and elsewhere in the programme, almost always with accuracy and good musical effect, though sometimes there was a lack of expression and things became a little mechanical.
The choir then sang ‘What child shall come?’, more often known as ‘What child is this?’, sung with fine tone. It was followed by a piece entitled ‘Snowgum’, by Louise Pettinger, with soloists Clara Kennedy and Holly Martin, who sang in duet very well. A handicap was the inability of conductor Nazaruk in particular to speak loudly enough to be heard through much of the venue; I was sitting only three rows from the front, on the side, but picked up little of what she said. A microphone was provided for the children to sing into – it just gently amplified the young soloists voices; it would have been admirable to use it for the conductors to speak into also. Later, another microphone was used when speeches were made, particularly marking Christine Argyle’s retirement from the musical directorship.
The audience stretched its legs and vocal chords in singing ‘Deck the hall’, which was followed by ‘Amid the falling snow’ by Enya. A duet featured in this item also. Words here, and through much of the programme, were clearly enunciated. ‘African Noel’ by Dave and Jean Perry, was something different. Here, Rosemary Russell deserted the piano and played percussion, principally a drum. Anya Nazuaruk took over piano responsibilities for a bit, with ‘Walking in the air’ by Howard Blake, with a solo beautifully sung by Sophie Fulton. Her voice was very true, and for the most part her words were distinct.
John Rutter was the next composer; we heard his ‘Angels’ Carol’. Could there be a Christmas concert these days without an item from this prolific British choral composer? There was pleasing tone from the choir and the two soloists, though expression was lacking somewhat. The first half ended with the audience joining in ‘Away in a manger’.
‘Sing for Joy’ by Handel opened the second half; this is a chorus from his oratorio Judas Maccabæus. It was sung very well. ‘A maiden most gentle’ by Andrew Carter was sung in harmony, and again, the choir demonstrated that it really knew its repertoire.
After all had joined in ‘Once in Royal David’s city’, an arrangement of ‘Silent Night’ by Laura Farnell, entitled ‘On this still, silent night’ was presented. The excellence of the choir’s atttack in starting and ending phrases and pieces absolutely together was especially notable here. ‘Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer’ by Johnny Marks was not the most successful of duets, the singers’ intonation being frequently off the mark.
‘Hark the herald angels sing’ was sung by all, and then we had the speech and presentation from Chair Judy McKoy paying tribute to Christine Argyle’s work in founding then directing the choir; in fact being the driving force behind the venture. After Christine Argyle’s response, in which she paid tribute to numbers of people who had assisted, the choir ended the concert with an Austrian folksong ‘Song of farewell’ and ‘Holiday lights’ by Sally Albrecht and Jay Althouse. It was a fun piece, sung in the dark with flashlights making light patterns.
What a marvellous development this choir has been! Inspiring, the result of hard work, and hopefully setting young people on a path of enjoyment of and participation in music. Bravo, Christine and colleagues!