NZSM classical voice students show their talents at St Andrew’s

NZSM Classical Voice Students
With Amber Rainey, piano accompanist

St. Andrew’s on The Terrace

Thursday, 9 August 2018, 12.15 pm

A Thursday lunchtime concert apparently does not have the appeal of the regular Wednesday one; the audience was quite small.  However, it was an opportunity to hear some promising young singers, and a first-class accompanist.

The singers were all sopranos, and a mixture of first, second and third year students, the majority being second years.

First up was Olivia Stewart.  She sang two items in English: ‘Angels ever bright and fair’ from Handel’s Theodora was first.  Olivia’s voice was clear and fresh, with pleasant, unforced tone.  It was well-projected, and the words could be understood with ease.  Immediately the excellent work being done on the piano by Amber Rainey was apparent.  With the piano lid on the short stick the accompaniment never dominated, but was always executed with skill and sympathy.

An excellent feature of the concert was that the librettists’ names were always shown, where known.  The second song was by a composer unknown to me: Richard Hageman.  He was a Dutch-born American conductor, pianist, composer, and actor (1881-1966).  However, I had heard the song  before: ‘Do not go my love’, the words by Rabindranath Tagore.  The singer conveyed the feelings very well, and communicated with the audience.

Grace Burt sang a Vivaldi aria ‘Piango gemo’, a rather mournful song.  Here was a richer voice, with quite a lot of vibrato – suited to the Italian repertoire.  Enunciation was good, and also in her second item, ‘Sebben crudele’ by Antonio Caldara, from an opera long in obscurity, except for this aria (which has been recorded by Cecilia Bartoli and others).  This was simpler musically than the Vivaldi, and exhibited the singer’s good range of dynamics, and her attractive strong and passionate tone.

Jessica Kauraria was next.  Or so the programme said, but thanks to Google I have confirmed my suspicion that the surname is ‘Karauria’.  First she gave us ‘Lamento’ by Duparc.  Here was yet another different voice.  It is good to know that NZSM does not turn out singers who sound like each other; each is an individual.

Jessica’s pensive, slightly darker tone suited the sad nature of the song; she made a good job of the French language and her style was appropriate for a Duparc song.  She then sang the lovely aria from Dvořák’s opera Rusalka, ‘Song to the Moon’.  Jessica sang in the Czech language.  It seemed to take her a few bars to get into the song, and here and there she sang just a shade under the note.  But she had plenty of strength in this good performance of quite a long aria, and was dramatic when she needed to be.

Alexandra Woodhouse-Appleby has yet another vocal quality.  She sang first Hugo Wolf’s ‘In dem schatten meiner Locken’ (‘In the shadow of my tresses’, from The Spanish Songbook).  The voice was smooth with easy production.  The second song, by Rachmaninov, sung in Russian, particularly revealed a lovely rich quality.

The next singer programmed was unable to appear due to illness.  I was sorry not to be able to hear the gorgeous ‘Le Colibri’ by Chausson, and ‘Ach, ich fühl’s’ from Mozart’s Magic Flute.

Instead, we had Teresa Shields, who sang ‘Verdi Prati’ from Alcina, by Handel.  It was sung in Italian, and initially without much expression.  As the singer warmed up, she developed more character in the voice, which was rather smaller than most of the others.  Teresa’s second song, quite short one, was ‘Les Cloches’ by Debussy.  This was most attractively performed.

Michaela Cadwgan has quite a powerful voice, and a rich timbre.  She performed first Mozart’s concert aria ‘Vada ma dove’.  It was very dramatic, suiting the words, all about torments and doubts in love.  Music, words and emotions were all projected well.

The second song was quite different; Poulenc’s ‘C’, which speaks of a place in France much ravaged by war; the song was composed in 1944.  Michaela produced a lovely, mature lower register tone in this song – but her top was fine too.  It was an affecting rendition.

The last singer was Cheyney Biddlecombe.  She performed first ‘As when the dove laments her love’ from Acis and Galatea by Handel.  Her voice was agile, but had rather a ‘covered’ quality.  Her words were not as clear as those of some of the other singers, and there was not a lot of variety in the dynamic range.  The accompaniment was particularly beautiful.

Cheyney’s second song was ‘O del mio amato ben’ by Stefano Donaudy (1879-1915), whose name was unfamiliar to me.  A slightly rasping tone was evident in this song, especially in the lower register, but the song was communicated well.

Amber Rainey proved to be a most accomplished accompanist, supporting the singers extremely well.  The latter all acquitted themselves to a high standard.



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