A variety of carols in a variety of guises at St Andrew’s

Joy to the world: a selection of Christmas music

Robyn Jaquiery (piano), Clarissa Dunn (soprano), Ryan Smith (accordion?), Paul Rosoman (organ), Andrew Weir (trumpet), Ariana Odermatt (piano), Karyn Andreassend (soprano), Tre-Belle (Karyn Andreassend, Jennifer Little, soprano, Jess Segal, mezzo soprano)

St Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday, 14 December 2011, 12.15pm

Unfortunately, I missed the first item on the programme, hence the question mark above, which is based on the biographical information in the concert programme.  That item was a traditional French song, Le Sommeil de l’enfant Jesus.

Rhapsodie sur des Noëls, an organ piece by Eugene Gigout (1844-1925) was played by Paul Rosoman on the main organ, in the gallery.  The piece featured variations on the Christmas carol we know as O Come all ye Faithful (Adeste Fidelis); it was very effective.

The next item was given in the programme as Gloria in excelsis deo (the Latin words of the refrain) by Handel, but known to us as the traditional French carol; in English, ‘Angels from the realms of glory’.  It was performed in the gallery by Paul Rosoman and Andrew Weir.  I did not find the arrangement appealing; the complicated variations on trumpet and organ with percussion made me wish for the sung version.

Clarissa Dunn announced the items (many of which involved colleagues of hers at Radio New Zealand), but they needed to be made more loudly and slowly in a large and resonant building like this.  So often we have young musicians performing well in this splendid venue, but they have not taken the care to think how their speaking must be projected for everyone to hear.  It does not require shouting, but maintaining the voice at an appropriate level, and slowing down, rather than speaking to the front few rows only.  The printed programme thanked Clarissa for programme notes, and they may have been better in that form, rather than spoken.

Her singing of ‘He shall feed his flock’ from Handel’s Messiah was lovely; the piano accompaniment was not.  Ariana Odermatt is a harpsichord specialist, and I assume was intending to play in a style that would be appropriate for that instrument, without sustaining pedal.  But the accompaniment was written for small orchestra, not harpsichord alone.  Playing on the baroque chamber organ in the church might have been more appropriate.  The piano is not authentic for this music anyway, so why play it as if it is?  The result was ugly.

The same applied to the next item, also from Messiah: ‘Rejoice greatly’, sung with great clarity by Karyn Adnreassend.  It was a fine performance from the singer, with clarity, clear words, and florid passages executed admirably, though there were a few occasions of dubious intonation.

The piano accompaniment was better.  However, I consider that if one is playing the piano, surely it should be played in a way that is idiomatic for that instrument, not in a way that is idiomatic for another instrument.  Yes, use authentic style but not to the point where ugliness distracts from the music.

I was interested to note at the next evening’s Opera Society concert, that Amber Rainey accompanied Handel and Mozart using the pedal judiciously; the result was tasteful, musical, and appropriate to the grand piano.

Clarissa Dunn followed with a beautifully sung Maria Wiegenlied (lullaby) by Max Reger, accompanied on the piano by Paul Rosoman.  Here, the accompaniment was written for the piano; it matched the voice well.

Rosoman played the symphony from Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, employing the gorgeous flute stops on the small organ.  It, too, was written for orchestra, but the versatility of the organ substituted well.  It was well played, and most enjoyable – what a delicious piece of music!  However, something needs to be done about the creaking organ stool!  Maybe it needs to be screwed up more tightly, or perhaps it requires oiling.  Certainly, it needs some attention.

This was followed by a traditional Catalan carol ‘El cant dels ocells (song of the birds; no note as to who arranged it), performed by Odermatt and Dunn.  Here the piano was played using the pedal.  It was an attractive song, sung with flair and expression.

Brahms’s organ music has never appealed to me particularly – perhaps the piano is more his forte.  Yet Rosoman made a good job of his chorale prelude ‘Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen’, on the main organ.  The piece was short and sweet.

Next came that saccharine number O Holy Night by Adolphe Adam, (1803-1856, famous also for the score of the ballet Giselle).  This was performed by the vocal trio Tre-Belle, with Ariana Odermatt on the piano.  The trio sang without scores, and their voices matched well.  However, one singer consistently turned her back on part of the audience, to face her colleagues.  Those people would not have heard her. The piano sounded wooden, with not enough change of emphasis or phrasing.  It might have sounded better, in accompanying three voices rather than just one, with the lid open.

The concert, which was rather long, ended in jolly fashion with the carol Joy to the World. The music is allegedly by Handel, but in this case it was sung (with audience joining in), in an arrangement by John Rutter, with Andrew Weir on trumpet in two of the three verses, and Paul Rosoman playing the main organ.