CHAMBER CHOIR SINGS WITH GOSFORD CHORALE

On Sunday 20 May, the Chamber Choir provided singers to supplement those of the Central Coast Chorale (CCC) in a concert entitled ‘Aspects of Love’.  Twenty-four of us made the journey to St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in East Gosford, which proved to be a pleasant, well-lit modern venue with a good acoustic and a capacity of maybe 3-400.This cooperation followed that in 2011, when the Chamber Choir added some singing resources to CCC’s production of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas.  CCC has in turn provided various forms of help to Grads in recent years, for example, in our performance of Bach’s B Minor Mass in December 2008 and the 2010 recording of choral music by Saint-Saëns.

The problems confronting the Chorale were most clearly exemplified in the Tenor section, which until the arrival of Grads’ five singers consisted of one solitary singer.  The situation was not so parlous in other sections, particularly in the Sops and Altos, where the division between CCC singers and Grads was closer to 50/50, but the Bass section was also rather light on until our five joined them.

Christopher Bowen had conceived the program as depicting various forms of love – sacred, profane and even that unlikely love between an owl and a pussycat. In the concert, the two choirs combined for a number of items, such as a medley from Bernstein’s brilliant West Side Story, Love Changes Everything from Lloyd Webber’s Aspects of Love, and The Music of the Night from the same composer’s Phantom of the Opera – (your correspondent has the possibly paranoid idea that Christopher only programmed these latter two numbers on the assumption that he would hate them.  If so, he was right) – and one of Christopher’s favourites, The Owl and the Pussy Cat by Bob Chilcott; while from the classical repertoire, the combined choir performed Fauré’s wonderful Cantique de Jean Racine and another of Christopher’s favourites, O Salutaris Hostia, of Camille Saint-Saëns.  There was also the first performance of a setting by the modern Australian composer, Spencer Naith, who was in the audience, of a poem, entitled The Life of Love, Spring, by the American Arab writer, Khalil Gibran, and Come Again, a part-song by Dowland, with a  cleverly disguised erotic text and Martini’s famous Plaisir d’Amour, in Christopher’s arrangement.

For our own part, the Chamber Choir performed one of our trusty standards, Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen, from Brahms’s Ein Deutsches Requiem, which the Choir will have the pleasure of singing again at our December Great Hall concert. Equally pleasurably, we performed three of the numbers from Mendelssohn’s Paulus, which we had sung on 6 May: Siehe, wir preisen selig, Wie lieblich sind die Boten, and Sehet, welch eine Liebe.  It is a great thing that these seductively beautiful pieces from Mendelssohn’s great work will have a continuing place in our repertoire.

The soloists were all currently or originally from the Central Coast:  they included a fine pianist, Karen Smithies, the orchestral pianist of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, who did a sterling job in playing some of these challenging accompaniments virtually at sight.  As well, she played two of Debussy’s most popular piano solos, The Girl with the Flaxen Hair, from the Preludes, Book One, and Clair de Lune, from the Suite Bergamasque.  Our regular soloist, Elke Hook, a Central Coast local, stepped forward from the CCC’s soprano section to perform solos by Reynaldo Hahn and Christopher Bowen.  The other soloist was Jill Erem, also a member of the CCC’s soprano section, who, like Elke, evoked the spirit of the fin de siècle with a song by Déodat de Sévérac.

Our former colleague in Grads, Denis Foster, who has been a member of the Central Cost Chorale for a number of years, was a genial Master of Ceremonies, while Christopher was at his disarming best in introducing each number, but failed in his attempt to involve the audience in singing Gaudeamus Igitur, which presumably was included in the program to represent the aspect of a love of scholarship.  The only member of the audience to put their hand up to indicate a knowledge of the words of this ancient university ditty was our President, Evelyne de Clercq, who made the journey  up to the Central Coast to carry out a diplomatic, representative role on behalf of Grads.

The audience of perhaps 250 responded warmly to the concert.  Overall, a friendly spirit prevailed between the two choirs, which made the whole experience a very pleasant and worthwhile one, particularly as some income for our coffers was forthcoming.  Further cooperation with the Central Coast Chorale in the future is something to look forward to.

John Bowan

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