Sometimes you go to a concert and after just a few seconds know you are in for a treat. Lucky me, I had that experience with this, my first encounter with the Australian Chamber Choir. This exciting ensemble of young singers from Melbourne is on the tail end of a tour that included numerous concerts in Europe and across the south-eastern part of Australia. Music director Douglas Lawrence has at his fingertips an ensemble who just wants to sing and they do so with joy. He directs without fuss and the choir responds accordingly.
Opening with a delightful performance of JSBach’s BWV267 By the waters of Babylon the choir moved through works by Edward Bairstow, Jacob Handl and Palestrina with ease. Bach’s Ich lasse dich nicht showed that this ensemble revels in the intricacies of baroque writing. Here and in three English motets from around 1600 by Byrd, Dering and Gibbons they show that the music of this period, early to late baroque, is the natural home for these singers. They seem so comfortable in the rich harmonic writing and they sing it wonderfully.
And this choir is also supportive of music from our time and place and performed works by two Melbourne composers. Luke Hutton’s setting of Dylan Thomas’s Fern Hill shows a young composer with a clear musical vision. As a member of the choir he has an insight into writing choral music and this ‘hands on’ experience gives him the skills to be evocative in his word/music imagery. There are numerous beautiful moments in this score and I look forward to hearing more of his music.
Uncertain Journeys by Tom Henry takes texts from writings in the Old Testament, Persian literature and from people who have arrived in our part of the world seeking refuge. Sometimes the story is more touching than the music but overall it is an effective new score. Soprano Amelia Jones delivered some crystal clear solos in this work.
A short gem was a setting of Shakespeare’s Full fathom five by the Swiss composer Frank Martin. With a more complex harmonic language than most of the works on the program it gave the listeners an insight into the consummate skills that this choir possess.
Furchte dich nicht BWV228 a motet by Bach is a favourite by chamber choirs and small professional ensembles and the performance by the Australian Chamber Choir showed them worthy to be considered as world class.
If this group performs near you do yourself a favour and go and hear them. In their next series they perform in country Victoria (October 28 and 29) and Melbourne (November 11 and 12). The music is from the great early baroque composers of Venice, Gabrieli, Monteverdi and Schutz.