CASTALIA VOCAL CONSORT | Under Cover of Darkness
Saturday 18 June, 2022, Glebe Town Hall
On leaving the concert I heard an audience member say, ‘I really enjoyed that concert. I liked all the music and they sang so well.’
The Evening Primrose, a very sweet and brief work by Benjamin Britten opened a concert by CASTALIA VOCAL CONSORT (CVC) that was all about concept and eschewed normal concert conventions where an audience is aware of the performers and the works being performed. We were asked not to applaud and in semi-darkness, being unable to read the program or the texts, each work morphed into one another. But maybe that was the thinking behind the musical direction of this concert – aiming to render the importance of both composers and performers nigh on redundant thus creating an experience in sound.
Subdued lighting in the atmospheric and elegantly restored Glebe Town Hall lent itself to somnolence in a concert titled Under Cover of Darkness and most of the works, by Schultz and others would have easily led the audience to sleep but if you are going to fully explore the concept of ‘music of the night’ it would be remiss to leave out a wonderfully terrifying nightmarish work and we got one in the superbly performed composition for four voices and electronics by Kaija Saariaho’s Nuits, adieux. From 1991 this work is a true child of its time exploring all the sounds and subsections of words and crossing over from vocal music to quasi instrumental sounds that were fashionable throughout the 1960’s to the early 1990’s.
Another short work by Saariaho, 2 movements from her From the Grammar of Dreams had Amy Moore and Stephanie Dillon screaming and emoting making sure sleep stayed away a little longer. An excellent performance.
Even though the ensemble showed skill and musical integrity in the works of recent times they seemed most at ease, most happy when singing music such as the final work in the concert by William Byrd, Vigilate. Here they effortlessly blended and gave off a feeling of truly loving the music of the late 1500’s.
CVC is as fine an ensemble as you could hope to hear and not only with the sweet sound of the whole group but also wonderful individual solo lines. Sopranos Chloe Lankshear and Amy Moore are superb performers of this repertoire and mezzo Stephanie Dillon brings a measured and tonally perfect line to all she sings.
Amongst four male singers, all fine, tenor Chris Watson is one who makes every audience member feel happy to be at the concert.