Australian Chamber Choir | A Ceremony of Carols
Sunday 11 December, 2022, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Middle Park
Douglas Lawrence – musical director
Melina van Leeuwen – harp soloist
It is Christmas time and carols are everywhere! They seem as ever present as the deafening racket of the cicadas around my suburb or the screeching of the koels as they go about their business of throwing out babies from what should be safe nests. But this concert would have none of that level of disturbance as it was a celebration of music in the Christian tradition welcoming a new life.
The Australian Chamber Choir under its founding director, the legendary Douglas Lawrence, designed a program that opened with the work A CEREMONY OF CAROLS by Benjamin Britten and hence the title for the whole concert. The Britten carols is one of those totally sweet works for 3 part upper voices, with harp weaving itself through all the mesmerising lines, that audiences love and performers revel in. Lawrence led the female voices of the ACC beautifully. Harpist Melina van Leeuwen found exactly the right balance between being a soloist and an ensemble performer. Special mentions must go out to sopranos Katherine Lieschke, Kate McBride, Kristina Lang and Alex Hedt and mezzo-soprano Neda Bizzarri for their ever so perfectly performed solos.
Elizabeth Anderson’s arrangement of DEO GRATIAS by Johannes Ockeghem from a 36-part fugue to 18 parts is truly wonderful. Mad demons run from the intertwining lines. Great fun for all.
A totally charming harp solo by Alonso Mudarra (c.1510–c.1580) Fantasia No.10 allowed the audience to further enjoy the exquisite playing of Melina van Leeuwen.
There were numerous other charming works centred on Christmas themes all dispatched with eloquence. The large and most attentive audience was, over the streaming airwaves, as quiet as a Christmas mouse.
I listened to the concert via livestream from Sydney. I had a personal interest to tune in live as the ACC were performing a secular carol that the poet Mark Tredinnick and I wrote especially for this season of concerts. Mark conjured up an evocative text around two mischievous crows and their making fun with a bone on a tin roof. Crows, or ravens if you prefer, have a song that possibly most people do not enjoy but I find them fascinating. Squawking, dropping major or minor 3rds and lots of sliding between the notes give a composer more than sufficient material to create a song or two. It was strangely weird to listen to the excellent performance by the ACC in Melbourne whilst I was in Sydney and knowing that Mark was watching the livestream in the Southern Highlands district of New South Wales. It was truly a magical moment hearing our song come to life. It was as if we all had wings and had flown together.
P.S Another ‘Ceremony of Carols’ I noted on classikON was Bel a cappella’s concert in Balmain, as it was the last concert with their retiring and astonishingly bright artistic director/conductor Anthony Pasquill. Such special events need to be acknowledged. Bravo Anthony!
A CEREMONY OF CAROLS
Benjamin Britten (1913–76)
TWO HYMNS TO THE VIRGIN
Pierre Villette (1926–98)
DEO GRATIAS Johannes Ockeghem (c.1410–97) 36-part fugue Arranged E.Anderson
TWO OLD ENGLISH CAROLS
William Ballet (c.1600) Sweet was the song the virgin sang
Anonymous (15th C.) There is no rose
INTERLUDE – SOLO HARP
Alonso Mudarra (c.1510–c.1580) Fantasia No.10
TWO GERMAN SETTINGS OF IN DULCI JUBILO
Samuel Scheidt (1587–1654)
Johann Walther (1496–1570) and Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750)
AUSTRALIAN AND UKRAINIAN CAROLS OF BIRDS
Carol of the Two Crows
Text by Mark Tredinnick, music by Alan Holley (born 1954) first performance
Mykola Leontovych (1877–1921) Shchedryk (Ukrainian Bell Carol)
TWO FRENCH NOËLS
Louis Claude Daquin (1694–1772) Noël No.10 (Quand Dieu naquit a Noël)
Traditional, Arranged François-Auguste Gevaert/Elizabeth Anderson, Angels we have heard on high (Les anges dans nos compagnes, sung in English)
HODIE CHRISTUS NATUS EST Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck (1562–1621)