Sydney Children’s Choir: Voices of Angels
City Recital Hall, Tuesday December 17th 2013.
Talk about ‘class’ in the context of the Sydney Children’s Choir, and you’re not just talking about lessons for children learning how to sing in a choir. You’re talking about a group of children who have the kind of ‘class’ to deliver a performance of demanding music with the poise and polish of a professional ensemble.
Conducted by its founder and Artistic Director Lyn Williams, OAM, the Sydney Children’s Choir and Gondwana Voices presented their Christmas concert Voices of Angels at the City Recital Hall earlier this week.
It would be all too easy to rely on the sentimental power of cherubs in poinsettia-coloured cassocks or the cuteness of innocents in silver halos to get by on a sure-fire programme of seasonal favourites. But these young singers have far more to offer.
The choirs, comprising young people from first class to 18 years, from every state and territory n the nation were note perfect, singing their entire concert from memory. Their talent, training, musicianship and sense of ensemble ensured a beautiful sound unified by a straight-toned purity. They moved with the music, they smiled, they breathed as one, their focus, stagecraft and etiquette were flawless.
The graduands of the choir stepped forward to sing Billy Joel’s Lullabye, a capella and unconducted. Their performance was an example of unwavering self-direction and of just how much more than singing that they have learnt as choristers; the words, a poignant reminder of their years of camaraderie and expression of just how profoundly music can link people through a shared experience.
Performing for the first time were the members of the newly formed Young Men’s Choir – those in the transition to their adult voices. Whilst it was once thought that these changing voices should be rested, current thinking is that it is important to keep these cambiati singing within a comfortable range, so that their engagement with music is uninterrupted, maintaining that all-important personal aspect of continuing contact with the peer group, and avoiding the loss of self esteem that some boys experience when the glorious treble voice that brought so much joy and prestige is lost forever. The Young Men’s Choir gave a beautifully controlled rendition of the traditional carol O Come, O Come Emmanuel with handbells, conducted by Associate Artistic Director Dan Walker in a bracket which included Adam Lay Ybounden, Just One Star with a mesmerising continuo line from cellist Julian Smiles and the French carol by Adolphe Adam, O Holy NIght.
The programme embraced many cultures requiring the young choristers to sing in as many languages – I repeat – from memory. There was a carol from Sierra Leone, one by Debussy and a Hanukkah medley. Music by John Rutter, Ariel Ramirez, Caccini and an African-American spiritual, all swirled in a melting pot of aesthetics with music and arrangements by Australian composers Dan Walker and Ben van Tienen. I couldn’t help but observe that it is experiences like these which help to build understanding and tolerance across borders.
Accompanying the choristers at various times were pianists Sally Whitwell and Jem Harding along with a chamber orchestra augmented by the Goldner String Quartet, who performed two movements of Dvorak’s String Quartet no12 opus 98 American.
As presenter for the Damien Beaumont pointed out, the aim of the choir is not primarily to produce soloists, but to mould musically educated young people who will take the broader lessons of these choirs into their adult life.
The unashamedly Christmassy fairy lights, wreaths, baubles and lighting effects added to the bon heur, and at the end, presenter for the evening Damien Beaumont coaxed the audience to its feet to join in a rousing rendition of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing and O Come, All Ye Faithful – with descants, of course.
Shamistha de Soysa for SoundsLkeSydney©