THEY all were there; cupid arrows, queens of hearts, flowing tears and mocking demons. Ah! Bitter-sweet St Valentine’s Day! But there was nothing bitter about this concert, given by David Mackay’s Coro with counter-tenor, Toby Cole.
Cole was in fine form with heart-wrenching songs – and facial expressions – of love won and lost. His ability to reach impossibly high notes and leap gaping pitch intervals with ease and accuracy was as awesome as his vocal control and expression.
Coro’s 14 members delivered beautifully balanced vocal sound with exquisite expression and tone. The occasional slightly loose entry, especially in Gabriel Fauré’s “Pavane”, was but a tiny blemish.
Guitarist, James Mountain, played an empathetic lute transcription accompaniment for the concert opener, John Dowland’s “Flow my Tears”. In other songs, pianist Anthony Smith provided perfectly balanced backing.
Two firsts featured. Cole sang an aria. “Kind Hope, of all Mankind the Friend”, from Handel’s oratorio “Alexander Balus”, of which he will conduct the Australian premiere later this year. And Coro member, Paul Eldon, introduced a Brazilian song, “Azulāo” (“Bluebird”). His friend, Nicholas Smith, wrote the arrangement for him while he was in China!
Among the many highlights was, for me, “When David Heard” by contemporary composer Eric Whitacre. It was difficult and intricate, but Coro and Cole gave a splendid performance.
I’m not sure if Toby Cole’s lovesickness was cured, but certainly he and Coro poured fragrant, musical rose petals over their very appreciative audience.