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GIOVANNI Pergolesi lived for only 26 years, but the music he left the world has not only stood the test of time and his “Stabat Mater” is considered by many to be one of the greatest.
Judith Clingan directed the almost 20 singers in the Canberra contingent of Wayfarers Australia, along with Sarah Berger-Alexander, soprano; AJ America, alto; Emily Leong, piano and David Cassat on recorder who doubled as assistant director.
Arranged by TB Pratt, this setting of the score suited the small space of St Alban’s Church in Lyons. Even though some of the singers looked a little cramped, it did not interfere with their performance. This well-attended concert had audience members overflowing to the outside area.
Opening on solo piano, the choir and recorder soon joined in and it was astounding just how in time Leong on piano and Cassat on recorder were, even though they had limited sight to one another, their timing perfectly mirrored each other.
The choir performed with an even and moderate volume, which was just right for this small space. The soprano Sarah Berger-Alexander, who only a week ago was barely able to talk due to an illness, gave a stoic performance and her high notes came through clear and strong with a good intonation considering.
The alto, AJ America, who also sings with and directs Luminescence Chamber Singers, immediately catches people’s attention with her quality and tone. Her singing is exceptional; she knows how to phrase a note to offer maximum effect and the vibrato she applies is so well thought out. She does not use vibrato on every note, only the ones she feels need emphasising and that makes for a distinctive performance.
Leong’s piano playing held the group together. Sitting just behind, one can see how well she sight-reads and she never overpowered the ensemble. Cassat on recorder not only had excellent timing, he also produces a precise sound. Even though, while talking to him afterwards, he said he made a few mistakes, they certainly did not stand out.
Clingan conducts with enthusiasm and has a clear method of communicating with her singers, who constantly watch her for direction and support. When the choir is singing and moving in unison, one can tell they are being led well.
Wayfarers Australia is not a group of professional singers, but it is apparent how much they try to make the best sound possible. The final movement, the Amen is a piece of musical mastery. The upbeat, lively, bright and almost happy finale encapsulates an amazing piece of music.