Review / Austrian choir opens window into song

music / “Hohes C”, at All Saints Anglican Church, Ainslie, August 15. Reviewed by HELEN MUSA.

Hohes C, at All Saints Anglican Church

SOMETIMES in this political city, where “big picture” talk is all the rage, good things happen in a quieter way.

So it was when eight remarkable Austrian singers from the Salzburg choir Hohes C, (“High C”) led by their affable conductor, Moritz Guttmann, appeared at All Saints Anglican Church last night to perform everything from early Renaissance and folk songs to U2 and Michael Jackson numbers.

Invited here by the manager of the Young Music Society, Stephen Leek, this is a European choir of the highest calibre. Awarded as World Choir Champion in Latvia, the singers from Mozart’s home town are by no means restricted to the high C register, ranging from counter tenor to the deepest bass.

The poplar part of the program was handled in a light-hearted way, but this choir is at its very best when it is singing in serious perfect harmony. The voices are superbly balanced and to hear them was a treat for serious students of the voice.

Guttmann chatted with immense ease to the audience as he introduced the mixed repertoire and at times even tested audience members to see if they were paying attention. Mostly they were.

Beginning with a song about the cricket (the insect) and Thomas Morley’s “Now is the month of maying”, they then asked for silence for a suite of four romantic Schubert songs, following with “Nachtlied” by Max Reger and Josef Rheinberger’s “Abendlied”.

A choral window opened into South Africa, where the choir has spent time. Here the centrepiece of which was “Horizon”, by Péter Louis van Dijk, a major piece that pointed the finger at the devastation wrought on the black populace by white invaders. At this point the choristers relaxed their formal stance to get with the African rhythms.

The first half finished with Billy Joel’s lullaby “Goodnight my angel”, an opportunity for the singers to show their solo abilities.

The second half was made up of many popular numbers such as The King’s Singers’ arrangement for the Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”.

When they performed a Michael Jackson number, the choristers leapt into groovier moves quite devoid of the staginess that we tend to see in “choralgraphy”.

They were simply moving to the beat. At times they held their noses to create distorted sounds, at others they catcalled.

A segment of Austrian songs became the provided for yodelling and some very sophisticated hand clapping, rewarded by old-fashioned Australian hand clapping from the audience.

There was a return to South Africa, with the “Granny Song”, more Beatles with “Penny Lane”, and for their counter-tenor, the Mika number “Grace Kelly”.

As an encore, they performed U2’s “Where the streets have no name”.

In short, the program was variously sacred, profane, romantic, folky and joyous.


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