Concert warms up to magnificent finish

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Soprano Veronica Milroy and mezzo soprano AJ America. Photo: Peter Hislop

Music / “Gloria!”, The Australian National University Choral Society (SCUNA), St Peter’s Lutheran Church, Reid, May 19. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY.

LAUNCHING its concert season for the year with “Gloria!” the Australian National University Choral Society (SCUNA) celebrated two favourite Baroque composers, Henry Purcell and Antonio Vivaldi.

The musicians for this concert were the SCUNA choir and orchestra, with conductor Leonard Weiss; organ player Anthony Smith; soprano Veronica Milroy; and mezzo soprano AJ America.

Henry Purcell’s “Come Ye Sons of Art” is a lively and bright birthday ode for Queen Mary, written in 1694. The nine short movements begin with an overture. This refreshing music is a well-performed delight. However, some in the SCUNA orchestra, while trying hard didn’t live up to the rest of the performers on the night. They were not able to play in tune and it distracted from the overall quality.

The combined voices of Veronica Milroy and AJ America are always a delight to hear, and they added so much to the quality of the concert. The SCUNA choir was spot on and enthusiastic all night. They have a well-balanced strong sound.

SCUNA. Photo: Peter Hislop

Further into the ode the orchestra warmed up and started sounding better. This gentle, happy music follows itself around. Quite a few lines were direct doubling. As in oboe and soprano, then cello and soprano who sang the exact same notes.

St Peter’s Lutheran Church in Reid was packed to the rafters. With a capacity audience and sixty of seventy in the choir and orchestra, plus soloists, they warmed up the room so much so that the heating had to be turned off at the interval.

For the opening of the “Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary” by Purcell, the conductor Weiss took up the trumpet and made up a quartet of brass players combined with timpani to recreate the music that was sounded before her funeral chariot. The seven movements in this piece swapped between choir and organ then back to the brass in several canzona creating a strong and poignant contrast in this solemn work.

Antonio Vivaldi’s well known “Gloria in D Major” has a glorious opening that has stood the test of time for over three hundred years. The fast-paced beginning with full choir and orchestra at fortissimo was a truly magnificent sound. Milroy and America were back in action through several movements and they were sounding wonderful and enjoying their interaction.

The short “Gratias agimus tibi” (thanks we give to thee) for chorus, created an outstanding sound of an intense character and the choir made this piece special.

This luxurious Gloria by Vivaldi is a masterful work of balance and beauty. It was a joy to hear so many performers bring it to life for this Sunday evening concert.

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