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Thumbs up, the composer liked it, too


Canberra Sinfonia and Luminescence Chamber Singers at Wesley Uniting Church. Photo: Peter Hislop

Music / “Last Verses”, Canberra Sinfonia and Luminescence Chamber Singers, Wesley Uniting Church, March 23. Reviewed by LEN POWER.

CANBERRA Sinfonia’s latest concert, conducted by Leonard Weiss, courageously performed two contemporary works involving death but it was anything but a gloomy experience.

Joined by the Luminescence Chamber Singers, the program consisted of “Adam’s Lament” by Arvo Pärt and Dan Walker’s “Last Verses”.

The choral composition, “Adam’s Lament”, was composed by Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt, in 2009. Set to a text by Eastern Orthodox monk, Silouan of Athos, it is sung in Estonian. It describes the suffering of Adam after falling from grace in the Garden of Eden and his further suffering as a result of the murder of his son, Abel, by Abel’s brother, Cain and how this represents humanity.

There was a fine sound from the orchestra, which was well-balanced with the choir. It’s beautifully composed with nicely contrasting passages of male and female singing that then soars with high emotion when the whole choir comes together.

It’s an intensely beautiful work given a very pleasing performance.

The second half of the program presented “Last Verses” by Canberran Dan Walker, who is currently the musical director for Luminescence and was one of three tenors singing with the choir for this work

Composer Canberran Dan Walker… one of three tenors singing with the choir for his work “Last Verses”. Photo: Peter Hislop

“Last Verses” was first performed in 2016 but this performance was its first in Canberra. The work takes the last poems of five writers and sets them to music – DH Lawrence’s “Shadow”, Robert Herrick’s “The White Island”, Elinor Wylie’s “Feathers Torn from Living Birds”, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Terminus” and Thomas Hardy’s “He Never Expected Much”.

Knowing these were the final poems by these writers gives the work an emotional edge. The separate compositions complement each other with nice contrasts in style. Walker’s musical setting for the choir is excellent.

More information in the program, especially the words of the poems and who they were written by, would have aided the performance. With the acoustic in the church it was difficult to hear all the words clearly.

Nevertheless, the work was performed very well by both orchestra and choir. A thumbs up from a smiling Walker to conductor Leonard Weiss at the end indicated the composer was happy with the overall performance.

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