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Faultless performance by exciting young choir

Jack Stephens conducts St Paul’s College Chapel Choir. Photo: Peter Hislop

Music / “In Concert”, St Paul’s College Chapel Choir, the University of Sydney, conducted by Jack Stephens. At St Paul’s Anglican Church, Manuka, April 15. Reviewed by IAN McLEAN.

 ST Paul’s College Chapel Choir is one of Australia’s most exciting young choirs and Canberra was fortunate to have been included in the schedule for its first tour in a number of years.

An appreciative audience was treated to a concert of particularly high quality with glorious singing filling St Paul’s Anglican Church. 

The entire performance was faultless with wonderful clarity and balance displayed by the 23 choristers. Dynamic control and contrast was excellent, pitch and intonation absolutely accurate and phrasing always clean and precise.

Director of music Jack Stephens not only conducted with tight control but introduced the program with interesting and relevant annotations.

Music of Henry Purcell, “Hear My Prayer”, composed while he was organist at Westminster Abbey, began the concert and it was obvious from the tight, accurate harmony of the opening moment that this was to be a concert of exquisite musical beauty. The eight-part harmony Antonio Lotti “Crucifixus a8”, with second basses opening, gradually building with all voice parts entering with confident clarity confirmed that perception.

The Geogorio Allegri “Miserere mei, Deus” saw fine tenor soloist Elias Wilson move to the pulpit and soprano Ariana Ricci and a supporting quartet separated to the loft at the rear of the church for the major work on the program. It was just terrific with pitch-perfect, rich sound beaming from seemingly every corner of the church.

From that music of the early 1600s to a unique version of “How Shall We Sing the Lord’s Song in a Strange Land?” by Joe Twist, the composer of music for the hit cartoon series, “Bluey”. A Latin chant, overlayed by English verse with additional reiteration of the title may have seemed odd but it worked wonderfully well.

Organist Callum Knox plays at the St Paul’s College Chapel Choir, performance. Photo: Peter Hislop.

On then to English cathedral church music and the introduction of huge organ sounds to accompany Henry Gardiner’s “Evening Hymn”, highlighted by the “Amen”, with wonderful dynamic contrast ranging from whisper quiet to full grandeur. 

Two coronation anthems, Herbert Howells “Behold, O God our Defender” (played at the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II), and again featuring the alluring voice of tenor Elias Wilson, then Parry’s “I Was Glad”, played as Prince William and Kate Middleton walked down the aisle, led to speculation about what rousing anthems might be written for performance in less than a month when the coronation of King Charles takes place.

This was a wonderful concert of many moods – exciting, moving, reflective, emotive, passionate and joyful. On a grey and gloomy afternoon this uplifting concert filled hearts with sunshine and gratitude.

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Ian Meikle, editor

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