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Four seasons with a Canberra feeling

Orchestra members with conductor Louis Sharpe and soloists. Photo: Peter Hislop.

Music / “The Seasons”, Canberra Choral Society and National Capital Orchestra. At Llewellyn Hall, April 1. Reviewed by DANTE COSTA. 

THIS was a re-imagined “all-Canberran” interpretation of Haydn’s oratorio “The Four Seasons”.

Sung by soprano Saralouise Owens, tenor Ryan O’Donnell and bass Sitiveni Talei, and conducted by Louis Sharpe, the musicians were also joined by special guest narrator Laura Tingle,  whom most people would recognise as as chief political correspondent of the ABC’s “7.30” program.

The narrations, albeit a new addition, offered a unique and humorous Canberra twist, paying homage to idioms of the nation’s capital throughout the seasons. From the swooping magpies of springtime, and the summer trips down to the coast, to the iconic Canberran puffer-jackets and possums of winter, the narrations offered unique imagery and a modern interpretation of an old piece that was both refreshing and entertaining.

Laura Tingle as narrator. Photo: Peter Hislop.

The dramatic overture concerned itself with the transition into spring, the imagery within the music is depicted by dynamic contrasts and rapid accent passages that reference the jittering cold of the preceding winter.

The orchestra portrayed the lively imagery of nature in bloom with gentle ornamentation in the woodwinds and sprightly sounds in the strings. There were, however, a few spots of poor intonation in the violins, but this was soon forgotten with the entries of the wonderful voices of Owens, O’Donnell and Talei. The section concluded with a powerful fanfare which reappeared towards the end. The brass added a delightful bottom-end “oomph”.

Next came summer, which began with an ominous melody in the strings that rose slowly across the orchestra and choir until it developed into majestic final cadence. It was a vivid personification of the summer sun rising in the bleak morning sky. The unwavering yet dazzling heat of the midday sun is imagined by a sea of muted strings and descending passages in the woodwinds. The audience was then met with a brief reprieve from the intensity of the previous movement by a dulcet oboe.

In the final half of the piece  the choir and orchestra weaved around each other in a syncopated choral fugue which was followed by a duet between Owens and O’Donnell. Next it was Talei’s turn to take  the reins, singing with perfectly controlled phrases.

The concluding winter movement was filled with delicate melodies and ornamentation that evoked the bleak cold of the icy season. One of the opening movements follows a traveller lost in the snow until finding warmth in a cosy village. The ensemble made excellent use of contrasting moods and tone colours which made the story even more suspenseful and evocative.

Overall, it was a thrilling performance and great to see local musicians celebrating the nation’s capital by modernising music and giving it a Canberran twist.




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One Response to Four seasons with a Canberra feeling

Jennie Grierson says: 3 April 2023 at 7:31 pm

Particularly lovely were the examples of performers who relished the mood and emotion of the passages in their faces and expressions.


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