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Canberra Today 8°/15° | Tuesday, April 23, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Concert of testing contrasts

The Song Company performs its Superbloom concert. Photo: Peter Hislop

Music / Superbloom, The Song Company. At Wesley Uniting Church, March 3. Reviewed by GRAHAM McDONALD.

This was a concert of contrasts, with the Song Company under guest director Jane Sheldon. 

The minimal program notes suggested a musical impression of a usually arid desert carpeted in greenery after rain – a superbloom – with the works chosen to reflect the contrasts between the dry and the lush. 

For this concert the Song Company comprised six singers, two sopranos, mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone and bass-baritone. The program was a mix of early music, from the 12th to the 16th centuries, some intensely modern works (which this reviewer would suggest pushed the boundaries of what might be considered music) and a couple of modern works that intriguingly combined elements of both.

The concert began with an anonymous 14th century three-part motet sung by the three women before all six singers performed Michael Whiticker’s 1990 work As Water Bears Salt. This work, as well as Katherine Balch’s Forgetting, written in 2021 and Rebecca Saunders’ Soliloquy from 2007 consisted mostly of vocal noises and percussion with little discernible structure or rhythm, let alone melody. Not at all to this reviewer’s taste, although others of my acquaintance in the audience thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Guest director Jane Sheldon conducts The Song Company’s Superbloom concert. Photo: Peter Hislop.

In contrast, two motets by Carlo Gesualdo from the end of the 16th century were delightful, with the second of them Ecco, Moriro Dunque an exquisitely sung highlight, as was a work by Hildegard von Bingen with wonderfully added bass drones under the soaring melody. This cleverly and seamlessly shifted into guest director Sheldon’s Flowermuscle as a closing piece of the concert 

In the same way English composer James Weeks’ Veni in Hortum Meum, written in 2009 followed the Gesualdo combining elements of the old and the new. 

What was missing was any real sense of why these diverse works were chosen. The three short paragraphs of program notes did little to clarify this, with the Weeks piece not mentioned at all, yet there were two pages of the song texts. I would much rather know more about the composers and their music.


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