BWW REVIEW: The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra Gets Into A Reflective Festive Mood With Their Annual NOËL NOËL Concert
Wednesday 14th December 2016, 7pm, City Recital Hall, Angel Place
Australian Brandenburg Orchestra's Artistic Director Paul Dyer delivers another beautiful Christmas concert with 2016's NOËL NOËL. Bringing in New Zealand soprano Madison Nonoa to complement the pared back orchestra and the Brandenburg Choir, this year's program is more restrained and provides a peaceful escape from the madness of pre-holiday shopping and parties.
Dyer has arranged for the contemporary City Recital Hall to be tastefully adorned with the accoutrements of Christmas, the evergreen trees and boughs first bought into Christian homes by the Germans in the 16th Century, drawn from the Roman Festival of Saturnalia and pagan Scandinavian Viking origins. He has the men of the orchestra and choir sporting red and green ties, linked to the evergreen plants and the red of the berries that represented the red apples in the Garden of Eden and the blood of Jesus on the cross. Above this festive stage, a snowfall of globes twinkle with minimalistic simplicity.
The arrangements for the night have been scaled back from the full orchestra to a more intimate 13 piece ensemble of baroque instruments. In addition to the baroque versions of orchestral staples like the violins, viola, and cello, the unique sound includes baroque trumpets, the early trombone, the sackbut, timpani and percussions, the multi stringed Theorbo and historic guitar plus a chamber organ and the ensemble's staple, Harpsichord played by Dyer.
Backed by the 24 person Brandenburg Choir, guest soloist Madison Nonoa captures the beauty of the works which include Gauntlett's Once in Royal David's City, A. Palmer's arrangements of the traditional Amazing Grace and a three language expression of Gruber's Stille Nacht in German, Samoan and English. Whilst Nonoa has a clear purity to her tone, the soprano, who recently graduated from the University of Auckland, does lack the strength to sing unamplified even with the arrangements of works being so restrained. There is also an impression of hesitation and concern rather than joy which colours the music and text. When backed by the 13 piece orchestra and the choir, Nonoa's vocals are unfortunately indistinguishable. In an effort to showcase Nonoa's voice, the program for vocal numbers has been kept very restrained and 'still' in order for her to have any hope of being heard.
Orchestra only pieces like Sonata a 9 and Vivaldi's Concerto fo Two Trumpets in C major provide a contrast to quiet solos. Brandenburg Choir's acapella presentation of Ben Folds' The Luckiest with featuring tenor Spencer Darby is strong yet reflective and The Combined presentation of O Come, All Ye Faithful demonstrates how strong the orchestra and choir can be whilst demonstrating the signature joy and enthusiasm the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Brandenburg Choir approach their concerts.
For those wanting some peace and stillness amongst the bustle of Christmas and the festive season, The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra's NOËL NOËL will satisfy. Presenting a blend of baroque music and more contemporary music and showcasing some unusual baroque instruments, this is a lovely alternative, more refined, way to celebrate Christmas.
Australian Brandenburg Orchestra
Sydney: City Recital Hall: Wednesday 14th December, 5pm and 7pm and Saturday 17th December, 5pm and 7pm
Melbourne: Melbourne Recital Centre: Saturday 10 December 5pm and 7:30pm
Mosman: St Clement's Anglican Church: Friday 9 December 7pm
Paddington: St Francis of Assisi Church: Monday 12 December 7pm, Tuesday 13 December 7pm
Wollongong: St Francis Xavier's Cathedral: Thursday 15 December 7pm
Parramatta: St Patrick's Cathedral: Monday 19 December 7:30pm
Newtown: St Stephen's Anglican Church: Tuesday 20 December, 7pm