BWW Review: THE GRADUATE SINGERS: GLORIA!, at Elder Hall, University Of Adelaide
Reviewed by Ewart Shaw, Saturday 19th May 2018.
Two masterpieces of Baroque choral music made an excellent pairing in this latest concert by the Graduate Singers, the very familiar, Vivaldi Gloria, and the demanding and impressive, Dixit Dominus, by Handel.
The Vivaldi was sung only a few hours after Davide Monti lead the Adelaide Baroque Ensemble in a feast of Concerti, making the break between the two concerts more of a long interval than anything else. It's deservedly popular and the first movement is instantly recognizable but there's a lot more to it, including some engaging solos and a duet. The three soloists: Brooke Window, Ali Bollard, and Charlotte Kelso, are well known in Adelaide choral circles, involved with the Adelaide Chamber Singers, and appearing as soloists with other local choirs. We have such talent in this town.
I was there for the other work on the program, the exciting Dixit Dominus, a setting of Psalm 110/109 depending on your source. It was written a few years before the Vivaldi and, whilst the first work marks a high point in Vivaldi's oeuvre, the Handel is a trailblazing work for a young composer. He was just 23 when it was premiered in Rome, probably under the aegis of the wealthy and powerful Colonna family. His arrival in Rome gave him access to the highest echelons of the Roman Catholic Church, which seems to have overlooked the fact he was a German heretic. Soon referred to as Il Caro Sassone, the dear Saxon, Handel's energy and genius flourished. He could call on some of the continents finest orchestral musicians and singers, creating in the Dixit Dominus a truly exciting work, full of dramatic statements and contrasts. It's been described as Messiah on steroids, and is certainly Jehovah at his most martial. While the choir really enjoyed such movements as Sede a Dextris Meis, where God promises to make their enemies scabellum pedum tuorum, a footstool, it was in the exquisite De Torrente that they excelled, with the two sopranos duetting gracefully over the hushed voices of the choir tenors and basses. The piece also requires, at the end, the participation of a tenor and bass soloist, in addition to the three upper voices. David Hamer, tenor, had little to do and bass, Lachlan Scott, had even less, but they got to sit there with the choir.
Frock honours went to Charlie Kelso.
Karl Geiger's beat is clear and the choir is responsive. The Graduate Singers were founded forty or so years ago by graduates of the university choirs in Adelaide, so I had old friends on stage and certainly in the audience. The work was performed at modern pitch because Adelaide's baroque musicians were tied up with the Davide Monti extravaganza earlier that day.
Just one thing; there is a shortage of choral tenors in Adelaide. Most of our major choirs can field barely a handful of men and women capable and willing to Take That line. If you sang tenor in your church or school choir, please consider auditioning. You'll be most welcome.