Listen again to the Choir on ABC & read SMH review
Soundtrack to a revolution shows rare beauty
Harriet Cunningham, Sydney Morning Herald
1 September 2010
On the night of June 10, 1988, more than 300,000 Estonians – more than one quarter of the population – gathered in the capital, Tallinn, to sing for their independence. The movement, which became known as the Singing Revolution, culminated in a bloodless secession from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Trinity College Choir, touring Australia for Musica Viva, gave their audiences a taste of that power when they presented a program of 20th-century Baltic music, interwoven with works of the English Renaissance. It was an inspired piece of programming, and an inspiring display of vocal craft and musicality.
The choristers, all undergraduate choral scholars at Cambridge, began their performance without director, intoning the sprung rhythm of Arvo Part’s Bogoroditse Djevo with youthful energy.
The conductor, Stephen Layton, took the podium like an eminence grise about three numbers in and gathered in the reins for a staggering rendition of the Gloria from Missa Rigensis by Ugis Praulins.
The choir sang scrambled – sopranos, altos, tenors and basses all mixed across the stage – and shared around a wide range of solos. Working out where each subtly varied voice was coming from was an intriguing challenge in itself.
Deserts of Exile from Musica Viva’s featured composer, Paul Stanhope, sat well among the repertoire, itself a partner piece to a work by Thomas Tallis. The choir grasped the rich tapestry of vocal effects with relish and insight.
In the second half the polished sound cracked a little, veering a degree or two away from perfection. Perhaps it was getting late, or perhaps it was the absence of a trenchant subtext which underscored the first half, rendering two breathtaking nocturnes by the American choral composer Morten Lauridsen merely exquisite.
The real climax of the evening was Sven-David Sandstrom’s reinvention of Henry Purcell’s Hear My Prayer, which took Purcell’s dangerous harmonies and little by little pushed them beyond breaking point, into an excruciating cry of pain. Excruciatingly beautiful.
Do you agree with Harriet’s review? Listen again to the Choir’s Monday night concert on ABC Classic FM and judge for yourself. And feel free to give us your feedback by leaving your posts, we’d love to hear what you thought!