Monday, June 20, 2011

Vox Camerata's "Aurora" in Review

11th June 2011
A review by Hawk Liu

Aptly named Aurora, the concert given by Vox Camera, a vocal ensemble of 12 women and 9 men, sang mostly works of composers whose origins were in the cold, northern nations of Estonia , Serbia , Norway , Finland and Sweden. Most pieces were written in the same vein as Renaissance music of the church, with a heavy slant to difficult (but yet tonal) harmony, and also of contemporary melodies, quite like that of John Rutter's. It's a brave endeavour to present an evening of music where most of the pieces have such a huge amount of difficult harmonies and all in their original languages.Though a young ensemble, it showed it's steel and determination in hitting out all the difficult harmonies, to a mix of mostly success despite a number of uncertain
vocal entries.

There was a verbal introduction before each composer's set of works were performed. This was certainly very useful and made for interesting reflection of each work. Having different narrators for each set was a nice idea. For me, it's top marks for the final narrator who was the most lively one. Narrators reading from their phones was quite slick! The concert presentation was well thought out and rehearsed - down to who would switch off the mics after each narration, how long to bow as well as the big smiles after each piece.

The first 2 pieces by Arvo Part seemed laboured. I would say it was due to both pieces taken way too slow. From the third piece on, the ensemble was more in their element. Time and again through the evening, they showed what they were made of when they enjoyed the music they were singing.

As a choral ensemble, their vocal blend was rather good. Except for a few difficult high notes for the women in pianissimo, the blend was tight, consistent and pleasing. That is amazing for a non-auditioned set of singers. The women's voices were especially warm when they smiled! I would prefer a more hefty sound from the choir by having more basses. Oh, yes, there was a delightful soprano singing some solo bits in one spiritual song at the end.

With a good blend of choral sound, what was then missing was a greater use of dynamics. In general, the expression was rather conservative. Some pieces required more movement and a quicker pace might help.
There were many other wonderful pieces throughout the concert. My favourite piece was the James E Moore's 'An Irish Blessing'. They were inspiring and reflective. The harmonies were interesting and there was always something interesting to hear in each piece. Thanks for a concert well thought out and pieces well chosen. It was a delightful evening.

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