Thursday, April 9, 2015

Victoria Chorale's 'A Ranaissance Affair' (27 March) in Review

After a long difficult day, it was a pleasure to be able to sit through the Victoria Chorale's concert A Renaissance Affair, featuring a programme of works by composers either named 'John' or 'Thomas' (hence the word 'affair' in the title). Conducted by Nelson Kwei, it was a very polished set sung with evident enthusiasm. Entries are mostly tight and clean, their responsiveness to dynamics finely delineated.

Where most choirs in Singapore have to deal with a crucial shortage of male voices, the Victoria Chorale have the enviable position of not only having substantial tenor and bass sections (with some strong individual voices where called for) but even a few in the alto section as well. The male voices got to showcase their collective strengths in Jesu, Dulcis Memoria by Tomas Luis de Victoria and In Manus Tuas by John Sheppard, each individual voice strongly projected but blends in nicely in a collective whole.

The choir further showcased their versatility in a variety of formations and stage movements in the secular numbers. Particularly in Of All the Birds by John Bartlet where they imitated bird chirping sounds while various members acted out a sweet love story, and Now is the Month of Maying by Thomas Morley where the choir displayed all kinds of colourful props including vintage suitcases and colourful windmills to imitate a spring garden picnic, though I wondered if the violin and ukuleles paraded onstage was ever going to be played (they weren't).

My favourite numbers of the evening, besides those mentioned earlier, are The Western Wind Mass by John Taverner, Fair Phyllis I Saw by John Farmer, Adieu, Sweet Amaryllis by John Wilbye, O Magnum Mysterium by Tomas Luis de Victoria and Come Again! by John Dowland.

Only the first two verses of that last number was performed in 4 part arrangement, ending the formal programme on an optimistic note. An encore of the composer's Five Knacks for Lady followed, afterwhich the choir members onstage invited former members in the audience to join in a singalong of No Man is an Island. It was heartening to see and hear the full auditorium singing along, with everyone still able to recall the arrangements and harmonies as tight as ever, but now with a fuller sound. It is a reminder of how important performance arts are in building communities, the results of which can be seen here loud and clear.

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