For our second concert in this our 60th anniversary year, we had chosen a more sedate program than the fire and brimstone of our first concert in May when we followed the concert with our big party.
August was a program of purely sacred music of Franz Schubert, which was most appropriate for the dedication of this concert to Margaret Davidson. The program dedication read
“Today’s concert is dedicated to the memory of Margaret Davidson, who passed away on 3rd August.
Margaret was an alto and chamber choir chorister who devoted much of her time and love to the choir over many years. She was the Choir’s President in 1999 and 2000, and the inaugural winner of the Patron’s Award in 2004. She will be greatly missed by us all.”
The concert program included 2 masses, but variety came in several forms as well as in the beauty of the music itself:
Orchestra only: Overture in C minor – D8
Main Choir and soloists: Mass in G major – D167
Soprano solo: Salve Regina – D676
Main Choir: Magnificat – D486
Chamber Choir: Tantum Ergo in C – D461
Chamber Choir: Psalm 23 – D706
Main Choir and soloists: Mass in C major – D 452
In preparation of the concert, we were fascinated with the confusing nature of the Deutsch catalogue numbers, which are intended to follow the dates of composition as far as was possible. Fortunately, Christopher Bowen is in close contact with the German publishers, and managed to work out that the Magnificat he wanted (“Grand Magnificat”, according to John Bowan’s superb program notes) was not the D number printed in our original publicity brochure! Ah, the value of detailed knowledge!
During the Choir’s preparation period, much of the work seemed rather straightforward and undemanding – until we got close to concert date, and the devil indeed was in the detail. Christopher promised us that this deceptively simple music would be amazing once we got together with orchestra and soloists, and as we have learned to trust, he was absolutely correct.
The orchestral players, most of whom have played with us on numerous occasions, and Amy Johansen at the organ, were responsive to Christopher’s clear direction, and the soloists, were all well-prepared for their generally small parts. The mezzo, Agnes Sarkis, was this year’s winner of the Joan Carden Award. The outstanding soloist for the concert was the Soprano, Elke Hook. Her role was by far the most demanding, and she had stepped into the spot at one week’s notice!
The nightmare of all managers/conductors is the late withdrawal of crucial performers; we had already lost the first soprano to an overseas move, several months before, and then the second to illness just one week before the performance. When Christopher heard the news, he saw an immediate solution since Elke was singing some of the same program on the CentralCoast, the week before. Fortunately, Elke was willing to uproot her life for the week to learn the rest of the program and come to Sydney for our weekend of orchestral rehearsals and concert. She did an outstanding performance.
The Choir seemed to rise to the occasion, doing some of their best soft singing, and indeed many choristers felt that our control of the dynamic range was very satisfying. It seems that all constituencies felt well-pleased with this concert of non-flamboyant, but simply beautiful music – Christopher, audience and all performers. One comment from the Governor summed it up: “Absolutely beautiful – one of the best!”