Last Sunday on an unusually hot November’s day, the Chamber Choir joined the Central Coast Chorale and orchestra, conducted by Music Director Christopher Bowen, for a performance of Michael Haydn’s wonderful Requiem in C – Mass for the late Archbishop Sigismund. The concert took place in St John the Baptist Church in Woy Woy, a beautiful building opened in 2007.
The church interior is round, and the domed roof combined with polished wood and stone surfaces provided a rich and unusually resonant acoustic.
The first half of the concert featured a number of shorter pieces performed by smaller groups of musicians. The orchestra commenced with Mozart’s 6 Ländlerische Tänze, establishing a light and lively tone. Mozart’s Ave Verum followed, introducing the whole choir and orchestra. Mozart’s lied An Chloë provided soprano soloist Elke Hook with her first opportunity of the afternoon to use the acoustic, effortlessly casting perfectly formed notes into the dome, each floating there just long enough to be enjoyed until the next one arrived.
Tiana Dimech, whose voice enhances both the Central Coast Chorale and Sydney University Graduate Choir soprano sections, followed with lovely renditions of two more Mozart lieder, Oiseaux, si tous les ans and Das Veilchen (the violet), and the Central Coast Women’s Ensemble charmed the audience with Brahms’ Ave Maria.
The first half was rounded off by the SUGC Chamber Choir singing Inter natos mulierum a final Mozart piece that – appropriately in that building – told of the life of John the Baptist.
The second half of the program was dedicated to Haydn’s Requiem in C – Mass for the late Archbishop Sigismund. Archbishop Sigismund was Haydn’s patron in Salzburg, and was much admired by the composer. The requiem is heartfelt, with a real sense of loss alongside passages of hope and affirmation. If audience feedback is to be believed, the soloists (Elke Hook, joined by accomplished colleagues alto Jill Erem, tenor Richard Butler and bass Daniel Macey), combined choirs and orchestra conveyed all of this, with a confident performance that really did justice to this modest masterpiece. Much of the credit for this must go to conductor Christopher Bowen who – as he so often does – focused the performers in such a way that distractions and possible problems (including an outside temperature of about 40° that was severely testing the church’s air conditioning) were set aside and we all ‘lived’ the requiem for that special afternoon.
David Moser, with thanks to Pamela Traynor for the photo.