REVIEW: Bach to Bowie - Nov 2015

Reviewed by Leonie & Peter McRae

The Edgecumbe Choir, its fledgling Youth Choir and the Whakatane Community Orchestra combined to present two concerts over the weekend around an unusual theme - either the music titles had to begin with the letter 'B' or, alternatively, the composers names had to begin with 'B', all delivering an enjoyable, interesting and eclectic selection of music to appreciative full houses.


Bringing the three entities together involved over 90 choristers and instrumentalists, accompanists Marg Murray and Olga Stancliff, conductors Tony Hogg and Yvonne Osbourne, the Youth Choir's Vocal Coach Phillippa Hales and Performance Coach Trace Tidd and, of course, never forgetting MC, Trish Marsden. It was a thoughtful and poignant moment when Marsden told the audiences these weekend concerts were dedicated to long-term chorister and staunch Edgecumbe Choir member, Hugh Lovelock, who died very recently.


The Edgecumbe Choir, with Tony Hogg conducting, confidently opened with Wagner's Bridal Chorus backed by the orchestra; the Choir had near-perfect pitch, very good balance and clear vowel sounds ensuring the lyrics were clearly heard and, especially interesting as this is usually an orchestra-only piece, few people will have ever heard the words performed before. A strong opening.


The Choir excelled in two a capella songs – Bruckner's Locus Iste, A Deo Factus Est and Billy Joel's The Longest Time. Both a joy to listen to. In the Gradual, the male voices were beautifully controlled with depth adding hugely to the emotional response to the song. The Longest Time was just right for the womens and tenor voices to carry the melody with the basses impressive blending of lower notes, all with a fine tone, too.


Orchestra and choir combined under either Tony Hogg's or Yvonne Osbourne's baton for five items, the Edgecumbe Choir and the Community Orchestra each presented seven while the Youth Choir contributed three. 


The Community Orchestra under Yvonne Osbourne had a good concert and the reviewers believe that working to perform with the Choir will be quite beneficial for the instrumentalists and their performance standards. The orchestra's first two solo numbers, Bohemian Dance and Bright Eyes, had good pitch and balanced sound (perhaps taken a little slowly) and Bert Bacharach's Close To You had a good two-part entry followed by a confident brass section. It was a joy to see such a large orchestra of 31 musicians of all ages performing together.


The Youth Choir, formed under the 'wing' of the Edgecumbe Choir, gave their first public performance introducing new, young voices in three numbers – Safe and Sound, Eyes Open and We Remain, from the Hunger Games movies. It was 'theatre' more than 'choral' with good diction and some beautiful soft tonal singing contrasted with harshness consequently losing some choral quality. The a capella singing was quite special. Lovely young voices who have chosen to be a part of, and are serious about, choral singing are to be welcomed and we look forward to hearing more from them.     


The Edgecumbe Choir and Community Orchestra combined for the finale – a well done and rousing version of Beethoven's Ode To Joy, sung in German, with an especially fine and sustained contribution from the right-on-pitch sopranos to conclude a successfully 'different' concert ending to sustained applause from audiences.  


This was an ambitious concert programme and a welcome coming-together of local musicians, vocal and instrumental, demonstrating the depth of talent and obviously, it was a win-win for everyone.