It wouldn’t be an Eastern Bay Christmas without the Edgecumbe Choir’s celebration of the birth of the Christ child with music from all the ages helping
us recall, maybe with a little more understanding, the reason for the season.
The Choir presented two performances of its Glad Tidings Concert with Tony Hogg’s leadership in the Church of St George and St John this past weekend to appreciative audiences.
To open the concert the choristers processed down the centre aisle to the sanctuary singing Once In David’s Royal City, a formal and an impressive start however, an informal ‘Christmasy look’ was created by the choristers wearing red and green coloured tops while the white (toy!) reindeers on the pulpit ledge surrounding the informative MC, Ana-Maria Bewley, all added to the sense of celebration.
A bracket of three of University of Otago Professor Colin Gibson’s delightful carols followed with the Choir handling them skillfully. For example, in the first carol, Above The Peaks The Angels Sing, Tony Hogg, chose to have mens and womens voices alternately singing the melody of each verse with the whole choir (tutti) combining to sing all four parts of the choruses. In each of these numbers – accompanied or unaccompanied, the young voices were well supported by the more mature voices all with excellent diction, rounded vowels and crisp
It was a poignant moment when Tony Hogg fittingly dedicated the concert to Bill Clow, a Choir member who had died just a few days beforehand, in England.
The programme of Christmas-themed music was quite varied and included the Apanui School Choir with two songs and the children also had the experience of joining with the Edgecumbe Choir to perform the Lennon and Ono number Happy Christmas (The War Is Over).
Visiting guest organist Anne Cleaver-Holms and local guest trumpeter Maurice Reid are both experienced performers and, at times, their combined sound overwhelmed the Choir – especially in the first Bach number, however their talent and musicianship was obvious providing a stirring conclusion to the concert with the Trumpet Voluntary.
Audience participation in a festival of carols is a given and obviously enjoyed as would-be choristers in the audience joined the choirs for three loved carols – Te Harinui, Hark The herald Angels Sing and O Come All Ye Faithfull.
The unaccompanied Carol of the Birds was a good programme choice but could have been performed even more slowly with a stately feeling, emphasising the composers intent for largo, while Still, Still, Still cleverly and successfully captured the sense of the quiet of falling snow in its opening passages.
Two items which stood out for their quality of tone, interpretation, diction and musicianship had to be: Firstly, the unusual and beautifully presented Canadian Huron Carol with an introduction sensitively sung by Simone and Kaitlyn Goldsmith leading the full choir into singing both accompanied and unaccompanied passages, all with excellent dynamics.
Secondly, a special arrangement of Mary Did You Know? performed with Olga Stancliff’s beautifully sympathetic
accompaniment and Tony Hogg’s sensitive and competent leadership to achieve the essence of the composer’s intent as the song built to an urgent, burning intensity.
Finally, basic choral singing as opposed to solo singing demands unity in word endings, especially those words ending in ‘s’ and other strong consonants and also, choral unity will not be achieved until each and every chorister consistently focuses on the conductor’s lead and emphasis instead of looking out over the audience.
- Leonie and Peter McRae.