St Mary’s Anglican Church
Review: Laura Biemmi
For their final performance in 2018 the Giovanni Consort left no stone unturned in their quest to showcase the very best of English choral music. St. Mary’s Anglican church in the picturesque leafiness of South Perth was filled with 13 of Perth’s finest choral singers plus internationally renowned guest conductor Jangoo Chapkhana and Perth’s own wunderkind and Julliard graduate guest organist Alessandro Pittorino.
The chosen repertoire for the evening was an educational – but by no means tedious – selection of early to mid-20th century English choral music, both sacred and secular. Despite being (mostly) sung in English, the texts to each work were displayed in some of the best program notes I’ve encountered. Alongside the libretti, the program notes featured a ‘what does music mean to you?’ section for each singer on stage and an in-depth interview with bass Jonty Coy that made for wonderful pre-concert reading.
The Giovanni Consort proved themselves to be a wonderfully versatile ensemble. The opening chords of Henry Balfour Gardiner’s Evening Hymn was projected with such power that it was hard to believe the choir was only 13 people strong, yet the soft chords of Edward Bairstow’s Though I Speak With the Tongues of Men were equally as powerful in their restraint. The jazzy syncopations of Kenneth Leighton’s Let All the World In Every Corner Sing was as convincingly handled as the unified swells of Ernst Bullock’s Give Us the Wings of Faith to Rise Up and the sumptuous fugue of Gustav Holst’s I Love My Love. Sections of tenor/bass soli were particularly thrilling (a highlight of C.V. Stanford’s For Lo, I Raise Up) however the women of the Consort failed to achieve the blend of their male counterparts; the altos rarely prominent enough to fill out the texture, and the sopranos sometimes sagging in their vibrato-heavy lines.
Chapkhana connected magnificently with the ensemble, responding to both the demands of each score and the music being produced before him. It was particularly nice to see the conductor enjoying the upbeat, 60s-infused score of Bryan Kelly’s Canticles in C. Pittorino conjured a variety of timbres from the organ from the triumphant fanfare in Bullock’s Give Us the Wings of Faith to Rise Up to the glitter of James Whitbourn’s Among the Angels. However the reverberations of the organ combined with the resonance of 13 voices sometimes created a muddy texture in the more jubilant sections.
The Giovanni Consort bid farewell with an interpretation of Teddy Bear’s Picnic, much to the delight of the audience. 20th century English choral repertoire is a gold mine and the concert struck a wonderful balance between education and entertainment.