Saturday, 15 November 2014

St Georges' Cathedral Consort in Fremantle



 It is rare to hear the St Georges’ Cathedral Consort outside its cathedral home and singing secular repertoire. The Fremantle Arts Centre courtyard’s relaxed setting was an inspired choice and an icy wind didn’t keep away the sell-out crowd. In fact the wind caused barely a rustle in the intimate courtyard and the choir’s renowned technique was beautifully showcased across a program of Negro spirituals, popular classics and madrigals.

Fremantle Arts Centre

Mozart’s Laudate Dominum might be familiar territory for cathedral singers but The Lion Sleeps Tonight certainly isn’t. The 16-voice choir pulled off the African classic convincingly with tenors and basses chanting ‘Awimbawe’ while countertenor Adam Boyt crooned the lullaby over the top. Tippett’s Five Negro Spirituals was equally successful with resonant pedal notes from bass singers, a warm broadening of vibrato and thankfully no over-exuberant ‘ethnic’ appropriations. 


St Geroges' Cathedral Consort

I’d hazard a guess that this choir could make anything sound good, but conductor Joseph Nolan has a knack for sourcing outstanding repertoire and arrangements. Guest soloist Sara Macliver mellowed her silvery soprano for a Barbershop-style arrangement of Summertime and a hushed Somewhere Over the Rainbow. In Mendelssohn’s Hear My Prayer she sang with sweet pleading while the choir delivered the dramatic extremes of the accompaniment. Nolan led from an electronic keyboard - a sad substitute for a pipe organ – in an immaculate performance. A moment of exquisite beauty was provided by Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium. The American composer, described by Nolan as ‘like Rutter but better’, would have been delighted to hear his restful melodies sung with such delicate purity.

Sara Macliver

Three 17th century madrigals (by Bennett, Gibbons and Dowland) were sung by just 10 singers and sounded exposed in the open-air venue. It made an underwhelming start to the concert, the only weak point in the program.

Macliver compered the concert and included a revealing interview with Nolan whose ambition has been driving the choir to great success since its formation in 2008. This was a rare opportunity to hear the group and its leader up close and personal.

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