Rossini Mass / Byrd Mass / Boyd As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams

by Richard Windeyer (Canberra Times, Friday 17 May 2002)

Spirit, enthusiasm and commitment

Australian National University Choral Society, St Andrew's Church, May 11.

THE THEME behind this SCUNA concert was spirituality in music. The three works that made up the program were chosen to offer three highly contrasting views on this theme.

The concert opened with the Boyd, sung from under the bell tower rather than at the front of the church. As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams is a complex but minimalist work which I felt was designed to give an intense, personal, spiritual experience for the listener. The performance captured some of this sense with some lovely controlled pianissimo singing. However, some of the subtleties, that the program notes indicated are part of the work, were lost due in part to the choirs location and the volume of the performance.

The effect on the audience was also spoiled by the persistence of a photographer which meant the performance was interspersed with the clicking of a camera shutter. In such a quiet work the camera noise was obvious. It was less obvious although still annoying in the Byrd and the Rossini.

Byrds Mass for Four Voices was performed next. SCUNA gave a creditable performance of the work. However, I am not sure it is the ideal work for a choir of more than 90 singers. In the church acoustic there were some wonderful mellifluous sounds, particularly in parts of the Kyrie and Gloria. However, in other sections the large number of people disguised some of the detail of the composition and affected the interplay between the four parts.

The concert concluded with Rossinis Petite Messe Solemnelle. In contrast to both the Byrd and the Boyd, which provide an intimate approach to spirituality in music, the Rossini is an operatic, triumphant approach. Much of the work requires soloists or small groups of singers, all of which were drawn from the choir for this performance. Some of the soloists were equally good, in particular Jenny Sawers voice was well suited to the operatic demands of the work. The size of SCUNA was perfectly suited to the large-scale choruses of the work, and sections like the opening of the Gloria were, consequently, very effective.

Overall, this was an ambitious program for a community choir in but one which was well performed. There was clearly a commitment and an enthusiasm from the choir which was evident in the performances.