Concert And Album Launch Review: The Lost Codex of Avalon Vol II/ Yardley/ The Song Company/ Sydney Chamber Choir

Concert And Album Launch Review: The Lost Codex of Avalon Vol II

David Yardley/ Soloists from The Song Company/ Sydney Chamber Choir

Wharf 4, Hickson Road The Rocks, Sydney

17 December 2023

Reviewed by Victoria Watson

Modern day troubadour, countertenor David Yardley launched his latest album, The Lost Codex of Avalon Vol II in a weekend concert with The Sydney Chamber Choir and soloists from The Song Company. Yardley is that delightful contradiction – a musician with a very particular expertise and intricate knowledge, who has a high-flying vocation outside music. In a long and distinguished diplomatic career, Yardley has travelled the globe in his parallel career in DFAT for the Australian Government. He has combined this with a polished and technically impressive musical performance persona.

Yardley brings decades of academic research and performance practice to a distilled completion in his compositions. While carefully informed and inspired by medieval musical sources, they are entirely new and original creations.

His lyrical sources vary widely from 12th century French manuscripts (thus the “Codex” of the album title), through to contemporary Australian poets. What his lyrics explore are the fantastical dreamlike quality of an imagined past steeped in chivalry, warfare, natural disasters and real human stories. Others reflect familiar Christian lyrics and Latin texts exploring devotional suffering and transcendent ecstasy. Yardley is committed to giving them all a renewed voice by setting them to music.

Yardley’s enthusiasm for his life’s work is infectious and he sings with such sweet ingenuousness, accompanying himself on a delightful harp modelled on an ancient ancestor, that as promised, one is swept back in time and into an alternate world of mystery and archaic beauty. His mezzo-countertenor voice has a cool clarity and trueness of pitch, perfectly suited to his material. It is also very beautiful and blends superbly with the other soloists in the programme, experienced professionals from The Song Company.

Whether in a trio with tenor Louis Hurley and bass Aidan O’Donnell, in duet with the heavenly soprano of Amy Moore or leading the Sydney Chamber Choir, Yardley is accomplished and charismatic. He chooses his associate artists with exactly the same attention to detail in all his work.

His latest offerings are drawn from previous albums and some of the best from his current album launched at these concerts in Sydney and Canberra. The concert was structured very well to provide changes of texture, mood and differing vocal combinations. Some melodies were in rollicking compound rhythms and strophic form as suited their poetry and subjects. Others referenced the more sombre echoes of Gregorian chants. Many employed medieval approaches to harmony with much use of organum and ubiquitous open fifths. Others drew on later 14th century models like Dufay and included exciting polyphony, dissonances and brilliant employment of rhythmic hocketing. All were performed with acuity and relish by the assembled forces.

A highlight given the time of year were the carols. They sounded fresh and new and at the same time ancient and mystical. The Sydney Chamber Choir, of which Yardley is a past member, sang with vigour and superb intonation and it was a joy to hear them in a small resonant room where every part was clear. Yet, the entirety transcended the parts. Yardley writes with abundant joy for the choir, exploring the contrasts between female and male sections and a wide range of expressive dynamics.

The best way to know and further appreciate this music is to listen to the finely prepared audios which are available through Yardley’s website. He generously gifted a CD recording to everyone attending the concert. There is also a digital download available.

Victoria Watson for©

A graduate of Melbourne university and VCA, Victoria appeared regularly as a soprano with the Victoria State Opera and has toured and served as artistic director of many chamber ensembles.

She has performed with Sydney Symphony Orchestra and for ten years, was artistic director of a major opera education project with Opera Australia. Since 2015 she has moved into directing opera including Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte at the Independent theatre.

Victoria has lectured in voice at the major universities in Melbourne, and is currently a tutor at UNSW. Having taught at major Sydney secondary colleges, she now runs a busy private singing studio. She is a published author on opera and a popular freelance music and theatre lecturer and advocate for Australian artists around the world.






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