Baroque to Broadway
Yvonne Kenny and the Choir of St James’ King Street directed by Warren Trevelyan-Jones
St James’ King Street
September 10, 2015
It was a marvellous opportunity to hear soprano Yvonne Kenny in the intimate sanctuary of St James’ King Street, when she joined its choir to perform music from Baroque to Broadway. Directed by Warren Trevelyan-Jones and accompanied by Anthony Hunt, the choir of just 13 on this occasion performed this diverse repertoire with their customary finesse.
Yvonne Kenny is a formidable talent. She delighted the audience with her performance, affirming her artistry and technical prowess.
Excerpts from Vivaldi’s Gloria with Anthony Hunt at the organ got the concert off to a sunny start with the choir trumpeting the opening chorus in heraldic style, contrasting agreeably with the following more pleading movement Et in terra pax. Yvonne Kenny emerged to sing the echoing soprano duet Laudamus te with the choir. The main theme was reprised in the Quoniam tu solus sanctus, before the choir concluded with a powerful performance of the Cum Sancto Spirit, teasing out the lines of Vivaldi’s double fugue as they built up the layers of counterpoint.
Anthony Hunt moved to the piano for the remainder of the concert, accompanying Miss Kenny in two operatic arias from Handel – Lascia ch’io pianga from Rinaldo and Ombre mai fu from Xerxes. Both arias have the tempo marking Largo. Miss Kenny delivered them with long, liquid phrases, fine colouring, even tone and ornamentation borne of superlative control. Completing the bracket of Baroque music, the choir gave a virtuosic account of JS Bach’s motet Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden BWV230.
An aria antiche with a refreshing twist as Miss Kenny sang Stravinsky’s arrangement of Pergolesi’s Se tu m’ami from the ballet Pulcinella – a version that is not often heard, followed by a wistful rendition of Dvorak’s Songs My Mother Taught Me, before the entire ensemble gathered for Rutter’s The Lord is my shepherd from his Requiem.
The bracket of five English songs arranged by various composers headed by Percy Grainger’s arrangement of Londonderry Air is a fragile wordless part-song which the choir hummed in a hushed and even ribbon of sound. Other highlights of this bracket were the choral baritone’s rendition of Simon Carrington’s arrangement of Oh, My Love is Like a red, Red Rose, and Miss Kenny’s skittish version of the Suffolk nursery rhyme, Oliver Cromwell.
There was a touch of nostalgia with Vilia from Lehar’s The Merry Widow, and the Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen. A singer once observed to me that high and beautiful sopranos often develop lush ‘chest’ voices. This was certainly true of the Habanera – repertoire which revealed the beauty of a lower voice.
Finally to Broadway. The choir proved their versatility and Miss Kenny wooed us with a selection of showstoppers by Cole Porter, Jerome Kern and Richard Rogers, graciously giving two encores – a toe-tapping I Got Rhythm and Bette Midler’s The Rose.
Classical singers (both ensemble singers and soloists) aren’t always convincing when they take on non-classical programmes, with classical touches creeping uncomfortably into their singing. An excellent choice of repertoire and an aesthetic performance avoided this pitfall, making a thoroughly enjoyable evening of music.
Shamistha de Soysa for SoundsLikeSydney©