Concert Review: Dance I Chant Celebrating Ross Edwards/ Sydney Chamber Choir


Dance/Chant Celebrating Ross Edwards

Sydney Chamber Choir/ Synergy Percussion 

Sam Allchurch, Paul Stanhope, Nicholas Routley, conductors 

4 August 2018

City Recital Hall, Sydney

Written by Wendy McLeod

This concert celebrated the unique voice of composer Ross Edwards as he approaches his 75th birthday in December. The Sydney Chamber Choir gave a mesmerising account of musical vignettes by both Edwards and composers who inspired him, shaping his distinctive style and characteristic sound world.

The hand of Richard Gill, the choir’s Music Director, was evident in the way the repertoire unfolded. Sadly, he was unable to attend due to ill-health but he sent a vibrant voice message which was much appreciated by the audience. He was, as Nicholas Routley said, “the deus ex machina” of the choir. In his absence, the concert was conducted by the two previous music directors of the choir since it was formed in 1975 – Nicholas Routley and Paul Stanhope – and by Sam Allchurch who will take the reins as Music Director from 2019.

As well as early works by Ross Edwards, the first half of the concert featured music by Hildegard von Bingen, Claudio Monteverdi, Peter Sculthorpe, Johannes Ockeghem and Clare Maclean. The choir clearly grasped the relationship between the early music, its various forms and Ross Edwards’ ritualistic and cell-like musical structures. The concert’s first item, Ross Edwards’ Dance Mantra, and later his Ab estatis foribus: Five Medieval Latin Songs, were highlights.

Looking forward to contemporary influences on Ross Edwards’ music, part two of the concert included two world premieres. The SCC is well-known for commissioning and featuring works by emerging composers. The line-up included a piece by Olivia Swift and Josephine Gibson’s exciting piece Let them All Come, written this year was dedicated to Richard Gill. Paul Stanhope’s 2016 Agnes Dei (Do not stand on my grave and weep) was a welcome opportunity to hear choristers take the spotlight as soloists.

This celebratory concert, with its heartfelt tributes and anecdotes from Edwards’ musical colleagues, brought to life the nature of Ross Edwards’ music. The skillful performance of music old and new by this highly disciplined and world-class choir finished, not surprisingly, with a Happy Birthday by Paul Stanhope, to the delight of Ross Edwards and a rapt audience.

Wendy McLeod for SoundsLikeSydney©

Wendy McLeod grew up in Sydney, in a home surrounded by music, with parents who were enthusiastic concert-goers. She spent a large part of her working life as a producer and content director at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and at ABC Classic FM. Previously Orchestra Manager for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, she herself is an avid concert-goer and music groupie – and she loves cats!





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