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Darmstädter Echo, Germany. Trans.E.Anderson

Building bridges with musicSummer Organ Concerts – Australian Chamber Choir as guests in St Paul’s Church, Darmstadt.

The opening concert of the St Paul’s Summer Organ Concerts took place under the title Bridge of Dreams. This colourful and exciting program was characterised by metaphysical bridge-building in a variety of senses: early music was juxtaposed with the experimental, Asian influences met European traditions, and choral music alternated with the organ from the gallery.

The Australian Chamber Choir led by Douglas Lawrence, now only in its sixth year, presented as  a professional and dynamic ensemble, whose 18 members navigated this demanding program with a firm sense of style and expressive delivery. A clear bell-like overlay was provided by the womens’ voices, while from the men, particularly the basses, a somewhat meatier sound might have been desirable.

With subtle gestures, Lawrence steered expertly through all the technical obstacles, carefully preserving the tension of the program’s over-arching structures:

In the first part of the program, old English masters, William Byrd and Orlando Gibbons met their late romamtic counterpart, Edward Bairstow, who was represented by two Anthems – And the modern Australian composer Anne Boyd, who in her work: ‘As I crossed a bridge of dreams’ hearked back to medieval Japanese culture. Astounding how the young singers managed to take the demands of the avant garde repertoire – glissandi, tone clusters, spoken passages – in their stride.

After Wolfgang Kleber presented as a  powerful interlude the scintillating  Prelude from the last of the 20 Organ Sonatas of the Romantic, Joseph Rheinberger, the choir sang the ‘Song of Solomon’ from the Manila-born Robin Estrada – an avante garde 16-voiced intonation of one of the Psalms of David.

Robert Schumann’s Song for double choir: To the stars was juxtaposed with the widely publicised new work,  Lexicon of Dreams, by Australian composer, Christine McCombe, who took as her starting point the biblical account of the dream of Jacob’s ladder, while at the same time drawing a parallel with Australian Aboriginal  Culture.

This captivating work was followed by the highlight of the evening: a finely crafted, riveting and transparent rendition of Bach’s motet for double choir Fürchte dich nicht (BWV 228).  A stark contrast in the well-attended church was a Spiritual as an encore.”

– Klaus Trapp

Click here to read the original in German.