Reviewer Deborah Humble had to battle wintry weather to get to a concert – in a beautiful Italian Cathedral with fine musicians – from Melbourne!
The group currently making its way through some of the most beautiful sites in Europe for an extended tour includes some of Melbourne’s best-known musicians.
Conductor: Andrew Wailes
Organist: David Macfarlane
Chamber Strings of Melbourne
Melbourne University Choral Society
The weather in Northern Italy this week has been some of the worst in recent times, causing flooding in Venice, Rome, Pisa and Florence.
The driving rain and strong winds did nothing to stop an enthusiastic audience at the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta in Chioggia on Sunday to hear a delightful, if slightly abbreviated programme, from the Chamber Strings of Melbourne and the Melbourne University Choral Society under the direction of Andrew Wailes.
Indeed it was difficult to find a seat in the large space, much of it having been reserved by a contingent of nuns, the local bishop and a group of Papal Dignitaries.
Choristers may have arrived with wet feet but their voices seemed unaffected. The vocal sound was homogenous and evenly balanced throughout the evening most notably in a superbly accompanied Ave Verum Corpus by Mozart, Saint-Saens’ Laudate Dominum and Melbourne Jesuit composer Christopher Willcock’s Give us a Pure Heart. It was particularly pleasing to hear good quality male voice singing, something so often missing in amateur choirs.
Conductor Andrew Wailes understood the numerous challenges of the historical space which included an eighteenth century organ at the opposite end of the cathedral and a cavernous echo of several seconds. He combatted this by giving plenty of space at the end of phrases, allowing the rich sound to seemingly “hang” suspended for a moment before moving forward. He encouraged subtle dynamics in the a cappella version of Laurisden’s O Nata Lux Lumine and there were never too many harsh consonants to disturb the line of the phrase.
The concert concluded with the Concerto “alla rustica” in G major for strings and excerpts from the Vivaldi Gloria. The acoustic meant that some of the finer string and vocal articulation was lost, but so enthusiastic were the audience they could barely restrain from clapping after each movement.
At the concert’s conclusion the choir, orchestra and Maestro Wailes received a lengthy standing ovation and gave an encore followed by more applause.
For more pictures from the Chamber Strings’ tour go to http://chamberstringsofmelbourne.com/csm/2014-european-tour/