Review: Sounds and Sweet Airs: Songs of Shakespeare

REVIEWED BY JOHN BUTTON
Last updated 08:31 26/02/2014
Sounds of Shakespeare

CELEBRATING THE BARD: To celebrate the 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth, two of the country’s best choirs will perform a programme inspired by the Bard.

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Sounds and Sweet Airs: Songs of Shakespeare
New Zealand Youth Choir, Voices NZ Chamber Choir
Wesley Church, February 25

This concert of songs to texts by Shakespeare brought together two choirs that operate under the aegis of Choirs Aotearoa NZ.

Each choir tours regularly overseas as well as singing within the country, and they both consistently offer singing of the highest quality. But, because of the earthquakes that Wellington suffered recently there are not many venues in which they can perform, so for the Festival of New Zealand the Wesley Church has come to the rescue.

But it is not ideal for singing of this type. It is acoustically dry, and although the varied programme was enthusiastically received by a fairly large audience I could not escape the feeling that it would have made a much greater impact in a more grateful space.

The music itself featured settings by eight composers of widely different stylistic viewpoints, although all were born within the last hundred years.

The finest song on offer was also the shortest - Fear No More by John Tavener, who died last year - and with an intensity that recalled the music of the Greek Orthodox Church, it encompassed a world of feeling in just a few short minutes.

Each choir sang its own bracket, and then came together towards the end, and if the constant shifting within the larger choir was distracting, and some of the readings of extracts from the Shakespeare were not as clear as they might have been, the singing was the thing and this concert was a timely reminder of the quality of choral singing we have in this country.

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- The Dominion Post

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