Review of November 2017 Concert


St Matthew’s Chamber Orchestra’s final program of the year featured the Auckland Youth Choir with various soloists and Dr Te Oti Rakena, (Baritone), conducted by David Squire. The first item was a group of five spirituals from Sir Michael Tippett’s “Child of our time” Oratorio. These were beautifully performed by the Auckland Youth Choir with young soloists Emily Young, (Soprano), Johanna Quinn (Alto), Sid Chand (Tenor) and Alex Matangi (Baritone). These songs were sung with great conviction by the choir, with sensitive direction by the conductor.

In 1938 the assassination of a German diplomat by a young Jewish refugee prompted the Nazi party to react in the form of a violent pogrom against the Jewish population. Tippett was moved to include spirituals

in his oratorio “Child of our time” as they had universal acceptance as representative of the oppressed everywhere. Composed in 1941 this oratorio is a deeply affecting work that has cemented Tippett’s popularity worldwide as an oratorio composer.

The second item was Ralph Vaughan-Williams’ Five mystical songs, which featured Baritone Dr Te Oti Rakena as soloist backed by the Choir. The songs were Easter; I got me Flowers; Love bade me welcome; The call; and Antiphon. In every song Rakena’s diction was immaculate, and he enunciated each word he sang with total clarity.  His singing was a joy to hear, and as the co-ordinator of vocal studies at Auckland University he gave a pure demonstration of the art of singing, with sublime backing from the choir, who alone sang the final hymn of praise, Antiphon. This bracket of songs was particularly effective with the male voices ranged behind the orchestra on the south side, while the female voices were ranged behind the orchestra on the north side, with the soloist centre stage.               Audience appreciation was demonstrated by their rapturous applause.

The final item was Saint-Saens’ Organ symphony in C Minor. In this work conductor David Squire gave a wonderful reading of the score which featured both Organ played by Paul Chan, and Piano played by violinists Penny Christiansen and Georgina Jarvis. The symphony is divided into two distinct movements, which are in turn divided into two sections.     The energetic strings ushered in the in the second movement which featured some brilliant scale passages from the piano, and led on to the transformation of themes.

The orchestration gave virtually all of the sections of the orchestra the chance to shine and show their special tonal quality. The conductor drew this out skilfully and when the loud organ chord ushered in the final Maestoso movement, the orchestra swept on majestically to thrilling finish, which brought the house down with applause.

To mark the end of a very successful season, the audience were invited to join in with Coopers Creek wine, cheese and nibbles provided. This was much appreciated and most of the audience took up the invitation.

The 2018 season was announced and the program features an extra concert on top of the usual six. The first concert on the 11th March, 2018 will feature Cello soloist Ashley Brown, with conductor David Kay.

Robert O’Hara