Review of a Concert by the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts
The Music Makers
7th August 2014//7:30pm//St Mary’s Cathedral
Conducted by Kristin Bowtell//Organist Stewart Smith//WAAPA Chamber Orchestra//with singers from the WAAPA Classical Vocal Department//
HANDEL Zadok the Priest//HANDEL Eternal Source of Light Divine//BIEBL Ave Maria//CLARKE Trumpet Voluntary//BACH Toccata and Fugue in d minor//BRUCKNER Locus Iste//BRUCKNER Ecce Sacerdoc Magnus//ELGAR The Music Makers
Attending student concerts are always a delight because inspite of the imperfections in performance you see the raw attempt of young musicians beginning to grapple with music – and when this tussle with music succeeds it is all the more wonderful. In a concert like this one, there are moments that stick in my mind for the way they worked, and though no performance of the night was of an entirely professional standard, in almost every piece there were true moments of musicianship, and that is to be applauded.
A particular star of the night was soprano Bonnie de la Hunty whose performance of Handel’s Eternal Source of Light Divine was memorable – I last saw her as Dido in last year’s waapa production of Dido and Aeneas, and thought her acting gave all the emotional understanding of internal drama that was a perfect match to her crystalline voice – a match that makes her ideal for the chamber music opera (and opera in general). But unfortunately in this performance there was an unease between trumpet and soprano that felt unbalanced and under-rehearsed. But in the Trumpet Voluntary by Jeremiah Clarke Trumpeter Brent Grapes did excel – perhaps a more familiar fit – and gave what was probably the most convincing performance of the night.
The Ave Maria by Franz Biebl was performed by the men of the WAAPA Classical Vocal Department and here (where they were not so swamped by the sheer numbers of the sop/altos of the full chorus) they were both audible and pleasant to hear.
In the main event – the Music Makers by Elgar – the full force of the chorus was on display and filled the Cathedral with a wash of sound that was warm and full. Though a little light of basses, this was the sound that so perfectly suits the acoustic of St Mary’s and the chorus did a wonderful job of a very challenging piece, and for a rainy Thursday night it was a pleasure to be in the audience and listen.
On the whole the classical voice students of waapa did a commendable job in a very difficult acoustic – intonation was, unfortunately, an issue in every piece, save in the organ’s toccata and fugue, as was balance and soloist Caitlin Cassidy was often drowned out by the chorus and brass. Whilst there are undoubtedly better performances in Perth of chamber vocal music (namely the Giovanni consort and the St George’s consort) the vocal students, who do train primarily in opera, did a solid effort at the more nuanced style of choral music – and for a student concert it was a very enjoyable night.