Tag Archives: Leighton Jones

Southern Star

Choir of Trinity College, University of Melbourne

Michael Leighton Jones, director

Marshall McGuire, harp

ABC Classics 476 6349

TPT: 63’ 11”

reviewed by Neville Cohn

The gem of this compilation is Britten’s Ceremony of Carols. The finesse that informs every moment of this exquisite work makes this one of the most satisfying recordings of the work I can recall. It’s a compendium of musical marvels. Whether in evoking the ecstatic interior mood of As Dew in Aprille, the emphatically stated This Little Babe or the rippling note streams that Marshall McGuire coaxes from his harp, this is a performance to cherish.

Britten’s delightful work is often performed, yet there’s nothing here that sounds dull or routine. On the contrary, it comes across with a newly minted freshness which is quite delightful.

McGuire is no less persuasive in Christopher Willcock’s Southern Star. The texts of this song cycle are by cartoonist extraordinaire Michael Leunig. The Trinity College choristers are in fine fettle here, sombre in the introductory Love is Born, intense and ecstatic in Christmas and, in Gul Gul Dja Mardji, the presentation is informed by an emphatically atavistic quality. I liked the bustle which informs What did you get? (a rather delightful piece about Xmas presents) – and in Real and Right and True, McGuire again comes up trumps.

William Kirkpatrick’s Away in a Manger was a joy and Andrew Carter’s Mary’s Magnificat is beautifully essayed.

A thoroughly recommend compilation.

Our Land in Harmony

476 3552 Bushfire - Our Land in Harmony 

(For Victorian Bushfire Relief)

TPT: 108’ 51”

ABC 476 3552 (2-CD)

reviewed by Neville Cohn


Sydney Children’s Choir, Sydney Brass, TriOz, Synergy, Peter Coleman-Wright, Choir of Trinity College, Cheryl Barker, Royal Australian Navy Band, Mike Nock, Paul Goodchild, Brian Nixon, Genevieve Lacey, Flinders Quartet, Satsuki Odamara, Sally Whitwell, Lyn Williams, Kate Golla, Michael Leighton-Jones


Knowing the circumstances which brought this recording into being, it is impossible to listen to it without being deeply moved.  On 7 and 8  February this year, terrifying walls of raging bushfire consumed not only entire settlements in Victoria but 173 human lives as well as leaving many survivors injured, some very seriously.


An initial idea on the part of those at ABC Classics FM to present a concert to raise funds for the victims of this appalling natural disaster –  a project for which many musicians and technicians immediately volunteered their services – was abandoned in favour of a giant recording project . It resulted in a 2-CD pack from each sale of which a royalty will be paid to VicRelief Foodbank for onward distribution to those in need of assistance.


It’s an overflowing cornucopia of good things, in styles ranging from the English choral tradition to jazz, from music on the koto to a tribute to Australia’s first submariners, from Peter Sculthorpe’s Anthem for Australia to a movement from one of Mozart’s Flute Quartets.


Of all the tracks, it’s two movements from Shostakovich’s Piano Trio in E minor that makes the greatest impact on the listener. Is there a more poignant utterance on grief and bereavement than this profoundly unsettling, deeply probing music? In its encapsulation of a mood of anguish – of despair beyond despair – it is the dominant offering of this collection. It is played with extraordinary insight by TriOz.


Tylman Susato, that half-forgotten Flemish composer of the Renaissance era, is represented by a little suite, its up-tempo notions presented with affectionate skill by Sydney Brass.


Of a deal of vocal music, Peter Coleman-Wright’s account of Arm, Arm, Ye Brave from Handel’s Judas Maccabeus is an object lesson in what clarity of diction is about. And there is a beautifully considered account of Harris’ Faire is the Heaven sung by the Choir of Trinity College, University of Melbourne. It’s a gem.


Musical magic of a very different sort is provided by Satsuki Odamura, a master of the Japanese koto, in Tori no Yoni which means Flying Like a Bird. This provides some of the compilation’s most expressive and intensely communicative playing.


Delightfully transparent textures contribute to altogether agreeable listening in the rondo from Mozart’s Flute Quartet No 1, here played by Genevieve Lacey on recorder with members of the Flinders Quartet.


A contribution of a very different kind is Ships with No Name composed by Matthew Close who also presides over the RAN Band with David Ritchie narrating the story of the very earliest Australian submarines, the crew of which were the very first Australians to skirmish with enemy Turks in World War I. (One such craft disappeared without trace while seeking to engage German shipping off the coast of Papua in 1914.)


Waves 09 by Timothy Constable, who directs leading percussion ensemble Synergy, abounds in murmuring arabesques (the product of immaculate mallet technique) and what sounds like the gentle pinging of crotales. But a work of such fascination surely deserves more than two cursory explanatory sentences in the liner notes. The same could be said of just about all the many tracks.


I’m sure that many who might have bought the CDs primarily because it was for a very good cause might well find musical treasure trove to delight them in their purchase. There is also information on how to contribute to VicRelief Foodbank.