University of Western Australia Choral Society

Winthrop Hall


reviewed by Neville Cohn

Listening to that most ecstatic of motets – Exultate Jubilate – invariably calls to mind Dvorak’s comment that Mozart is sunshine. Even the words of the motet suggest radiance, such as fulget amica dies which means “the friendly, happy day shines forth”. And soprano Katja Webb very effectively captured the happy essence of the writing in an all-Mozart concert to mark the 250th anniversary of his birth. Vocal tone, other than some notes in the lower register where some power was lost, carried effectively to the furthest corner of Winthrop Hall. Occasionally, though, some notes in rapid vocal passagework were not as clearly defined as one might have hoped.

Mozart’s great motet was heard in the context of a larger work – the Coronation Mass. Here, conductor John Beaverstock demonstrated once again that in his choice of tempi, he has the happy knack of setting a pace that is both appropriate and manageable. This was especially so in the Gloria during which Beaverstock coaxed from his choral forces responses of great intensity. And the Credo, too, came across, as it should, as a mighty affirmation, an impression reinforced by an emphatic, unflagging beat. Laurels to the trombones here. The opening measures of the Sanctus were like a blaze of light, the University of W.A.Choral Society sounding at its best here. And alto Sarah Dougiamas was in fine form in the Agnus Dei.

The choir was altogether convincing in Ave Verum in which Beaverstock succeeded in maintaining a sense of onward momentum at slow speed, a feat of commendable musicianship. But the mood so carefully generated was largely ruined by latecomers thoughtlessly – and with noisy footsteps – wandering around the hall which begs the question: why are latecomers admitted mid-work?

After the interval, choral intonation proved problematical in Dixit Dominus and the Magnificat from Vesperae Solennes. One longed here for greater clarity of inner vocal lines.

2006 is the 75th anniversary year of the UWA Choral Society, a notable milestone for an ensemble that has brought a wealth of new music as well as established classics to the city, much of it during the stewardship of the late Sir Frank Callaway. Among first performances given in the city under Callaway’s direction were those of Verdi’s Requiem, Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony and Beethoven’s Choral Symphony. Another conductor under whose direction the Society flourished was John Winstanley. The Society’s next concert takes place in October and will focus on music by Western Australian composers including emeritus professor David Tunley and Dom Moreno of New Norcia. Full details are available on the choir’s website

Copyright 2006

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