Songs My Mother Taught Me

Reviewed by Wallace Woodley

7th May 2018


A beautifully designed printed programme outlined the challenging content of the musical menu served up by Jubilate Singers on Sunday afternoon, 6 May 2018, Songs My Mother Taught Me. The informative background notes, aided by the on-stage narration (which could have been delivered a tad slower), greatly assisted the enjoyment of the musical fare for all who attended this concert at The Piano.
So very much of the credit for this recital was due to Guest Conductor, Matthew Everingham, who not only directed the vocal ensemble throughout the afternoon, but also selected the items, and accompanied very professionally at the piano the handful of works not delivered a cappella.
The standard of performance never disappointed, but was maintained consistently high right through all items, from the rousing opening work, 'My Spirit Sang All Day' (from 7 Partsongs, Op.17) by Gerald Finzi, to the concluding bracket of lighter contemporary selections. Five hundred years of musical history honouring mothers and the ideals of motherhood encompassed the afternoon presentation, ranging from 'Io V'amo Vita Mia' by the sixteenth century Italian nun, Vittoria Aleotti, and Englishman, John Farmer's 'Fair Phyllis I Saw', to a modern day work, 'Sleep My Child', by Eric Whitacre. Three other women composers were also represented: Fanny Mendelssohn, Clara Schumann, and Amy Beach (whose 'Peace I Leave With You' provided a gentle conclusion to the first half of the programme).
Artistic merits permeated through each of the twenty-one songs – a generous compilation: clarity of diction in six different languages; colourful sonorities in often complex part-writing; and synchronised security in challenging rhythmical passagework.
A special feature of the concert was the bracket of two musical show songs sung by Guest Soprano, Hannah Wheeler: 'I Could Have Danced All Night' (from My Fair Lady by Loewe & Lerner) and 'Move On' (from Sunday In The Park With George by Sondheim). Her delightfully pure vocal lines were performed with expressive and characterful lyricism. (Lowering the piano lid, though, would have better suited the balance in the bright acoustic of this auditorium.)
It would not be appropriate to try to list in order of merit other specific items, but there was evident musical pleasure provided by the choir's renditions of 'She Walks in Beauty' by Paul Mealor, 'Bogoroditse Djevo' by the Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt, 'Sleep My Child' (from Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings) by Eric Whitacre, and 'Walk Together, Children', a Traditional Spiritual arr. Moses Hogan.
Thank you, Jubilate Singers, for sharing your unified talents and sensitive musicianship with a truly appreciative audience, which should have been deservedly much larger; and for conveying so convincingly your obvious joy in making music!

Jubilate Singers' 40th Anniversary Concert

Reviewed by Wallace Woodley

30th November 2017


A 40th (Ruby) Anniversary presents a wonderful opportunity for a celebration, and that was certainly the nature of the concert presented by the Jubilate Singers on Sunday afternoon, 26 November 2017, in St Mary's Pro-Cathedral.
Martin Setchell, John Pattinson, Grant Hutchinson and Susan Densem, the four talented music directors associated with the choir since its inception in 1977, were appropriately recognised as each led brackets of items in the programme of carefully chosen, varied repertoire, which ranged from the sixteenth to the twenty-first century.
The Augmented Choir comprised regular present-day singers and many former members. For some items, this was further boosted to a total of around 60 by the inclusion of several more ex-members who had only been able to participate in the final celebration weekend rehearsals. Accompanied works had instrumental support provided by organ or piano, sometimes with additional violins and/or cello; and individual vocalists sang small solo lines in some of the choral textures that expanded up to eight parts.
Throughout the afternoon, specific attention was given to musical phrasing, varied dynamics, and clarity of diction in the six different languages presented. Each composition had qualities of merit conveyed by rehearsed discipline and attention to detail. There were so many items worthy of critical praise in the two-hour programme, and, regrettably, the length of the concert prohibits reference to each item. Nevertheless, special mention must be made of the following outstanding performances: the opening fanfare-like Whakarongo mai e nga iwi, a Maori song of welcome arranged by William Southgate; the tender moments and subtle balance in Cantique de Jean Racine by Gabriel Fauré; the stylish idiomatic qualities of the two spirituals, Deep River and Steal Away, extracted from Michael Tippett's oratorio, A Child of Our Time; Susan Densem's glorious solo soprano voice in Mozart's Laudate Dominum, and the three beautifully sung final motets, Lord, When the Sense of Thy Sweet Grace (by John Ritchie, the Singers' first Patron), Sanctus (by contemporary Christchurch composer, Richard Oswin), and Martin Setchell's concluding benediction, Deep Peace.
Congratulations are deeply deserving to all performers (choir members, instrumentalists, and the four conductors) who participated in a truly memorable afternoon of celebratory music that was greatly appreciated by the very enthusiastic audience.


Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd

7th September 2013

My relationship with the Jubilate Singers goes back a long way and it amazes me how a group of amateurs can repeatedly turn out professional performances. Having suffered several choral society renditions of Mendelssohn's warhorse Elijah as player, singer and audience- member back in Britain, I attended with some trepidation. I need not have worried.

Conductor Grant Hutchinson directed an outstanding evening of music, having put together a first- rate lineup of soloists, a composite choir and a scratch orchestra that gelled perfectly and left me with a completely new take on this work. With the repositioning of the angels and seraphims behind the audience there was a little bit of theatre in there, too. For the record, I found the venue acoustically very satisfying.

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Reviewed by Philip Norman

14th April 2013

With a programme filled to the gunwales with death, destruction and the devil, “Pathways” ought to have been a doom-monger’s delight. Yet, there was too much to be cheerful about for this to occur, particularly a buoyant Jubilate Singers delivering a cluster of challenging contemporary pieces with panache.

Not that the performances of Rautavaara’s “Suite de Lorca”, Eric Whitacre’s “When David Heard” and Joby Talbot’s “Roncesvalles” from “Path of Miracles” were without blemish, for the mercilessly angular lines in the Whitacre and Talbot pieces occasionally stretched techniques. To the singers’ credit, their delivery was sufficiently intense for rough patches to pass as individual inflections, compatible with the rawness of emotion in the texts.

Beautiful, controlled sounds characterised the simpler homophonic settings, in particular the muted opening to “When David Heard”, and the trademark Whitacre piles-up of sound that coloured the texture. The opening processional, “Hanacpachap Cussicuinin” an early Peruvian homage to the Virgin Mary, also displayed great beauty of choral tone and a commendable degree of ensemble cohesion.

Other sprays of cheer included the high fidelity of Barry Brinson’s electronic chamber organ and the super-lunary tones of Jonathan Le Cocq’s baroque guitar. This latter instrument, looking like a ukulele on steroids but sounding like a guitar on a respirator, was delightfully finger-picked, strummed, rolled and slapped by Le Cocq in two Iberian offerings – “Canario” and “Terantela, an elaborate fantasy on an anonymous Portuguese theme.

In a programme marked by textural and timbral variation, oboist Ian Thorpe presented “Gabriel’s Oboe” from the 1986 film “The Mission”, and counter tenor Christopher Warwick showed sufficient technique to traverse both the opening 16th century polyphony and Talbot’s contemporary lines with style. Compliments also to additional soloists from the choir, Denis Guyan, Regan Gardner, Sarah Stevenson and Nathan Mehrtens, the latter in particular for reaching deep in his register to negotiate “Suite de Lorca” and complete the “Path of Miracles”.

Final word belongs to the director Grant Hutchinson, who devised this successful and colourful programme, and conducted to pleasing effect. A vibrant performance of “Sanctus” by Christchurch composer Richard Oswin rounded out the programme on a celebratory note.