3Apr

Erin's Playlist - Choruses

By Pinchgut Opera | Blog, Playlist | 3 Apr 2020 |

Dear Friends of Pinchgut Opera,

If the Orchestra of the Antipodes is the beating heart of Pinchgut Opera, Cantillation is its soul. Formed in 2001 by Antony Walker (our co-founder and Emeritus Conductor) and Alison Johnston (our Artistic Manager), Cantillation is a chorus of professional singers who have been lauded for over twenty years for their speed, agility, flexibility, and expressivity. Cantillation has been featured in every Pinchgut opera with a chorus since our inception. They are an exceptional bunch of musicians—some members of Cantillation have gone on to major international careers as soloists, David Greco, Helen Sherman, and Miriam Allan among them.

The sound of many voices singing together is especially moving at a time of self-isolation and social distancing. Here is a playlist of some of my favourite Pinchgut choruses from over the years.

Stay safe and healthy! 

Warmest,
Erin

  1. This is a favourite of both Alison Johnston and myself. This is from the company’s very first production, Semele, in 2002. Handel memorably depicts the bustling “revels” and sighs of the “everlasting boy”: Love himself. Very touching in that I can clearly hear a young Miriam Allan in the soprano section. Also at the keyboard was a certain balding and slightly chubby 24-year old harpsichordist (ahem).
  2. The chorus of priestesses from Gluck’s Iphigenie en Tauride is written in the stile antico: Gluck makes it sound like Pergolesi in order to paint the religious solemnity of the scene. Baroque clarinets give the chorus an organ-like quality. Stunning.
  3. The final chorus of David et Jonathas is a wonderful celebratory movement and it showcases the shining solo voices of Cantillation along with the full chorus itself. Check out that swaggering notes inégales! This is French practice from the time, in that everything is swung a little, just like in modern jazz.
  4. This magnificent chorus from Theodora concluded the first part of our production from 2016. This was our first production with the booming and rich sound of the contrabassoon (played by Brock Imison). The ending of this chorus breaks my heart … those words “peace and rest” … Handel was clearly inspired by a similar moment in Purcell’s King Arthur (which he knew).
  5. The final chorus from L’Orfeo. Percussion and joy unbridled!
  6. Here is Monteverdi writing in his best madrigalesque fashion to paint the utter despair the chorus feels at hearing of the death of Eurydice. Here is an extraordinary moment in music history. Listen for the wonderfully soft reprise of the opening chorus, exquisitely sung by Cantillation under the baton of Emeritus Conductor Antony Walker.
  7. A glorious chorus from Purcell’s Fairy Queen in praise of the Sun. Shining, warm, and golden.
  8. One of my favourite choruses from Theodora: here the Romans marvel at the selfless acts (“how strange and yet how glorious!”) of the Christians. Handel prefigures the crucifixion itself in the hammering accompaniment of the orchestra. I love the textural contrast of smooth versus crunchy.
  9. The final cacophonous chorus from Haydn’s L’anima del filosofo. Complete with period sound effects! Members of Cantillation operated period thunder sheets and wind machines at the back of the house for this production. I loved the effect of this chorus in the theatre.
  10. A perennial favourite from Purcell’s Fairy Queen featuring the divine Sara Macliver: “If Love’s a Sweet Passion”.
  11. The rousing opening chorus from Handel’s Theodora. The agility and flexibility of Cantillation is clearly on display, replete with a particularly splendid bass-baritone section.
  12. A sorbet cleanser from Purcell, again featuring some solos from long-standing members of Cantillation. Purcell’s word-painting is second to none. How else does one set the word “trip it”?
  13. From Thomas Morell: “Mr Handell [sic] himself valued [Theodora] more than any Performance of the kind; and when I once ask’d him, whether he did not look upon the Grand Chorus [the ‘Hallelujah’ Chorus] in the Messiah as his Master Piece? ‘No,’ says he, ‘I think the Chorus at the end of the 2d part in Theodora far beyond it. He saw the lovely youth &c.” This was Handel’s masterpiece. Again, listen for the glorious sound of the contrabassoon and marvel at Handel’s contrapuntal mastery.
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