13 December 2020
Review by Elizabeth Bouman

Southern Consort – Forty Years of Choral Excellence

Dunedin has always been a city strong in music performances of all genres, especially choral, with the origins of several choirs dating back to the beginning of the last century – and before. Southern Concert has now reached forty years of existence and is to be congratulated in presenting regular concerts with a variety of both religious and secular repertoire, achieving consistently high standards in both. Their fortieth anniversary concert was presented in St Paul’s Cathedral on Saturday 12th December 2020, always the ideal acoustics for this chamber choir, currently directed by Daniel Kelly.

A short joyful motet by Mendelssohn, Frohlocket, ihr Völker auf Erden, a tightly blended 1912 setting of Psalm 74 by Chesnokov, and several other sacred a capella pieces began the recital before a bracket of four songs from guest soprano Erica Paterson (accompanied by Mark Wigglesworth), which included Adolphe Adam’s O Holy Night. She then joined the Consort to solo in an absolutely stunning choral arrangement of a lullaby by Danish composer Carl Nielsen, followed by Ave Maria (Pawel Łukaszewski) for choir and soloists (Erica Paterson and Amelia Mah). Paterson’s voice carried superbly in the cathedral acoustics, with long legato phrases soaring magnificently above the Consort’s textured blends.

The second half of the programme included mostly contemporary choral pieces, and included Salve Regina by New Zealand composer David Childs, Only in Sleep (Ešenvalds), and other a capella gems by Karl Jenkins, Kodaly, Miškinis, Gjeilo and Stefan Claas. The recital ended with an emotional delivery of a Māori waiata – Ka Waiata ki a Maria (soloist Clare Adams).

The current twenty-member Consort excels in interpreting a cappella choral genre, exploring new works, with Kelly ever mindful of prioritizing balance and nuance. Southern Consort has become a name associated with excellence in choral achievements in the South. May it proudly continue in its established strengths to make beautiful music, giving great joy to both participants and audience.