Review: Sonic Psalms

Reviewer Marian Poole
Reviewer Marian Poole
Sustained applause from a good-sized audience in St Paul's celebrated the performance of an exquisite collection of local recent compositions and their overseas influences. 

Sonic Psalms
St Paul's Cathedral
October 11


STRORK, violist Alan Starrat, violinist Sydney Manowitz, Pusawarna and the St Paul's Cathedral Choir created a unique sound world in which gamelan orchestra and western strings meld brilliantly.

A recording of Alistair Galbraith's "Pure Speculation" greeted the audience and set the scene. Lighting was kept to a minimum encouraging the audience to listen intensely to this intriguing collection of sounds.

"Opening Up" by STRORK and Puspawarna felt like we were listening to distant music from under water. Ligeti's choral work "Lux Aeterna" emanated out from a dark single sound and seeped through tense layers triumphant into light. Starrat's viola led instrumental works, "Bension", "In memory of one who wished to forget", "The ruins sing to us" and "Fylfot" flow combining gentle melodic ease with tart interjections contrasted by the sonic mêlée in "Wind down the Window".

Manowitz' talents as a solo violinist were nicely staged from the pulpit and could have been further exploited. Paul Mealor's work for organ "De Profundis", commissioned by George Chittenden, created perhaps the most amazing aural experience of the night. The organ tonelessly thudded the eardrums as if chaos loomed while remaining reassuringly musical.

Similarly Urmas Sisask's choral work "Oremus" succeeds with subtle fluctuations of wordless sound. Bengt Hambraeus' choral work "Motetum Archangelis Michaelis" closed the evening with heart-wrenching wailing. A more fitting note on which to end the evening would have been George Chittenden's superb choral composition "Pingstboen". Influenced by Ligeti, Part and Taverner, it encircled the audience with isolated groups of singers with canonic singing climaxed in unison. It was exquisitely timed and ethereally produced, enveloping and uplifting.

Both challenging and soothing, these compositions highlight the wealth of creative individuals Dunedin has in its midst.

- Reviewed by Marian Poole

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