Voice of the Nation Ensemble | Perth Festival 2014Winners of the 2013 International Opera Awards ‘Chorus of the Year’, Cape Town Opera’s Voice of the Nation Ensemble wowed the Perth Concert Hall audience in their sold out PIAF 2014 show.

Lead ably by Chorus Master Albert Horne, the 23 singers regaled the audience with traditional African hymns, American spirituals and choruses by Verdi, Gounod and Boito.

The singing was passionate, heartfelt and emotive with the singers outwardly singing with their whole bodies. The choir’s rendition of ‘Va, pensiero’ from Verdi’s opera Nabucco was my personal highlight; closely followed by ‘O Happy Day’ by Hawkins. These contrasting pieces, with rich harmonies and crisp intonations highlighted the talent within the South African group.

After interval the choir was joined on stage by the WA Youth Jazz Orchestra (WAYJO), and together they performed exerpts from Duke Ellington’s rarely played Sacred Concerts.

WAYJO consists of some incredibly talented performers, and the audience heard the group at its best. Conducted by Artistic Director Mace Francis, almost each performer was given the opportunity to showcase their talents in solos. Of particular note were the impressive Baritone Saxophone and Drum solos during ‘In the Beginning God’ and the outstanding trumpet solo during ‘The Shepherd’.

Two soloists (Bronwynn Sprogowski and Aaron Malone) supported the singing and the spoken text. Malone in particular spoke the verses with precision and perfect timbre. Unfortunately Sprogowski’s last solo during ‘Praise God and Dance’ was shockingly bad, with Sprogowski seemingly unable to reach the higher notes and maintain pitch or length.

I haven’t heard any of Ellington’s Sacred Concerts before, and was unprepared for the mix of jazz styles, gospel singing, and spoken word. It was fascinating, and the spoken word over the music was especially theatrical and emotive. WAYJO grooved, swung and jazzed throughout however, they still didn’t look like they were having as much fun as the choir, who were constantly moving and feeling the music.

Duke Ellington was once quoted as saying; “There are two kinds of music. Good music and the other kind”. The Voice of the Nation Ensemble concert was definitely the good kind.

Perth Festival 2014
Voice Of The Nation Ensemble
Cape Town Opera and the Western Australian Youth Jazz Orchestra

Venue: Perth Concert Hall
Date: 10 February 2014
Tickets: $25 – $69
Bookings: www.perthfestival.com.au

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