Photo – Nick Rutter
150 Psalms by 150 composers, collected into twelve themes, and presented in twelve concerts by four a-capella choirs was the vision of Tido Visser, the Managing Director of The Netherlands Chamber Choir, and this concert was number 6 in that series, with the theme of Gratitude. The project has already been performed in Utrecht, New York and Brussels, and now in Adelaide – a splendid concept for the Festival of Arts.
The concert and the notion of Gratitude were thoughtfully introduced by Robyn Archer AO, a former Artistic Director of the Adelaide Festival, who reminded the capacity audience that we all have much to be grateful for, and that gratitude often inspires hopefulness. This theme was fittingly exemplified in the next hour or so by an inspiring performance by The Tallis Scholars, under the crisp, secure and unobtrusive direction of their founder, Peter Phillips.
This group is so well known from its many splendid recordings, but to hear them live, in a lively acoustic such as this Temple is a whole new and very much more immediate experience. They are a polished and tidy ensemble, who were equally at home with the mellifluous interweaving of themes by the polyphonic renaissance composers, such as Merulo, Victoria, Gibbons and Guerrero, for example, as they were in the less complicated homophonic simplicity of works by the 19th century SS Wesley and the 17th century Danish Morgens Pedersen. Whatever the genre, they enchanted, with superb intonation and blend, and seemingly effortless clarity.
The configuration of singers was adjusted as various compositions required smaller or different groupings, providing variety and contrast, while the control and sensitivity remain throughout. The excerpt from Psalm 30 by Orlando Gibbons displayed the group’s energy and richness of the voices, in particular of the counter tenor Alexander Chance, superbly matched with the alto, Caroline Trevor.
Psalm 107 by Philippe deMonte presents an opportunity to showcase the Scholars’ dynamic range, and Schubert’s Psalm 92 (in Hebrew) demonstrated their power and subtlety in the weaving of its themes. An Australian premiere of Psalm 63 by Nico Muhly brought forth some dark complexity of harmonies, and the concert concluded with a very tidy performance of a joyful Psalm 146 by Pierre de la Rue.
There was much to be grateful for in this fine concert – only one of twelve in this corporate exploration of the entire Psalter – in particular that we were all there, experiencing this great music-making by this consummate ensemble.
2020 Adelaide Festival
150 Psalms: Gratitude
The Tallis Scholars
Venue: Adelaide Hebrew Congregation | 13 Flemington Street, Glenside SA
Dates: 1 March 2020