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Review: The Song Company ten Years 1984-1994 21 August 1994

  • Eva Wagner
  • Source: Opera Australasia October 1994

The Song Company, a vocal ensemble consisting of six very fine singers, has
celebrated its 10th birthday.

Sopranos Penelope Sharpe, Jeannie Van de Velde, mezzo-soprano Jo Burton,
tenor Richard Black, baritone David Mckenzie and bass-baritone Clive Birch performed
at St James Church, Sydney, on August 21.

This group, followed in the footsteps of the Leonine consort, founded by Charles Colman.
Colman also started the Song Company in 1984, presumably to fill an existing void,
to explore the madrigal and other a capella literature, and stage and cabaret work
as a sideline and for entertainment.

The birthday program started with a specially composed work by Elliott Gyger, who for
part of last year was the group's resident composer, a phantasy quasi on a theme by
Richard Wagner.  He calls this work Ficta (Latin meaning 'feigned' or 'simulated')
which in my opinion adds to his already established ability to write clever as well
as humorous music; the only criticism I would have is that the majority of the audience
was obviously not Wagner-opera-literate and so missed the gentle joke which Alfred
Brendel, for instance, would have included into his lecture on funny music; he
would have enjoyed it immensely.

This was followed by the famous and beloved Bach cantata Wachtet auf! Ruft uns die Stimme.
Ten guest singers formed the choir and assorted members of the Australian Chamber Orchestra
provided the accompaniment in a stylishly atmospheric performance, but I wished that the
singers' diction had not been so good, or else their German language knowledge a bit better!

And then came the highlight of the afternoon, the Requiem by Gabriel Faure. As stated in the
program notes this is not reallY a typical Mass for the Dead in the
usual sense of the description. Rather it is a "lullaby," a totally serene work composed by
somebody thoroughly unafraid of his encounter with death. Which fact, to my mind, is the
only valid excuse for its appearance on a birthday celebration program.
Besides, it was quite beautifully done and certainly communicated its lullaby-ish serenity.

Elliott Gyger conducted his own composition while the rest of the prognm was in the secure
hands of the group's artistic and musical director, Roland Peelman. But may I know why
there was not a bracket of the Company's basic repertoire, madrigals, included in the program?

Surely, that would have been most appropriate for the occasion.

However that may be, we wish them well and many, many happy returns of the day and the



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