Wednesday 4 July 2018

Australian visitors: the choir of Trinity College, Melbourne on tour in the UK

Christopher Watson and the choir of Trinity College, Melbourne
Christopher Watson and the choir of Trinity College, Melbourne
The choir of Trinity College, Melbourne (Australia) is currently on a European tour and is visiting the UK. We were lucky enough to be able to catch the choir, conducted by its musical director Christopher Watson, at a short concert on Tuesday 3 July 2018 at the church of St Mary-le-Bow, when they performed music by Robert White, Ross Edwards, Percy Grainger and Eriks Essenwalds.

The choir, which numbers around 30, comprises of students studying a wide range of subjects, many of whom are residents at Trinity College, but with others drawn from Monash University, Swinburne University, the Victorian College of the Arts and RMIT University, and they sing two services per week. During the tour, Christopher Watson and the choir will also be doing a recording, the centrepiece of which is a mass by the contemporary Australian composer Ross Edwards (born 1943).

At St Mary-le-Bow, they opened with Robert White's Christe qui lux es IV, followed by the 'Kyrie' from Ross Edwards Mass of the Dreaming. The group made a lovely focussed, vibrant sound, very much its own. Edwards' mass, written in 2009 for a choir in Brisbane, makes interesting use of indigenous Australian elements (such as the low basses evoking the didgeridoo) within the context of modern polyphony.

Music by another Australian of an earlier generation followed, we heard Percy Grainger's Irish tune from County Derry, and Ye banks and ye braes. In fact, Grainger's museum is just 50 yards from the choir's historic chapel in Melbourne. Grainger's arrangements were wonderfully rich textured, and I was impressed that they added the whistling line in Ye banks and ye braes.

More contemporary music came next, Eriks Esenvalds' Only in sleep, a setting of the American poet Sara Teasdale. The event ended with the 'Gloria' from Ross Edwards' mass, a challenging but uplifting piece.

The name of the choir's musical director, Christopher Watson, may be familiar to readers of this blog. He was a tenor with the Tallis Scholars for a number of years, director of music at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, and in fact was the tenor soloist on my CD, The Testament of Dr Cranmer.

The choir has already sung Evensong at St. Paul's Cathedral and giving a concert at St Clement Danes, as well as performing in Montpelier Cathedral, France. To come are services at St George's Chapel, Windsor, Great St Mary's, Cambridge, St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh and Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. See below for the full schedule.

Dates for the remainder of Trinity College's tour:

Wednesday 4 July – 5.15pm Evensong at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle
Friday 6 July – 12pm lunchtime concert in Canterbury Cathedral, Kent
Sunday 8 July – 5.30pm Evensong at Great St Mary's, Cambridge
Tuesday 10 July – 8pm concert at St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh
Wednesday 11 – Friday 13 July – 5.30pm services St Mary's Cathedral, Edinburgh
Saturday 14 – Sunday 15 July – Services in Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford – Saturday 6pm, Sunday 11am + 6pm

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