The Winter Choral Concert is one of the many highlights of the NECOM Performance Calendar every year. Minisingers, Cantilena, Cantilena Chorale, Side-by-Side Choir, New England Singers and the New England Singers Chamber Choir all gave polished performances on the evening.
The Minisingers (a choir for children aged from Kindergarten to Year 2) opened the concert with Jack and the Beanstalk accompanied by Nicole Mackson on piano and Russell Bauer as narrator. It was wonderful to see the young musicians perform actions and listen to each other carefully as they were singing, showing that ensemble skills are developing early.
Leanne Roobol has been conducting Cantilena while their regular conductor, Constance Dunham has been on maternity leave. Leanne had the pleasure of conducting the Cantilena Chorale (an auditioned ensemble of children aged between Year 4 and 6) as they performed Abenlied (Evening Song) by Mendelssohn, and All Things Bright and Beautiful by John Rutter; both items were accompanied by Warwick Dunham on piano.
Cantilena Singers then took to the stage, and under the direction of Leanne Roobol, they presented The Grand Old Duke of York, complete with students conducting the audience to show them how the song is used as a vocal warm-up and an exercise to help develop the inner hearing of singers. They then performed Migaloo by Annie Kwok, a piece about Australia’s famous albino humpback whale, and an encore of their Eisteddfod winning piece, I’se the B’y, a Newfoundland folk song arranged by John Govedas.
It was delightful to once again hear the Side-by-Side Choir, made up of students from Armidale High School’s support unit and their fellow students. They were conducted by Rowena Teege and accompanied by Warwick Dunham on piano, Fumie Takahashi on guitar and additional Armidale High School support staff. The choir performed three pieces including Randy Newman’s You’ve Got a Friend in Me with sign language actions. They then performed a song they composed with NECOM’s music therapist, Fumie Takahashi, called Our Journey. The song shares the choir’s feelings about the creation of Armidale Secondary College next year. Side-by-Side finished their performance with a fun rendition of the traditional song, Shake the Papaya Down.
New England Singers Chamber Choir under student conductor Jonathan Bruhl and accompanied by Robyn Bradley was entrancing to watch. The choir arrived on stage to perform Double, Double Toil and Trouble by Jaakko Mäntyjärvi based on words by William Shakespeare with many of the singers appearing in robes that provoked thoughts of witches around a bubbling cauldron. Jonathan, under the mentorship of Phil Oxley and Leanne Roobol, has become a most competent young conductor. The choir concluded with Ave Verum Corpus by Mozart conducted by Phil Oxley.
The full New England Singers Choir rounded out the program with the final piece for the evening. Full of whimsy and pathos, Across the Dark by Sydney-born Ben van Tienen is a wonderful set of four songs based on poems by Michael Leunig. Melodically fresh and boldly stepping into tango and other stylistic influences, they come across with great charm. This choir, supported beautifully by Robyn Bradley on piano, has become one of the premier musical ensembles in New England, and the group didn’t disappoint.
A big thank you to all our teachers and accompanists who have worked so diligently with the many choirs. We are so lucky to be surrounded by such talented artists. Thanks also to the students for their commitment to fine music-making, and to all parents for their continued support of all that we do here at NECOM. We are now looking forward to the Christmas Concert at the end of the year!