Presented by Netherlands Chamber Choir
Reviewed 3 March 2020
The remarkable 150 Psalms project concluded last night with a glorious performance celebrating life by the Netherlands Chamber Choir, conducted by Peter Dijkstra, with organist Antony Hunt, in the Adelaide Town Hall. This concert was recorded for ABC Classic FM and will be broadcast on Wednesday 25 March at 8pm.
Somewhat less glorious was the introduction by ABC presenter Kerry O’Brien. I felt he spent too much time on a recital of what was wrong in the world, and in Australian politics in particular, and not enough time on ‘celebrating life’. Given the overwhelmingly positive responses of individuals and communities to those impacted by this summer’s dreadful fires, one would have thought there was plenty to celebrate.
The sublime singing in six different languages transported the listener to another realm – including non believers like me. Listening to the brilliantly performed complex harmonies one was, as it were, outside of normal time in a place where all one’s senses were enveloped in the transcendent power of the singing.
Perhaps my favourite piece was Caroline Shaw’s setting of Psalm 84, and the swallow which had its Australian premiere last night. It was such a gentle piece celebrating life through the swallow finding a safe place to raise her chicks and welcoming the autumn rains.
The brilliant finale was a setting of Thomas Tallis’s 40 part motet with all four choirs coming together to present a ‘vast tapestry of sound, [a]… monumental feat of mental prowess’ (program notes). The audience showed their delight by applauding for three curtain calls for the choirs and their conductors: Netherlands Chamber Choir and Peter Dijkstra; The Tallis Scholars and Peter Phillips; The Norwegian Soloists’ Choir and Grete Pederson; and The Song Company with Antony Pitts.
This ambitious project of presenting 150 Psalms by 150 composers was an original idea, inspired by an Amsterdam exhibition about the psalms, of Tido Visser, the Managing Director of the Netherlands Chamber Choir. Adelaide is the fourth city to present 150 Psalms following Utrecht, New York and Brussels. Visser notes in the program’s introduction: ‘That’s the magic of choral singing; it connects us, it unifies us. And if there is one thing we need in this world, it’s precisely that’.
Reviewed by Jan Kershaw
Rating out of 5: 5 transcendent