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Arts Festival Review: Tower NZ Youth Choir

Tower New Zealand Youth Choir

Reviewed by Erica Challis

Tuesday, March 7
12:10pm
The National Bank Festival Club, Waitangi Park

Karen Grylls - Artistic Director
James Tibbles - Assistant Musical Director

Cantate Gloria: Bullard
O salutaris hostia : Rossini
Keep Your Lamps: arr. Andre Thomas
Six chansons: Hindemith
Beati quorum via : Stanford
There is a balm in Gilead: arr Dawson
soloist: Bonaven Allan-Moetaua
The Lord's Prayer: Schnittke
Samoa silasila: arr. Steven Rapana
Drums Steven Rapana; Chris Bruerton
soloist: Rachel Alexander
dancer: Charene Clarke
guitar: Bonaven Allan-Moetaua
Te Iwi E: Wehi Whanau
guitar: David Tipi
Ka waiata ki a Maria: Dick Puanaki


Roaring gales did nothing to deter the crowd who almost overflowed the Festival Club to hear the Tower New Zealand Youth Choir present a short musical journey around the world. Assistant musical director James Tibbles promised a programme of contrasts, and the choir delivered with a performance that showed their mastery of many styles.

The opening Cantata Goria, by the contemporary English composer Bullard, showed off the choir’s clean, well-blended sound and dynamic control. Director Karen Grylls’ restrained yet expressive gestures coaxed a crisply-textured performance from them.

The following O Salutaris Hostia showed Rossini in an uncharacteristically serious mood. The choir’s heartfelt singing followed Grylls’ gestures closely, warming chosen chords with expressive vibrato. The Rossini was well matched by the American spiritual that followed it, Keep Your Lamps (trimmed and burning), that had the choir loosened up and swaying gently.

The Six Chansons in French by Paul Hindemith were a surprise: light, gallic music, at times almost medieval in its harmonies, from a composer better known for weighty neo-classicism. They came across as a bit of an oddity.

Stanford’s motet Beati Quorum separated the men’s and women’s voices and the audience could appreciate more of the individual colours making up the choir’s blend. We heard more of the men on their own during the spiritual that followed, There is a Balm in Gilead, soloist Bonaven Allan-Moetaua easily lifted out of that blend with his steely-bright tenor.

Rejoined by the women, the choir warmed its colour up to a plummier sound for a setting of the Lord’s Prayer by Russian composer Schnittke. It culminated in a glorious chord progression at the end, sung with full-throated, rich tones.

The concert ended with a return to the music of home, via the Pacific Island and Maori cultures that make up the heritage of good proportion of the choir. Both the love song Samoa silasila and the crowd-pleasing action song Te Iwi E showed the choir’s versatility in a display of chest-slapping and foot-stomping that drew shouts for an encore.

The choir gave it, spreading out to encircle the audience for an Ave Maria in Maori. In some ways this was a high point of the concert, in that it gave the audience a chance to hear close up the individual beauties of the voices that combine so seamlessly to form this wonderfully disciplined choir.

*************

NZ Arts Festival: Tower NZ Youth Choir
Scoop Full Coverage: Festival 2006

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