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Orpheus Choir: Cloudburst Concert, Wellington Cathedral

Media Release: Orpheus Choir, Cloudburst (12 November 2016, Wellington Cathedral)

Four seasons in one evening: sun, thunder, waterfalls and animals at the Cathedral

The power and majesty of nature have influenced composers to create some of the world’s greatest musical works. In November, the Orpheus Choir of Wellington will presentCloudburst, a programme compiled by music director Brent Stewart featuring a beautiful selection of modern and older pieces inspired by nature.

The concert opens with Kondalilla by Australian composer Stephen Leek. This is the third movement from his work Great Southern Spirits, portraying the Australian rainforest through the sound of bird calls and the eeriness of the lush greenspace. It reflects the Yuggera people’s story of how the Kondalilla waterfall came into being.

We then travel back 200 years, and pieces selected from Hadyn’s Four Seasons will take the audience on a whistle-stop journey through the year. The joy and merriment of spring turns into the glory of summer, before heading into rustic autumn, the grimacing beauty of winter and coming full circle into spring again – appropriately for a Wellington evening in November.

Morten Lauridsen’s Dirait-on promises to be one of the highlights of the night. The chanson populaire (or folksong) weaves together simple but unforgettable melodies, putting to music an elegantly lyrical French poem by Rainer Maria Rilke.

The works of American composer Eric Whitacre fill the rest of the programme. Lux Aurumque conveys the beauty of light and likens it to gold. The lyrics are not a traditional Latin text. Instead, they are a translation into Latin by American poet Charles Anthony Silvestri from original words by Edward Esch.

Animal Crackers is a laugh-out-loud kaleidoscope of short movements, featuring a series of Ogden Nash poems. This programme has chosen six different animals (the panther, cow, firefly, canary, eel and kangaroo). Suffice it to say that the poet is not fond of all of them.

The night’s key work is Whitacre’s famous Cloudburst. Handbells and thundersheet supplement the choir to depict a desert cloudburst - from its tense buildup to sudden intense thunderclaps and downpours, before dying away into silence. The piece was inspired by Whitacre’s own witnessing of the weather phenomenon, and the beautiful lyrics are adapted from renowned Mexican poet Octavio Paz’s The broken water-jar, which uses desert rain as a metaphor for the human experience.

This programme will be performed at Wellington Cathedral, allowing the choir to take advantage of resonant acoustics to bring the power of nature to life.

The concert will end with a sneak peek into what’s in store for Orpheus audiences in 2017.

Note: Audience need to be seated before start of concert. Latecomers will miss the first piece!


Orpheus Choir of Wellington, Cloudburst, Saturday 12 November 2016, 7:30pm, Wellington Cathedral of St Paul. Music Director: Brent Stewart. Tickets $20-$35

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