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Songs For Humanity

Saturday 1 August 5:30 pm

Knox Church


SOLOISTS: Caroline Burchell (soprano), Scott Bezett (baritone)



We dedicate this performance to the many thousands of people worldwide who have died in the COVID-19 pandemic. The music has been chosen for its message of hope, comfort and peace. "Peace is liberty in tranquility" said Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC), one of Rome's greatest philosophers.

Fauré: Requiem

Peteris Vasks: Dona nobis pacem

Ola Gjeilo: Song of the Universal

Christopher Marshall: Pastorale

City Choir Dunedin is thrilled to return to the stage on 1 August after the Covid-19 lockdown. In a concert of beautiful music we remember those who have died and those whose lives have been seriously changed by the devastating effects of the global pandemic.

The highlight of this concert is Gabriel Fauré’s popular and very human Requiem mass. Written in the late 19th century and purely ‘for the pleasure of it’, Fauré described his Requiem as a lullaby of death and of a happy deliverance, rather than a painful experience. With distinctive colour and expressive shaping, it is sensitive, passionate and uplifting. Two young and aspiring Dunedin soloists, Scott Bezett and Caroline Burchell, will join City Choir in this performance.

Three contemporary works complete the programme. New Zealander Christopher Marshall’s Pastorale, a work for men’s voices and soprano solo, is a setting of Psalm 23, ‘The Lord is my shepherd’. Marshall has created a distinctive sound-world with strings, organ and shimmering vibraphone rhythms which provide a background to the men’s chorus and a soaring solo voice; this instrumentation was arranged by him especially for this concert. Christopher Marshall was Mozart Fellow at the University of Otago in the late 1990s and was also commissioned by City Choir in 2013 to compose a work for its 150-year celebrations. The resulting For What Can Be More Beautiful? was greatly admired.

Song of the Universal, composed in 2012 by a Norwegian, Ola Gjeilo, is a work for women’s voices, strings and piano. Gjeilo is one of the most frequently performed contemporary choral composers. Now resident in the US, he creates a distinctive sound-world, evolving a style that is often described as cinematic and evocative, with a lush, harmonious sound. This work will be the first of Gjeilo’s that City Choir has performed. A prayer for ‘health, peace [and] salvation universal’ could not be more appropriate in these anxious times.

Completing the programme is Dona nobis pacem (‘Grant us peace’) by the Latvian composer Peteris Vasks, composed in 1996. Vasks is now one of the most influential and praised European contemporary composers and another new composer to City Choir. Dona nobis pacem is an atmospheric and a tonally static work with chant-like melodic lines. Although only three words are sung throughout, the enriched texture and increasing harmonic tension impart a pleading, and at times almost anguished intensity to the text before it ends in serenity and hope.

We are delighted that the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra will once again provide their excellent accompaniment to the choir’s voices.

CONDUCTOR: David Burchell

David Burchell has been Musical Director of City Choir Dunedin since the beginning of 2000 and is now the longest-serving Musical Director in the choir’s history. He is Organist and Choir Director at St Joseph’s Cathedral, and Senior Organist and Parish Choir Director at All Saints’ Church. He is the Dunedin City Organist, the University of Otago’s Graduation Organist and organ tutor for the Performing Arts Music Programme. He is also a regular conductor of the Dunedin Youth Orchestra, and occasionally works with St Kilda Brass.

As Musical Director of City Choir Dunedin he directs performances of major works for choir with a variety of accompanimental groups. Recent performances have included Bach’s St Matthew Passion, Duruflé’s Requiem and Norma’s Big Birthday Bash. Previous performances have included Britten’s Saint Nicolas and Rejoice in the Lamb, Alexander L’Estrange’s Zimbe! Come Sing the Songs of Africa and Song Cycle, Coleridge Taylor’s Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, Christopher Marshall’s For What Can Be More Beautiful?, Rutter’s Mass of the Children, Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle, requiems by Mozart and Fauré, Bach’s Mass in B Minor, Magnificat, St John Passion and Christmas Oratorio, Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius, David Hamilton’s Missa Pacifica and ten performances of Handel’s Messiah.

David has appeared as organ soloist with the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra in Poulenc’s Organ Concerto, Saint-Saëns’s Organ Symphony, and in the première of Anthony Ritchie’s Organ Overture. He has also appeared with the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra, directing from the harpsichord, in Bach’s fifth Brandenburg Concerto and as harpsichordist in C.P.E. Bach’s Concerto for Harpsichord and Fortepiano.

BARITONE: Scott Bezett

Young baritone, Scott Bezett, was born and raised in Dunedin and recently completed a Bachelor of Arts & Science in Classics, Mathematics and Music at the University of Otago under the instruction of Judy Bellingham and Tessa Romano. He began his performance career in musical theatre roles for Musical Theatre Dunedin and Taieri Musical before making his operatic debut as the Sergeant of Police in Opera Otago’s 2017 production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance. Roles since then have included the baritone in Tom Johnson’s The Four Note Opera, Masetto in Don Giovanni, the Wolf in Seymour Barab’s Little Red Riding Hood, Pooh-Bah in The Mikado, and Ben in The Telephone. Scott’s previous concert appearances have included Bach’s St Matthew Passion and Fauré’s Requiem. He was also one of twenty-two young singers selected to attend the New Zealand Opera School in January this year.

SOPRANO: Caroline Burchell

Caroline began her singing career at the age of six as a chorister at St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral Dunedin, becoming head chorister in 2009, and joined City Choir Dunedin at the age of 13. Her singing teachers have included Lois Johnson, Judith Henley and Isabel Cunningham. She is a recent graduate of the University of Otago with a BA in History of Art, and spent her final year on exchange at the University of Glasgow, where she was a member (and soloist) of the choir of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral. She also appeared with the Telemann Ensemble and took part in a broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland. Caroline has won numerous awards in singing competitions. Solo engagements have included Vivaldi’s Gloria with the Central Otago Choir, and roles with Opera Otago and The Little Box of Operas, as well as choir solos with City Choir Dunedin.

Tickets available online from Eventfinda, or phone 0800 289 849

Cash at Music Planet or MusicWorks


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