Conductor John Rosser was, as always, the soul of urbanity compering the latest concert by his chamber choir Viva Voce.

Titled Family Matters, courtesy of a new David Hamilton work, the programme roved the centuries and the globe, pursuing familial themes, strikingly so when a crisply turned sacred madrigal by Thomas Weelkes was followed by a soulful American spiritual.

The six settings of Hamilton's Family Matters revealed the Auckland composer's absolute mastery of choral craftsmanship. The choir relaxed and enjoyed his deft jazzy touches in a 17th-century sonnet, as well as the wit and shrewd observation brought to poet Jacqueline Saphra's sly analysis of her mother's cosmetic armoury.

The most ambitious offering gave us the rare opportunity to hear Jepthe, an historic 1648 oratorio by the Italian composer Giacomo Carissimi. Neatly accompanied by David Kelly on a versatile electronic keyboard, this was a little like Monteverdi without frills and perhaps all the more moving for being so.


The singing throughout was exemplary, particularly from Patrick Kelly as the tormented Old Testament father and a supple-voiced Elizabeth Mandeno as his ill-fated daughter.

If attempts at choral movement were sometimes awkward and hand-held scores detracted from a total dramatic experience, this was the climax of the evening, only slightly undercut by a handful of lighter pieces that followed.

What: Viva Voce
Where: Town Hall Concert Chamber
Reviewer: William Dart