This concert turned out to be a double birthday bash for both the King's Singers and Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir.
While the New Zealanders have notched up 20 years of choral professionalism, their British guests can look back on half a century of setting benchmarks for a cappella singing, in everything from Byrd and Brahms to Bacharach and The Beatles.
It was an unmitigated pleasure to experience the vocal sheen and expertise when the two groups joined forces for the rich canvases of Eric Whitacre's The Stolen Child and Bob Chilcott's High Flight, conducted by Karen Grylls.
The Watershed Time, a special commission from Auckland's Leonie Holmes, used Anne Powell's words to contemplate the timeless connection between this country's land and seascapes.
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Unafraid of familiar major and minor, Holmes combined her two forces with admirable sureness. Beautifully molded and sometimes angular solos from the King's Singers made their impact, as did the choir, creating an atmospheric backdrop from significant phrases and, occasionally, just sound alone.
We were privileged to hear Nico Muhly's To stand in this house, only premiered in Britain earlier this year. The American composer moves from the spiritual poetry of Henry Vaughan to the political texts of Salman Rushdie and Zadie Smith, whose words comparing countries and leaders with orchestras and conductors were effectively treated in the style of bittersweet Anglican chant. Here, as elsewhere, an old-fashioned printed programme with lyrics would have been much appreciated.
On their own, the six elegantly suited King's Singers offered urbane introductions and stylish tastings of their craft, from Bob Chilcott's jaunty take on Maya Angelou verses, to vibrant Schubert and witty Renaissance chansons.
The evening ended with a party bag, containing the expected goodies. And we were not disappointed when this classiest of boy bands gave us the campy charleston of The Beatles' Honey Pie and two Kiwi classics, including Dave Dobbyn's Slice of Heaven. A full cast encore of Billy Joel's And so it goes, a piquant demonstration of just how little it takes to turn a pop ballad into a secular anthem.
To see William Dart's Anderson & Roe Piano Duo review, go to nzherald.co.nz/culture
What: The King's Singers & Voices New Zealand
Where: Auckland Town Hall
Reviewer: William Dart