Hastings Choral Society with Hereworth School and Iona College Choirs
Animal Antics and A Kiwi Bestiary
By David Hamilton
Directed by Joe Christensen
St. Matthew's Church, Hastings.
Sunday, December 2.
Reviewed by Peter Williams.
This unique programme featured the world premiere of A Kiwi Bestiary, the commissioned work by one of New Zealand's most successful composers, David Hamilton, with texts for songs about animals by New Zealand poets Jon Gadsby, Lauris Edmond, Shirley Gawith, Anna Jackson, Melanie Drewery, Peter Hawes and Irene McLeod.
In witty songs, such as Scratchy Cats, Lone Dog, Hairy Scary Spider and Scaly Tail the Rat, Hamilton aptly matched the words and animal sounds with music that had both singers and the near capacity audience completely engaged from start to finish.
Joanne Stephens directed the two school choirs in a sparkling rendition of Scratchy Cats and the very believable representation of the morepork in Out in the Night Time, while the three choirs together, directed by Joe Christensen, showed the character of the all prevailing Scaly Tail the Rat very convincingly.
Hastings Choral were in top form, obviously revelling in the music of the poems they sang on their own, with performances which conveyed the rhythmic and expressive character of the songs very effectively.
The accompanying ensemble of violinist Norma Smith, flautist Bryan Liem, clarinettist Frances Morgan, saxophonist Anton Wuts and percussionist Emily Selfe, with pianist Anna Hansen, made a vital contribution with their sparkling rhythmic emphasis and lively solo lines.
The first part of the programme was the ideal lead in to the Hamilton work.
Hastings Choral's stylish De Animals A-Comin, the gentle contrast of Feed the Birds, the poignant sound of Something Told the Wild Geese and the arrangement of Saint-Saens the Swan, often notable for the antiphonal singing of the men's and women's parts, were all presented with great confidence, underpinned by the excellent piano accompaniments from Anna Hansen.
The Hereworth School Chapel Choir, directed by Joanne Stephens with the lively accompaniment from pianist Elizabeth Curtis, certainly impressed with their excellent diction and movement in the nonsense song Tod, and Roald Dahl's The Crocodile, and the Iona College Choir, directed by Georgina Cole, gave confident performances which showed the novel character of A Windmill in Old Amsterdam and the humour of Flander's and Swann's The Hippopotamus.
Sopranos Eileen von Dadelszen and Diane Abraham, accompanied by pianist Margaret Cooper, certainly showed what the animals could sound like in the Duet for Two Cats.
Joe Christensen directed throughout with great aplomb, ensuring that performers and listeners alike experienced the fun and enjoyment to be found in music.