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Review of ‘Sin and Salvation’

Reviewer: Jennifer GallThe Canberra Times

It’s hard to beat an afternoon with Palestrina, Monteverdi, Lassus and the like, especially when the music is performed by Canberra’s smallest and most technically polished male vocal ensemble, The Pocket Score Company. With each performance the blend of voices, with David Mackay conducting is developing into a confident sound which is at once resonant and clean. Palestrina’s Missa Aeterna Christi Munera formed the heart of the concert and with the opening Kyrie I was reminded of the description of Anne Boleyn walking up the aisle of Westminster abbey on a ‘cloth of heaven blue’ for her coronation. If you could replicate heaven blue silk in music, it would sound like The Pocket Score Company singing Palestrina.

With a blend of sacred and secular songs, the program offered a satisfying variety of material. Contrasting with the heavenly Palestrina,  the more earthly offerings from Adrian Willaert: Un Giorno Mi Prego, Lassus: Baur, was tregst im Sacke?, and Janequin’s Martin menoit son porceau were energetic evocations of the lusty life of the folk in the 15th and 16th centuries. Innuendo and vocal special effects succeeded in conveying the wicked sense of fun within the lyrics.

One of the highlights was the opening song in the second half of the concert, Hec Dies, by an anonymous composer and performed by David Yardley (countertenor) and Ian Blake (bass), singing across the audience. The early music stereophonic effect was deliciously trippy. Monteverdi’s Chi’o ami la mia vita was less tidy than the other numbers, but a compensating treat was David Yardley’s setting of the carol, Wilkin’s Return. The lyrics urge Christ to ‘save merry England and speed it well’, but with such edgy urgency it was easy to imagine a barracks full of (musical) testosterone fuelled soldiers ready to smite off a few heads for the glory of God and country. Juan del Encina’s lovely Romerico came as balm after the robust carol and Palestrina’s Agnus Dei à4 and à5, separated by a beautifully spacious plainchant version, ended the concert peacefully. There was a lovely moment when baritone Daniel Sanderson and tenor Paul Eldon’s voices blended in the five part version perfectly to illustrate exactly why there had to be another voice in the arrangement. But best of all, David Mackay’s very young daughter provided a well timed, perfectly pitched musical comment in between the last two items, proving that the younger generation finds as much joy in early music as the older patrons.

The Pocket Score Company presents Sin and Salvation

The barometer may be falling but come, be warmed by an afternoon with The Pocket Score Company as we present Sin and Salvation, a journey through the mellifluous sounds of Medieval and Renaissance music. At its sweltering core we present Palestrina’s Missa Aeterna Christi Munera, a work of simple, soaring beauty showcasing the composer’s art at its finest.

We also feature a series of earthly delights by Monteverdi, Jannequin, Orlando di Lasso and a questionable song about the appropriate use of an oar and a barge.

Joining us for this concert we are delighted to welcome baritone Daniel Sanderson for a couple of five-part pieces, as well as a starring role on the tambourine as we feature a new composition by our countertenor David Yardley, Nowell, Nowell, taken from his upcoming CD New Carols and Songs for Chaucer’s Pilgrims.