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Posts from the ‘Reviews’ Category

Singers, young actors lovely mix

The Polyphonic Bard

The Street Theatre. November 30 to December 2.

Reviewer: Janet WilsonThe Canberra Times

“The performance intermingled music with scenes that illustrated love in many forms: playful, despairing, cynical, combative and seductive.

“There was excellent balance between the five singing voices and a nice variation in mood as the ensemble moved from the sweetness of Palestrina’s Vestiva I Colli, a wistful expression of love in springtime, to the outrageous Je Ne Menge Point de Porc, complete with porky grunts, and on to the spiritual O Nata Lux by Tallis. David Yardley’s rollicking rendition of Bryng us Home Good Ale was a temptation to clap and toe-tap along and there were well-controlled changes of rhythm and mood in Thomas Morley’s Farewell Disdainful.”

Read the full review at The Canberra Times.


Len Power’s review of The Polyphonic Bard

A lovely review from Len Power of the Canberra Critics Circle of The Polyphonic Bard, which featured PSC regulars Ian Blake, Paul Eldon and David Yardley, and welcomed guest artists Daniel Sanderson and John Virgoe.

“the five men of The Pocket Score Company thrilled with their intricate harmonies and choice of music. Commencing with ‘If Music Be The Food Of Love’ from ‘Twelfth Night’, set to music by Henry Purcell, they followed with works by Thomas Tallis, Claudio Monteverdi, Giovanni Palestrina, Thomas Morley and others.”

Read the full review on the Canberra Critics Circle website.

Music and Shakespeare in our time

Cathy Bannister from “Stage Whispers” reviews The Polyphonic Bard:

“The Pocket Score Company all-male ensemble is superb, and has particular strengths at the bottom (bass Ian Blake) and top, with countertenor and harpist David Yardley’s beautiful clear voice providing perfect balance to the rich harmonies. We were treated to Purcell (including the favourite If Music Be the Food of Love), Tallis, Palestrina and Monteverdi. Variously using only two, three, four, or all five voices, they easily filled the room with beautiful resonance.”

Read the full review on the “Stage Whispers” site.

Shakespeare gets a soundscape

The Polyphonic Bard reviewed by Joe Woodward in the Canberra City News:

Polyphonic Bard“The vocal effect is truly stunning. The voices blend so well that, in an age of digital enhancement, it was bliss to realise the power of human sound crafted through an ancient art form. Apart from some pre-recording of the final piece, it was live and perfectly balanced.”

Read the full review on the City News website.


Frank McKone’s review of the Polyphonic Bard

Frank McKone of the Canberra Critics Circle on The Polyphonic Bard:

Polyphonic Bard“For the young students of the Canberra Academy of Dramatic Art, the top-quality 5-part singing of the Pocket Score team – David Yardley (countertenor), Paul Eldon (tenor), John Virgoe (tenor), Daniel Sanderson (baritone) and Ian Blake (bass) – provides a model for them to aspire to.  They have a long way to go at this point in their quest, but this public performance is an important step along the way.

“Once upon a time, when I trained young people for tertiary training auditions, requiring a Shakespeare piece, of course, I used to explain how 5- or even 8-part singing took place in the pubs of London in Shakespeare’s day, and how those complexities of rhythm, harmony and stress patterns underlie the poetry of Shakespeare’s words.  These CADA students are lucky enough to learn in practice, from the Pocket Score Company, what I could only explain to my trainees.”

Read the full review on the Canberra Critics Circle website.

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.

Sun shines as Pocket singers hit top notes


Reviewer: Jennifer Gall, The Canberra Times, 9 June 2011

The elements conspired to augment Sunday’s concert with golden dusk shining through the windows as the Pocket Score Company presented songs about love, death and ecstasy. This all-male vocal ensemble is consolidating a sound that is distinctively warm and witty. Its audience has built impressively since the group began singing together five years ago. A bold willingness to explore challenging repertoire from the French, German, Spanish and Italian traditions as well as more accessible English material ensures that the ear is continually delighted and refreshed.

In celebration of the 400th anniversary of Tomas Luis de Victoria’s death this year, the opening song was a robust version of Taedet Animam Meam followed by madrigals by Marenzio and Morley, all eclipsed by the performance of the powerful setting of Bruce Dawe’s poem Homecoming by Philip Griffin. Griffin’s score magnifies the sharp edge to Dawe’s words while maintaining the poignancy of these young, modern soldiers brought home, ‘too late, too early’ in winged hearses, the howling jet engines representing contemporary keening. Paul Eldon’s fluid tenor voice worked well here and David Mackay’s voice delivered the last line gracefully and hauntingly. Three short madrigals on the subject of weeping and the cure for this condition in the form of May merriment were crowned by David Yardley’s cleverly animated setting of the medieval carol Wep no more for me swet hart. Yardley took the lead and it was good to hear him singing confidently without any hint of the occasional tendency to strain heard earlier. His skill in weaving the parts in his composition built the suspense till the final enigmatic lines of the incomplete text. Le Chant des Oyseaulx by Clement Janequin was a joyful cacophony of bird calls and hugely entertaining vocal virtuosity.

After interval, the audience was herded back to their seats by bass Ian Blake entering while singing of the delights of Paris (On Parole – A Paris – Frese nouvele; Anonymous 13th century). I liked the movement as each singer entered with their part, bringing the church to life by turning the space into a meeting place. Opening with an engaging bass solo from Blake above the vocal accompaniment, Der May mit lieber zal by Oswald von Wolkenstein and Jehan Vaillant once again provided ample opportunity for the singers to display their vocal dexterity in portraying a whole array of birdsong.

Three short, sweet madrigals set the stage for one of the highlights, Tom Lehrer’s Poisoning Pigeons. I couldn’t help thinking of my mandarin’s buds eaten by Canberra’s furry maurauders and wishing that there was an added line about poisoning possums. Pilkington’sRest Sweet Nymphs calmed things beautifully, melting into the wonderful Ce Moys de May. The exquisite finale was Tota Pulchra Es. Not another note was needed to complete the afternoon.

Homecoming concert poster

Mysterious, majestic music

Nachtmusik: A concert of German music from the 13th to the 18th centuries.

All Saint’s, Ainslie, Sunday 5 July 2009

Reviewer: Jennifer GallThe Canberra Times

It was a great pleasure to attend a concert in which so much thought had been given to every detail of the performance.

All Saints was the perfect venue for the all-male Pocket Score Company because of the intimate size of the church and the beauty of its interior.

The way in which the afternoon light through the stained glass windows continually shifted and illuminated the space complemented the delivery of the music.

Each member of the ensemble spoke at different points to describe the next bracket of songs with knowledgeable comments and amusing asides, introducing the audience to the composers and the singers themselves as fellow human beings rather than talented aliens. The program sheets were elegant and simply laid out with translations for each item.

My one regret was that this interesting and carefully constructed program had just a single performance.

A season of several nights would allow audiences a second listening and help the ensemble develop further the rapport between each other, with the music and with the audience to reach a new level of excellence.

These songs are rarely, if ever, performed in Australia and patrons would welcome the chance to hear them again.

Heinrich Isaac’s beloved Innsbruck, Ich muss Dich Lassen opened the concert and the ensemble gave an original, unsentimental version, conveying the contemplative mood of the piece with refreshing spaciousness conveyed through their phrasing. Each vocal part moved in a seamless conversational exchange.

Adam Gumpelzhaimer wrote songs that were as challenging to sing as his name is to pronounce. So Fahr Ich Hin Zu Jesu Christ and Mit Fried und Freud Fahr Ich Dahin were two tantalisingly short pieces from this neglected composer. The following bracket of songs by Senfl and von Wolkenstein were cleverly grouped around the mysterious Der Mai by Neidhart von Reuenthal, featuring Ian Blake’s agile bass. Some lovely moments followed in Entlaubet Ist Der Walde in the interweaving parts between tenors David Mackay and George Brenan and countertenor David Yardley.

A conflation of three versions of In Dulci Jubilo concluded the first half of the concert; the first by Praetorius – clean and joyous – the second by Buxtehude – florid and outrageous – and finally Bach – robust and majestic.

In the second half I enjoyed the low tenor entry and the smooth exchange between the voices in Der Winter Kalt by Eccard.

The most fun was certainly had by audience and singers in Es Gieng Guot Tröscher, a song in which a maid and a thresher “indulge in a bout of mutual metaphorical activity” and Orlande de Lassus’s wild ditty about a partying farmer.

However, the outstanding performance of the afternoon was Tota Pulchra Es, by Heinrich Isaac, a hypnotic, darkly sonorous, densely arranged piece where the four male voices blended perfectly as the one instrument.

David Yardley’s countertenor was at its best here, touching the grave harmonies with brightness and accentuating the power of the silences.

This setting of selections from The Song of Solomon was absolutely unforgettable.