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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

The PSC presents Homecoming

Featuring compositions from the 12th to 21st centuries, Homecoming explores music from the old to the new, bringing warmth to the cold of winter. ‘Homecoming’ means something different to all of us. Using the broad canvas of interpretation, we present ancient music by Jannequin, Morley and Marenzio, along with more recent works by Philip Griffin, Tom Lehrer and a new secular carol by our countertenor David Yardley. Our thrilling and original resonance will indulge you through an emotional journey created by the warmth of sound.

Sunday 5 June 2011, 3pm
St Paul’s Anglican Church, Manuka
Tickets $20 ($10 concessions) available on the door

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.


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

(This concert was reviewed by the Canberra Times.)

The Pocket Score Company presents a diverse programme of German music from the medieval to the baroque eras. With just four singers, the Pocket Score Company brings new life to old repertoire with the uniquely beautiful sound of the all-male vocal ensemble.

Join David Yardley countertenor, David Mackay tenor, George Brenan tenor, and Ian Blake bass, and discover for yourself some hidden treasures of the vocal repertoire.

The programme includes works by Praetorius, Othmeyer, Walter, Gumpelzhaimer, and Hassler – some sacred, and some very secular…


All Saints Church Ainslie, Sunday 5 July 2009 at 3pm.

Spanish Music for Advent

Spanish Music for AdventThe Pocket Score Company returns with a sumptuous programme of Spanish music for Advent, from the 13th to the 20th centuries. With just four singers, the Pocket Score Company brings new life to old repertoire with the uniquely beautiful sound of the all-male vocal ensemble.

Join David Yardley countertenor, David Mackay tenor, George Brenan tenor, and Ian Blake bass on a journey through some of the most beautiful music ever written for the season of Advent.

The programme includes:

  • Missa de Beata Virgine—Cristóbal de Morales
  • Motets by Juan del Encina
  • Music from the Codex las Huelgas
  • and the Llibre Vermell de Montserrat

Sunday 16 December 2007 at 4pm, All Saints Ainslie.


Menage presents The Pocket Score Company at Carriageworks

Musica Viva’s Menage series invites you to join us at Carriageworks for trains, montage, beats and harmony.

Come along and witness the combining forces of four-part vocal harmony, live electronic mixing and train-themed visuals for Ménage’s second concert at Carriageworks. The concert will feature the all-male vocal ensemble, The Pocket Score Company, performing works from the Renaissance, Medieval and Baroque periods electronically manipulated live on stage. The concert will also feature visuals by award-winning visual artist Adam Dewhirst. The renovated rail yards with their distinctly 19th-century industrial feel is the perfect venue to share in what will be a truly unique listening experience. Don’t miss out!

David Yardley countertenor
David Mackay tenor
George Brenan tenor
Ian Blake bass

Jen Sochackyi sound engineer
Adam Dewhirst video artist


Introducing the Pocket Score Company

The Pocket Score Company will be performing vocal music of the Renaissance and the Middle Ages at All Saints’ Church, Cowper Street, Ainslie on Sunday May 20th at 3pm. Tickets at the door: $15/12.

The Pocket Score Company is a new four-person vocal ensemble, featuring David Yardley, countertenor; David Mackay, tenor; George Brenan, tenor; and Ian Blake, bass.

The concert centres on an English Renaissance mass setting by William Byrd, with other sacred and secular works by the likes of Josquin, Willaert, Peñalosa, Machaut and Jannequin.

Music of great beauty and clarity – and strange tales involving pigs, nags and a nautical young widow, plus a nicely liturgical drinking song.

The programme includes:

  • En l’ombre d’un buissonet—Josquin
  • Mass for three voices—Byrd
  • Vecchie Letrose—Willaert
  • Martin menoit son porceau—Janequin
  • Relegentur ab Area—anon, 12th century
  • Ave Vera Caro Christi—Peñalosa
  • Dame, mon Coeur—Machaut
  • Un giorno mi prego—Willaert
  • Ave verum corpus—Byrd

2007 Postcard