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Elijah 7 September 2013

Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd.

My relationship with the Jubilate Singers goes back a long way and it amazes me how a group of amateurs can repeatedly turn out professional performances.

Having suffered several choral society renditions of Mendelssohn's warhorse Elijah as player, singer and audience- member back in Britain, I attended with some trepidation. I need not have worried.

Conductor Grant Hutchinson directed an outstanding evening of music, having put together a first- rate lineup of soloists, a composite choir and a scratch orchestra that gelled perfectly and left me with a completely new take on this work.

With the repositioning of the angels and seraphims behind the audience there was a little bit of theatre in there, too.

For the record, I found the venue acoustically very satisfying.

Soloists Sue Densem (soprano), Leisa Falconer (contralto), Oliver Sewell (tenor) David Griffiths (bass) and Yumeka Hildreth (treble) were great choices. I felt Griffiths was commanding as Elijah, displaying pathos and strength, in the clash with the priests of Baal, and the moving duet with the solo cello in It is Enough.

Densem was similarly very strong and I enjoyed her stirring call-to-arms Hear ye, Israel.

Falconer sang confidently, relishing one of her roles as Jezebel and Sewell blew me away with the power of his voice - his Then Shall the Righteous Shine Forth really hit the mark. As did the chorus, who sang with energy and commitment throughout.

Pathways 14 April 2013
The Jubilate Singers, directed by Grant Hutchinson, in “Pathways” at the St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral 14 April, 2.30pm. Reviewed by Philip Norman.

With a programme filled to the gunwales with death, destruction and the devil, “Pathways” ought to have been a doom-monger’s delight. Yet, there was too much to be cheerful about for this to occur, particularly a buoyant Jubilate Singers delivering a cluster of challenging contemporary pieces with panache.

Not that the performances of Rautavaara’s “Suite de Lorca”, Eric Whitacre’s “When David Heard” and Joby Talbot’s “Roncesvalles” from “Path of Miracles” were without blemish, for the mercilessly angular lines in the Whitacre and Talbot pieces occasionally stretched techniques. To the singers’ credit, their delivery was sufficiently intense for rough patches to pass as individual inflections, compatible with the rawness of emotion in the texts.

Beautiful, controlled sounds characterised the simpler homophonic settings, in particular the muted opening to “When David Heard”, and the trademark Whitacre piles-up of sound that coloured the texture. The opening processional, “Hanacpachap Cussicuinin” an early Peruvian homage to the Virgin Mary, also displayed great beauty of choral tone and a commendable degree of ensemble cohesion.

Other sprays of cheer included the high fidelity of Barry Brinson’s electronic chamber organ and the super-lunary tones of Jonathan Le Cocq’s baroque guitar. This latter instrument, looking like a ukulele on steroids but sounding like a guitar on a respirator, was delightfully finger-picked, strummed, rolled and slapped by Le Cocq in two Iberian offerings – “Canario” and “Terantela, an elaborate fantasy on an anonymous Portugese theme.

In a programme marked by textural and timbral variation, oboist Ian Thorpe presented “Gabriel’s Oboe” from the 1986 film “The Mission”, and counter tenor Christopher Warwick showed sufficient technique to traverse both the opening 16th century polyphony and Talbot’s contemporary  lines with style.  Compliments also to additional soloists from the choir, Denis Guyan, Regan Gardner, Sarah Stevenson and Nathan Mehrtens, the latter in particular for reaching deep in his register to negotiate “Suite de Lorca” and complete the “Path of Miracles”.

Final word belongs to the director Grant Hutchinson, who devised this successful and colourful programme, and conducted to pleasing effect. A vibrant performance of “Sanctus” by Christchurch composer Richard Oswin rounded out the programme on a celebratory note.

Monteverdi Vespers
8 October 2012

Letter from John Pattinson:
"Congratulations on Saturday’s performance,-  it was superb, and one of which you can be justly proud. It was great to see the choir enjoying themselves so evidently, a sure sign that they were on top of the work and able to give it their all. Particularly thrilling were the final choruses in Parts I & II."

Christchurch Press review of Monteverdi Vespers 8 October 2012

“Thrilling Baroque Music – David Sell

The Jubilate Singers can be relied on to give a performance of interest. But I didn’t expect one as consistently polished and exciting as they gave on this occasion.

The Vespers is the biggest sacred work up to that time. This, and the fact that it is neither renaissance nor baroque, yet both, presents unique challenges.

Grant Hutchinson used a relatively new edition by John Kilpatrick. Consistent with performances in Monteverdi’s time, he adapted the performance to the available musicians and to the venue. The Jubilate Singers were at its heart, and the fine orchestra of strings and mostly authentic trumpets and sackbuts, and theorbo were arranged antiphonally. Hutchinson had ensured that they play cleanly and without vibrato, leaving the acoustics of St Mary’s to do the rest. Organists Martin Setchell and Nicholas Sutcliffe maintained a secure continuo.

The Baroque Voices provided a wonderful group of soloists. Sopranos Pepe Becker and Jayne Tankersley, counter tenor Christopher Warwick, tenors Oliver Sewell and Phillip Collins and bass/baritone Benjamin Caukwell were all convincing.

It is not often I can apply the term “exciting” to a local performance of early music, but this was as gripping as similar music I have heard in the great baroque centres of Italy and Austria.”

"[d]irected with upright vigour by Christchurch conductor Grant Hutchinson ... I loved the richness of the harmonising and the clarity of diction, the sustained beauty of tone, the riveting pianissimo resonance from the basses ... a glorious succession of top Cs cascading around us."


You can hear a 10-minute review, including excerpts,  of our new CD on ‘The Critic’s Chair’ (Radio NZ Concert) here.

In his review, Robert Johnson, says:

These performances do the Jubilate Singers great credit and both the concept of the album and successful completion deserve the highest praise. Despite all the disruptions, the choir has achieved its aim and the resulting album is a tribute to the choir and a fascinating evocation of South Island life through the works of a cross-section of South Island composers.

The album comes with  a handsomely-produced 24-page full colour booklet, containing a general programme note, biographies of each of the composers and a concise note on each work, complete texts and a number of photographs.  The essay on the project, itself, relates how the rehearsals and recording were severely impacted by the earthquakes that have plagued Christchurch over the past fourteen months. Apart from anything else, the location for the recordings had to be changed half-way through, because the original venue had been too badly damaged in the February quake. All of this testifies to  a huge commitment on the part of everyone involved in the project.”


"Southern Landscapes" 14 August 2011
Download the review from the Christchurch Press

"Voices of the South" 28 November 2010 
Letter from John Ritchie: 
"... a healthy offering of New Zealand music that was well worth the hearing. Thank you, Jubes, and congratulations."
"Baroque Vespers" 8 May 2010
"Excellent musical ride on little-known vespers"
"This performance featured some experienced soloists and the conductor, Grant Hutchinson, had obviously prepared this chamber choir of 20 singers very thoroughly.

"Notes from Vienna and Chichester" 17 October 2009
"some glorious lively music ...and a joy to hear it from a good small choir"
"one could enjoy the confidence and assurance that comes from strong leadership"
"The Jubilate's account of the Harmonie-messe was brilliant. The explosive triumph of the final Donna nobis pacem brought an excellent concert to its powerful conclusion"

Letter from John Ritchie:

"Illumina, Music of Light" 9 August 2009  - part of Christchurch Art Festival
"Illumina was certainly an illuminating experience for those of us present and the overall contemplative nature of the music and its performance was a convincing advertisement of the choir's present status. I was throughly impressed. It was also  a rewarding experience to observe how successfully New Zealand composer' wares fitted in with more illustrious names and not to their own detriment.
I think that you are all to be congratulated" 

From the Christchurch Press:

Critics’ 2008 awards Jan 2009

"The collaboration between Auckland’s Musica Sacra and our own Jubilate Singers (North meets South) was a definite highlight of the year"

Monteverdi "Christmas Vespers" Dec 2008
"Fine singing, playing of difficult Monteverdi"
"How good to see a capacity house for a performance of music, most of which is unfamiliar, in an Anglican setting and difficult to perform convincingly"

"Love and the Land" Sept 2008
"The Jubes are in good heart. The choir is well balanced, well controlled and sings with assurance and confidence. Their programme offered and required plenty of variety, and the whole concert was appreciated by a large audience"
"The Jubes were at their best, meeting the expressive demands of the songs convincingly"
"Unless one knew otherwise, the apparent ease with which the Jubilate Singers sang them  belied the technical difficulty of the pieces, and was a tribute to the thorough training given by music director, Grant Hutchinson"

"Music of Hope and Consolation" July 2007
"A concert of riches, confidently presented, that left the substantial audience plenty to ponder"
"The Jubilate Singers are a firmly disciplined group that Grant Hutchinson has shaped into a chamber choir capable of meeting any musical demands"
"The choir sang strongly when it needed to, and the sound was always well blended and balanced … with some wonderful high soprano singing"
®Jubilate Singers 2009. All rights Reserved.