WERE OUR HEARTS NOT WARMED?

Concert review by Franz Reithner, organ consultant of the diocese St. Pölten, of the (Grace Notes) concert “Sounds of Africa”.
The explosive a cappella tradition of the Cape Town Opera Chorus inspired the audience in the last con-cert of the festival “Musica Sacra” in the cathedral of St. Pölten. An intense web of sacred music of European and African origin, passionately performed by six women and six men, thrilled the audience to frenetic applause. Chorus director Marvin Kernelle led his ensemble with sober direction, sometimes step-ping back completely and frequently adjusting the formation of the singers according to the compositional structure. In Knut Nystedt’s motet “Immortal Bach” the singers positioned themselves throughout the whole cathedral and the idea of time standing still in the choral medley “Komm süßer Tod” could immediately be heard and seen.
The compositions from various South African traditions and cultures were extremely colourful: rhythmically rousing, performed with audible and visible movement, the audience transported by their energy and enthusiastically demanding encores. As required by the emotional power of the religious texts, the expressive palette of the chorus ranged from the gospel – inspired solo lament accompanied by the chorus to collective jubilation over the heavenly Jerusalem. Their compositional complexity was in no way inferior to the classics of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina and William Bird, nor to the works of Nordic contemporaries Arvo Pärt and Kim Arnesen. The greater romantic sound that the chorus produced, to which a controlled vibrato was not unfamiliar, made Anton Bruckner’s famous eight-part “Ave Maria” a heartfelt experience. Particularly moving was the intimate depiction of the yearning for God in the psalm verses “Sicut cervus desiderat” and the humble request for forgiveness in the antiphon “Ave verum corpus”.
Anyone who draws an arc that ranges from Northern Europe to Cape Town and includes essential church music of the last 500 years needs a solid foundation: flexible and resilient voices that are capable of astonishing homogeneity, stylistic changeability and a solid preparation that shapes the great musical potential of the participants and lets them perform the whole programme from memory. The Cape Town Opera Chorus gave all this to its audience in the cathedral, which once again proved to be an ideal place to experience their warm hearts igniting one’s own. http://www.kirchebunt.at/suche/brannte%20nicht%20unser%20herz