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In a keenly developed program the Sydney Philharmonia Youth Choir gave an accomplished concert at the lower Wharf 2/3 space, the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct. The selection of North European and Australian items was well curated and a joy to hear and see. It is possible a video montage of Northern lights, storms and deserts, perhaps in a narrow horizontal ratio above the choir, would have worked well – but equally the cavernous interior of the old wooden wharf interior, and the framed windows of harbour beyond, worked well in evoking an ominous brooding quality quality of nature, that was the subject of the music and text. 

This nature was not familiar or domesticated. We moderns, it can be said, have exhausted the modern tropes of globalism, colonialisation, international citizenry and trade. Our collective humanity still looks askance, like the lonesome individuals on grey harbour outside, at the strange beauty of our planetary home. The program invoked a new language of the earth, reaching to indigenous, religious and poetic texts to probe and question what we can known and how we can name the created order. The choir, youthful as it is, faltered just a little in the early parts but very soon it took the task to heart, and the audience was treated to a program full of smooth harmony and rhythmic texture. At times there were solo singers, sometimes distant from the choir – at other a startling percussive cacophony, of handbells, wind, chimes, thunder sheets and finger snapping, dominated, as Eric Whitacre’s Cloudburst, when the sonic force of natural phenomena pushed through composition and text. But for the whole the program faithfully responded, under sure direction of Elizabeth Scott, to the rich and varied layers of text and music, from folk music to rich religious composition.

Other composers included Tarimi Nulay, Arvo Part, Eriks Esenvalds, Nicolas Buc, Einojuhani Rautavaare, Luke Byrne, and Deborah Cheetham.

Text included Inuit and Sumi indigenous poetry. The practice of old campfire or tribal wonder and narration shone through, as if the dull winter’s days and the dark interiors blocked contemporary tropes, and an ancient resonance with nature could be heard., 

Luke Byrne played piano, along with youth percussion, but for the main the program seemed acapella, in the steady pure sound of young voices. 

Arguably there was need for a PA for announcements – but otherwise the acoustics seem to work well. This was the third in situ Philharmonia choir event I have reviewed in recent years, the others at St Andrew Cathedral and Coney Island Luna Park. Each site has been well selected and integrated into the meaning of the music. 

The Sydney Philharmonia Youth Choir ‘s concert AURORA  took place in a performance space in  the lower  Wharf 2/3 venue, Walsh Bay Arts Precinct.



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