150 Psalms @ St Peters Cathedral, Adelaide 29/2/2020

The human voice can be thought of as the ultimate melodic instrument and hearing the Norwegian Soloists’ Choir in St Peters Cathedral was joyous. To hear their unamplified voices in such an acoustically perfect venue was a moving experience and I can understand why many of the 150 Psalms concerts are either sold out or close to doing so. The directors of the Adelaide Festival, Neil Armfield and Rachel Healy, really talked up these events and from experiencing the concert today, quite rightly so. The title of this concert is apt as I have always trusted them both to put on an excellent Adelaide Festival program.

There are twelve of these concerts featuring twelve or thirteen Psalms from four different choirs each performing all of the 150 Psalms from the old testament and today at St Peters Cathedral we were treated to the Norwegian Soloists’ Choir. They are one of Norway’s foremost chamber choirs in Europe. The choir comprises twenty six highly trained singers, all potential soloists in various genres as well as fully embracing the art of ensemble singing. They looked stunning, the men we wearing all black suits while the women were all wearing red dresses. They were founded by conductor Knut Nystedt in 1950 who was then succeeded by Grete Pedersen in 1990 who remains the choir’s conductor and artistic director to this day.

The programme today featured Psalms from Beethoven, Elgar, Pachelbel and Rachmaninov, amongst others. For those that know me, they would say that choir music is not in my wheelhouse but a few years ago I saw a Rachmaninov choir in St Petersburg at the “Church of Spilt Blood” and I was enthralled. I was looking forward to this performance today and prepared myself by listening to some of the songs on Spotify but that sound does not compare in the least to being at the church today and hearing and seeing it in the flesh.

The choir was accompanied by many of the songs by an organ which sounded glorious as well. During Psalm 65 by composer Nicola LeFanu, the only piece written in the last hundred years, some of the choir slowly started to move and fill the aisles and spread themselves around the church. The conductor moved herself to the centre of the church to conduct the choir members on stage and all around the aisles.

Prior to the choir was is a brief discussion from a speaker about the topic of each performance. For this session Bernard Collaery, barrister and former politician gave us a rousing speech about Trust.

For me, it was a privilege and honour to be in attendance today and I stood with the crowd at the end to give this excellent choir a standing ovation. If you have any desire to see beautiful voices in an acoustically perfect venue I urge you to attend one of the remaining performances. If you can not, the good news is that the ABC is recording the last performance which includes all of the four choirs that are performing in Adelaide.

Adelaide Festival Review By Richard De Pizzol

Tickets and show information from the Adelaide Festival.

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