Sun shines as Pocket singers hit top notes

The Pocket Score Company:
Homecoming
Reviewer: Jennifer Gall,
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.