St Peter’s Cathedral provides a perfect setting for a night of Baroque music, exquisite choral singing and spiritual language. The highly acclaimed Adelaide Chamber Singers, who have been acknowledged for their excellence with numerous national and international awards, delighted the capacity audience with their poise, presence and purity of sound at the Festival concert The Complete Motets of JS Bach.
Bach’s motets are demanding for singers, and artistic director Carl Crossin has wisely chosen to present them in two programs, over two evenings. The motets (relatively long pieces of music, in parts with words on sacred themes for choir) are sung in German, but English translations are provided in the program.
The Chamber Singers are accompanied, as is tradition, by the continuo: Joshua van Konkelenberg, chamber organ; Harley Gray, double bass, and Hilary Kleinig, cello. The musicians blend unobtrusively into the ornate woodwork but follow the choir successfully and contribute significantly to the impact of the overall sound.
From the moment that the ACS began with “Komm, Jesu, Komm”, the respectful audience was transfixed and transported to whichever spiritual plane they chose. Language was no barrier as the musicality of each motet, with its recurring themes and motifs, allowed us to feel the depth and variety of Bach’s genius.
There was an excellent balance to the program as Lucinda Moon, accomplished baroque violinist, performed the challenging 15-minute “Ciaccona” from Partita No 2, which provided further insight into Bach’s diverse melodies and styles within one complex piece.
The texts are very spiritual and in the case of “Jesu meine Freude”, some verses are taken from a Johann Franck hymn and the others from excerpts from St Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. The essence of the texts from all of the motets is essentially to do with death, the spirit leaving the body and Jesus taking care of the spirit.
The highlight of the night came early in the program: Norwegian Knut Nystedt’s “Immortal Bach” from the chorale, Komm, Susser Tod (Come, Sweet Death). In these few moments, the ACS created a sound that was reminiscent of the harmonics and sustained sound of Stockhausen or a Bhuddist chant: for a spiritual evening, these minutes were the most transcendent of all.
The Adelaide Chamber Singers’ Late Night in the Cathedral was a memorable night of ensemble singing at its finest.
Program two in the Adelaide Chamber Singers’ concert package is on March 5 at St Peter’s Cathedral.
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