Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Joyous celebration of song and pride at Out and Loud Gala Concert

Out and Loud Gala Choral Concert
Llewellyn Hall, October 27, 2019

by Tony Magee

IN A MASSIVE organisational feat, host city Canberra presented a triumphant choral concert showcasing the talents of nine LGBTIQ+ choirs from around Australia and overseas.

All choirs performed individually, before massing together for an exhilarating grand finale, brilliantly conducted by Stephen Leek. Guest soloists soprano Sarahlouise Owens and tenor Christopher Lincoln Bogg joined the massed choir for the final piece, “Fall On Me”, beautifully arranged by Canberra’s own Leonard Weiss, the audience erupting in a joyous standing ovation.

In addition, the massed choir premiered composer Sally Whitwell’s new piece “Stronger Together” which was specially commissioned for the festival and beautifully performed.

But it was the choir from Timor-Leste, Lian Esperansa, who stole the show.

Newly formed, this was their first major performance anywhere in the world. Numbering just eight singers, plus their conductor and pianist, they sang with great passion and beauty, excellent voice projection and diction and superb harmonies with finely balanced dynamic shading. Some percussion instruments added a rich Portuguese and Calypso feel to their songs, also eliciting a standing ovation from the audience.

Lian Esperansa Choir from Timor-Leste. Photo: Tony Magee

GALS Rainbow Choir from Auckland opened the event with a solo chant from someone in the audience, the choir then seamlessly joining in with stylish and mellifluous harmonies. The highlight of their set was the Maori folk song “Te Iwi E”.

Brisbane Pride Choir followed. Their a cappella rendition of “Bread and Roses” by James Oppenheim was serenely beautiful.

True Colours Chorus from Darwin, formed only in February this year, have already sung at three festivals. Numbering just seven singers plus their pianist, the highlight was a clever melding of “Let It Go” and “True Colours” by Michael Leunig, Susan Frisk, Billy Sternberg and Tom Kelly.

Fiji’s Rainbow Free and Equal Choir were the smallest of the ensembles, numbering just four singers. With excellent projection they opened and closed with two Fijian folk songs, with a centrepiece solo island dance sequence entitled “Seasea”.

To close the first half, the Melbourne Gay and Lesbian Chorus performed three pieces. Of particular note were the sensual and supportive accompaniments by pianist Marc Alexander. Their finale was a very moving and highly polished a cappella performance of “Kyrie” by Richard Page, Stephen George and John Lang.

Sydney’s large Gay and Lesbian Choir opened the second half, delivering a confident and rich sound. “Atheists Don’t Have No Songs” by Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers had the audience in hysterics, before closing their set with a moving rendition of “What If Truth is All We Have?” by Anne Hampton Callaway, the piece fading peacefully to just three counter-tenor voices.

The Gay and Lesbian Singers of Western Australia charmed the audience with the highlight of their set, “Rolling in the Deep” by Paul Epworth and Adele Adkins. Pianist Sammy McSweeny’s accompaniments were moving and supportive.

The last of the Australian choirs was our own, massive, Canberra Gay and Lesbian Qwire. With excellent intonation and rich harmonies, they shone most brightly with “Sudden Light” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Robert H. Young. Pianist Jessica Stewart excelled with her sensitive and supportive accompaniments.

In a joyous concert that lasted three hours with one interval, my feeling on leaving the venue was simply, “It’s great to be alive”.

The massed choirs of GALS Rainbow Choir (New Zealand), Brisbane Pride Choir, True Colours Chorus (Darwin), Rainbow Free and Equal (Fiji), Melbourne Gay and Lesbian Chorus, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Choir, Gay and Lesbian Singers of Western Australia, Lian Esperansa (Timor-Leste) and the Canberra Gay and Lesbian Qwire perform "Stronger Together" by Sally Whitwell, with conductor Stephen Leek and Jessica Stewart at the piano. Photo: Tony Magee

Review first published in City News Digital Edition, October 28, 2019 and also on Tony’s blog Art Music Theatre, October 29, 2019