Saturday, December 2, 2023


Oriana Chorale

Directed by Dan Walker

Wesley Uniting Church, Forrest 1 December


Reviewed by Len Power

Oriana Chorale’s final concert of 2023 delivered masterworks from two of the 20th century’s greatest composers, Francis Poulenc and Frank Martin, as well as works by the 16th century Italian composer Madalena Casulana and Sydneysider Brooke Shelley.

Beginning with “Nativity”, a setting of a poem by James McAuley, Brooke Shelley’s work opened quietly and built to an emotional sense of wonder at the beauty of small natural things in this world. The choir sang it with great accuracy and sensitivity, achieving an appealing depth of feeling.

After this exquisite opening, Frank Martin’s “Mass for Double Choir” followed. This work, composed between 1922 and 1926, did not receive a premiere until 1963 in Hamburg, Germany. It is now considered one of the great choral works and it was given a fine presentation by the choir. The highlights of their performance included the dramatic and complex combined Sanctus and Benedictus and the very movingly sung Agnus Dei.

Oriana Chorale

The 16th century composer, Madalena Casulana’s “O Notte O Cielo O Mar” (oh night, oh sky, oh sea) comes from her second book of madrigals. This work is notable for its emotional restraint and the choir gave it a sense of great beauty and reflection.

The final work of the program, Francis Poulenc’s “Quatre motets pour le temps de Noёl”, paints four colourful scenes from the nativity story. The first part takes us immediately into the wonder and mystery of the nativity, leads into the witness by the shepherds, the sighting of the star and, ultimately, celebrates the birth of Christ.

Dan Walker, conductor

There was strength in the choir’s singing of the profound opening and their delivery of the description of the wise men sighting the star was hauntingly beautiful. The singing of the finale was dramatic and joyful, making this a perfect end to a concert that left us in no doubt that the Christmas season has begun.


Photos by Peter Hislop

This review was first published by Canberra CityNews digital edition on 2 December 2023.

Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at