Double the fun

2 September 2020

This month two chamber choirs are back on stage and their concerts will include a piece by young, local composer Joshua Adams. He tells Ara Jansen he’s keen to hear the differing treatments.

The next couple of weeks will be exciting ones for young Perth composer Joshua Adams as a composition of his will be performed by two of WA’s foremost chamber choirs.

Titled Pais Dinogad, the piece uses the text of a seventh century Welsh lullaby set to folk-style music and will be brought to the stage in two different ways during concerts by The Giovanni Consort and Voyces.

The Giovanni Consort are celebrating their 25th anniversary with two concerts at Government House Ballroom and performing favourite music from their musical journey. Conducted by artistic director Hugh Lydon, the chamber choir will sing diverse repertoire from revered composers such as Arvo Pärt, Edward Elgar and Ralph Vaughan Williams, alongside some of Perth’s homegrown talents, including Perry Joyce and the piece from Adams.   

Voyces will perform their first concert of the year this weekend, also at Government House Ballroom. Titled “Trad”, the performance draws on the influence of traditional music. Around the world, traditional music has long formed part of the way people communicate with each other and Voyces will explore this by delving into choral music based on traditional songs, stories and customs.

a group of young men and women dressed in black standing in an urban environment
Voyces will perform songs based on traditional songs, stories and customs from around the world. Photo Nik Babic.

Conducted by Stefan Pugliese, “Trad” features a world premiere by Clare Maclean (commissioned by Musica Viva supported by the newly formed WA Commissioning Circle) and Pais Dinogad from Adams.

“’Trad will feature works from all across Europe, Scandinavia and Asia, and it is exciting to be able to explore traditional music though our focus on contemporary choral music,” Pugliese says. “Voyces is passionate about supporting new music and I feel immensely privileged that Voyces have been asked to perform the world premiere of Clare Maclean’s new work.”

It will also be exciting to hear both choir’s interpretations of Adams’ Pais Dinogad. Adams says for starters the group sizes will help set the tone. Voyces have chosen a female alto lead backed by their larger choir which will add body, colour and texture to the sound ostensibly using voices in place of an instrumental orchestra. The Giovanni Consort’s 10-strong choir will feature a tenor soloist for the piece, bringing the focus to the intimate interplay between voices. A former member of Voyces, this year Adams is only singing with The Giovanni Consort and will be singing baritone in his piece at the concert.

nine young singers in front of the Perth city skyline
The Giovanni Consort celebrate their 25th anniversary with two concerts of their favourite music. Photo supplied

“It’s going to be exciting to hear them both and as a composer I’m excited to hear the differences,” he says. “You definitely consider the size of a choir when writing a piece so having this one being able to be performed by a smaller and a larger choir is special. Its simplicity lends itself to being a very flexible and adaptable work.”

Adams is principal cantor at St Mary’s Cathedral, teaches at UWA and Notre Dame and sings in several choirs. A UWA graduate in 2018, he has been singing at the cathedral for almost 15 years. Composing is equally important to him as singing. So far, he’s composed four award-winning pieces which either have or will be publicly performed.

“Composing stems from my love of knowing how music works, how a voice works and writing pieces allows me to share my deep connection to music and help people understand it.

“As a young, white, straight, middle-class male I have a certain perspective, privilege and experience and I can write about that, but I also hope as I gain experience I’m able to write for the voices of my peers who don’t have the same privilege.”

The composer says as a 23-year-old he also wants to be able to use his compositions to also talk about issues which concern his generation, like the environment. He hopes this is a way to introduce other young people to the joys of chamber music in a contemporary way.  

Adams was the recent co-recipient of the National Youth Choir of Australia Ralph Morton Memorial Composition Competition. He’s particularly proud of the award because it incorporated a piece of poetry written by friend Caitlyn Stone and was trying to give voice to something not of his experience.

“Music is a celebration of human genius and vocal music is that most raw and genuine art form that is relatable to all,” says The Giovanni Consort’s general manager Alessandro Pittorino. “If you’ve yet to experience the power of this music live in concert, I encourage you to come along. Music can sometimes demand more from a listener, but it also gives more in return as it seeks to engage all your senses and enliven your imagination.”

Voyces will perform Sunday 6 September (the concert is sold out) and The Giovanni Consort will perform 12 and 13 September at Government House Ballroom.

Pictured top: Perth composer Joshua Adams is looking forward to having his choral piece performed in two different ways. Photo Ashley Teo

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Author —
Ara Jansen

Ara Jansen is a freelance journalist. Words, bright colour, books, music, art, fountain pens, good conversation, interesting people and languages make her deeply happy. A longtime music journalist and critic, she’s the former music editor of The West Australian. Being in the pool next to the playground is one of her favourite places, ever.

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