Unusual match stirs body and soul

21 May 2023

The Giovanni Consort’s first concert of the season pairs voice with yoga. Choral (and yoga) novice Julie Hosking stretches well outside her comfort zone with moving results. 

Meditate with Music, The Giovanni Consort
Leederville Town Hall, 20 May 2023

Let’s be clear. What I know about choral singing could be written on the back of an envelope. Ditto with yoga. And while I’ve tried at various times in my life to meditate, I’ve never been able to quieten that stupidly busy brain. 

But something unfamiliar happens to me halfway through the Giovanni Consort’s Meditate with Music, an evening of song and gentle yoga. I relax. Totally. Completely. Utterly.  

For a few blissful moments, I am lost in a world of stupendous sound, nine angelic voices transporting me to another time and place. I forget that I am lying on a yoga mat in Leederville Town Hall, a friend to my right, strangers to my left and behind, some on mats, others opting for chairs. 

I am taken back many years to the abbey of Santa Maria de Montserrat, just outside Barcelona. Already in awe of the granite mountain on which it sits and the spectacular views it affords, I am struck speechless by the sound from within. It’s the Escolonia, Monteserrat’s boys choir, I am told and the sound they are making is unlike anything I’ve heard. I am not religious but it moves me deeply, tears welling in my eyes.  

Someone coughs behind me, and I return to the present. The voices here are a mix of genders but the effect is the same. Hypnotic, enchanting and awe-inspiring. 

Artistic director and conductor Kate McNamara guides the singers through eight pieces of music from the 16th century to the 21st, with the gentle voice of yoga instructor Stephanie Johnson guiding those of us who’ve chosen to bend and stretch to the music between songs. 

What matters is how beautiful they sound, how loose my limbs feel, and how strangely invigorating the experience has been. 

It’s discombobulating at first. As Johnson instructs us to get on all fours for the first song, my head is a swirl of thoughts. That my dodgy knee won’t hold out long. That it must be weird for the people sitting to see all these bottoms in the air. That I’d rather watch the singers. That I might need to sneeze. 

The instructor is clear, however, that we should do what makes us comfortable, so after a moment I revert to a seated position and wonder, a little dejectedly, if I haven’t failed the yoga/meditation part of the evening. 

McNamara is keen to introduce new audiences to the Giovanni Consort and the joys of choral music and tonight’s concert is one way of doing that (it’s also why I’m reviewing, rather than someone with way more understanding of choral intricacies). I venture a look around and see most on the mats are doing as Johnson instructs. Never mind, I’ll just focus on the music. The purest of instruments fill the hall, which handles the acoustics with aplomb. Tenor, soprano, alto and bass waft over and around each other, melding as one in a show of aural wonder. 

As Johnson takes us through each new position, I find myself following her once more. They are mostly comfortable stretches that we hold for the length of each song and I briefly worry that I might drift off and start to snore. Instead, by the time I’m lying on my back, knees up, left foot flat on the floor, right ankle resting on left thigh, I am the most relaxed I have been in such a long time. 

Even when I’m brought back from Montserrat, I have an overwhelming sense of calm. I have no idea what the Giovanni Consort is singing (though I can check the program later). But it doesn’t matter. What matters is how beautiful they sound, how loose my limbs feel, and how strangely invigorating the experience has been. 

What a magical hour. Did I meditate? I’m not sure. But I do know my first concert with this captivating consort won’t be my last. 

The Giovanni Consort perform with Australian Baroque, St Andrew’s Anglican Church, Subiaco, on 26 August 2023

Pictured top: The Giovanni Consort boast the most magical of voices. Photo supplied

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Author —
Julie Hosking

A journalist with more words to her name than she can count, Julie Hosking has worked for newspapers, magazines and online publications in Melbourne and Perth. She has been a news editor, travel editor, features editor, arts editor and, for one terrifying year, business editor, before sanity prevailed and she landed in her happy place - magazines. If pushed (literally), she favours the swing.

Past Articles

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