Chamber Music for small vocal ensembles is as popular with those who perform it as it is with audiences.
And in a heritage setting it’s a real feast for the senses. Sopranos Rachael Griffin and Annie Lower, tenor Mattius Lower and baritone Leon Warnock value their involvement in Soirées Musicales Quintette (SMQ) and will revel in the latest setting, Old Government House in Brisbane.
These singers are all active in Brisbane’s ever busier music scene but engagement in SMQ, with artistic director and pianist Peter Roennfeldt, gives them more opportunities to solo and perform in different combinations (such as a duo or a trio) in a gracious colonial setting.
There’s an eternal quest for a distinctive group sound and to attain that it helps that SMQ champions niche, rarely heard, yet worthy classical music, parlour songs and popular anthems of past eras.
Neglected repertoire it may be but the music is challenging and still requires exacting rehearsals.
Rachael Griffin says the challenge is worthwhile.
“I love the practice sessions, breathing and phrasing together, exploring where the music opens out or shrinks back, slows or accelerates,” she says.
Fine tuning these elements with colleagues, with whom she’s built a rapport since SMQ was founded in 2015, is above all, fun …and audiences respond.
“Our programs are a hit,” Griffin explains. “Because they’re bite-sized assortments and like a box of chocolates, there’s a little taste of this and a little taste of that.
“They’re miniatures with quick emotional shifts, compact narratives and comic sketches. There’s an enjoyable chunk of variety.”
The look is glam, dazzling, unapologetic eye candy – tuxedos for the men, sumptuous, jewelled frocks in deep pink and yellow for the sopranos. In the 25 concerts already presented, unintended theatre has occurred when one of the men has accidentally stood on a gown’s train or a swathe of silk has caught on something sharp. Never mind, it’s all part of the rich tapestry.
SMQ’s themed programs are steeped in local history and the recitals are presented in treasured heritage spaces like St Mary’s Anglican Church, Kangaroo Point and The Chambers in Somerville House.
And, due to SMQ’s historical leanings, the Queensland State Library recently commissioned the ensemble to record a significant collection of 40 pieces of Queensland music, dating from around 1900 up to World War Two. These include, It’s Hot in Brisbane but it’s Cool-an-gatta composed by Gold Coast entertainment icon Claude Carnell, Redcliffe, a march featuring music by Stan Wood and The Queensland Waltz by Leila Ruth Rowland.
Mostly Twos and Threes, SMQ’s final event for 2023 in Old Government House – with its elegant interior of lovely arches and a sweeping staircase – airs rarely heard duets by nineteenth-century French composers Faure, Chausson, Chaminade and Massenet as well as overlooked gems by Schumann and Schubert.
Griffin is much taken by Peter Cornelius’ duets on the program, especially Der Beste Liebesbrief, The Best Love Letter, with vocal parts sung in unison.
“It’s touching and demanding yet simple and direct,” she says. “Another favourite is Ein Wort der Liebe, A Word of Love. Leon Warnock sings the melody first. When he sings it a second time, I come in a bar behind him with the stunning effect of the soprano voice echoing the baritone’s.”
And to suit the surrounds Peter Roennfeldt will perform Lili Boulanger’s Three Piano Pieces on the Bechstein grand which Lady Chelmsford acquired for (Old) Government House when her husband first arrived to serve as Governor of Queensland in 1905.
Mostly Twos and Threes, Saturday 21 October, 7.30pm at Old Government House, QUT Gardens Point Campus, 2 George Street, Brisbane.
Book through 4MBS Ticketing 3847 1717, or online
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