Fireside Review

Reviewed by Faith Jessel

On a glittering night along the waters of the Neilson Bay Pier, Walsh Bay, the phenomenal talent of The Sydney Chamber Choir showcased a stunning, winter warmer performance that lifted the heart and soul. The theme was ‘Fireside’, an evening of captivating vocal artistry, beauty and joy.  

Artistic Director and Conductor Sam Allchurch, alongside conductor Naomi Crellin, curated a perfect program of Choral excellence, featuring an enchanting blend of historic and contemporary works from Scandinavia. 

The beautiful, balletic balance of folklore, classical and modern pieces spanned the centuries, offering a mesmerising journey through Nordic music and song tradition. There was also serendipitous playfulness and laughter. In Allchurch's words, the Sydney Chamber Choir has 'let their hair down,' offering a refreshingly accessible experience that seamlessly blends fun with finesse, skill, and reverence - a true gift.

The audience were welcomed into the shared performance space, drink in hand, and mingled and chatted amongst lamp-lit tables and cosy lighting. The atmosphere was elevated by an extraordinary jazz trio - comprising Kevin Hunt on piano, Karl Dunnicliff on double bass and Dave Goodman on drums. They really set the tone with their zesty sounds, expertly building anticipation and preparing the crowd to be utterly enthralled. 

What then unfolded was a truly breathtaking and immersive encounter, as this world-class chamber choir presented a stunning collection of splendidly sung musical gems. Each piece was a tour de force, expertly crafted and executed with precision and passion. From the soaring highs to the lush lows, every note was sung with exquisite skill and expertise. It was a moving experience. Equally powerful, personal and intimate.

One of the most striking aspects of this chamber choir's performance was its ability to seamlessly shift between moments of tender intimacy, whimsical nuances and soaring grandeur. It was an evening that encompassed a wide range of tastes with a fabulous Nordic flavour. Each and every piece was a standout, but here's a sampling of the musical delights; 

The rendition of Sommarpsalm (W Ahlen) was nothing short of divine, with the Choirists delivering a sublime performance that brought new heights of beauty and expression to the beloved psalm. 

The Kevin Hunt Trio’s featured piece, a funky fusion of JS Bach and Ward Swingle, was the perfect example of improvisational magic and rhythmic sophistication. Superb.

‘Gee! Mine or Mozart's?’ (Mozart/Edenroth) was a charming departure from the classical norm and bounced around Mozart's iconic tune like a lively game of musical tennis, volleying between sprightly arias and playful vocal repartee with wit and charm.

The intimate setting of the concert hall was electrified by the chamber choir's passionate performance of 'One Voice' by Ruth Moody, their voices rising in a glorious celebration of the human spirit, hope and unity.

The audience was thrilled with the finale; Björk's ‘It's Oh So Quiet’  (Hans Lang/Bert Reisfeld, arr. Björk and Crellin), a showstopping masterpiece that swung with effortless ease, navigating the dynamic arrangement's quirks with fearless grace, a true sensory delight.

As the last notes of the encore, 'La Vie en rose', dissolved into silence, the audience burst into applause, some with eyes glistening with tears and heartfelt gratitude for the deep sense of connection and community.

Whether you're a seasoned aficionado or new to the world of chamber choirs, a long-time local or just discovering this vibrant city and its cultural treasures, get ready for a truly unforgettable experience. This world-class company will beguile and inspire, filling your heart and senses with the beauty and transformative power of music.

The Sydney Chamber Choir celebrates its 50th anniversary next year, and their Fireside concert is a timely treat. This uplifting performance will nourish your soul and banish the winter blues. 

Don’t miss it. 

See for future performances.