behold the wonder

The title of this concert was inspired by the life and music of St Hildegard von Bingen and the performance by the Adelaide Chamber Singers at Ukaria Cultural Centre truly celebrated the life and work of this remarkable woman. 

Christie Anderson had chosen three aspects of Hildegard’s spiritual writing: Divine Love, Healing – Sibyl of the Rhine, and In Celebration of Greening. Interwoven with the music of Hildegard von Bingen were pieces by other composers, some setting her texts and others reflecting the ethos of her  message.

‘And the earth…contains moisture and greenness and shoots, since the earth which God kneads together by turning, pressing down and lifting up, and which he sustains by His strength…the earth has its greenness of all things that are born and flourish in youth…and also the shoots of all things sprouting and sending forth the flowers of great strength.’ Hildegard von Bingen, The Book of Life’s Merits

Hildegard  composed her music in the 12th century for nuns living in a community. Her music is of the monastic environment sung by voices which were not trained in the same way that classical singers are today. The Adelaide Chamber Singers, under the direction of Christie Anderson, are all trained singers,  but they were able to bring that monastic sense of freedom, joy and worship to their performance. The choirs’ characteristic purity of tone, and musicianship ensured that the whole concert was a representation of the values which Hildegard espoused. To Hildegard greenness was not just the environment, but a life force found both in nature and in men and women. She served a God who was not a stern judge, but one whose wisdom ‘evolves around all things’, and she gloried in the beauty of God’s earth. 

While Ukaria is not an Abbey chapel where nuns and monks sing in worship, the ambience and acoustics served the music well. The use of varied combinations of singers, and different positioning, brought contrasting colours and sonority to the music. The male and female voices blended and at one point, when I closed my eyes I had the sensation, almost visceral, of being enveloped by beautiful sound. 

Apart from Hildegard, the compositions chosen as a reflection on her music, her view of the world and of beauty; music by Jonathan Dove, Owain Park, Thomas Tallis, Ola Gjeilo, and Eleanor Daley, whose Grandmother Moon was such a fitting finale, enhanced the program. Hildegard would most certainly have approved and applauded.  

Adelaide Chamber Singers directed by Christie Anderson

Ukaria Cultural Centre 

Sunday 2 July 2023

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