Australian Soundscapes¶

STEPHEN WHITTINGTON : From: The Advertiser : March 04, 2009 11:30PM
THE reverberant space of Tandanya's gallery provided a near perfect acoustic for the evocative vocal soundscapes of Lumina Vocal Ensemble.
This enterprising group has expanded the normal sonic range of chamber choirs with harmonic singing and imitations of bird sounds and nature. The addition of John Packham's excellent yiraki (didjeridu) playing created music redolent of the diverse landscapes of this vast land of ours.
It's unusual and commendable for any ensemble to perform a program exclusively of contemporary Australian music. Some of it was by familiar names like Stephen Leak and Judith Clingan.
But also included was the vibrant Dawn Song by local composer Diana Sautelle, and works by two of Lumina's members: Anna Pope, who is also the conductor and musical director, and Rachel Sag, one of the group's sopranos. Anna Pope's suite of Australian Soundscapes included some very striking vocal effects.
Tales from the Top End by Rachel Sag maintained a stronger attachment to traditional melody and harmony with additional of occasional special effects.

The sense of commitment by this ensemble was palpable, and their vocal accomplishments are considerable. It's an emotive and at times spiritual performance that's worth hearing if you want to experience something different in the way of choral music.

Australian Soundscapes
Lumina Vocal Ensemble
Tandanya, Wednesday

Comments on youtube

As at 24 March 2011

Lay a garland (Pearsall)

“beautiful piece, beautiful version!” (ilaclo 2011)

“Love this song.” IMEA and chamber memories.” (strwberibuni 2010)

“Absolutely beautiful!” (sharbas 2010)

“This sounds so much better than when my choir did it.” (Lexalexa123able 2010)

“Omgosh, So awesome. :]” (Jeffiex3 2010)

“Goosebumps ...”  (terjg 2010)

“Thanks for this.” And if there's one thing better than watching/listening to Pearsall on YouTube, it's singing! We did 'Garland' last Saturday and I still have shivers down the spine. Has anyone posted any clips of his Requiem?” (cantemusken 2010)

“this is one of my most favorite pieces of all time. a true masterpiece of the English Ren.” (Adian00 2009)

“@ Adian00 - Lovely piece, isn't it? I too used to think this was from a Tudor composer. In fact it was written in the 19th century in the style of "old music".” (awyliu 2010)

“This is one of my favorite pieces as well, and although it sounds very reminiscent of the Renaissance, Pearsall wrote it in 1840.” (VideoBuck 2010)

“Wow, this is extremely beautiful :)” (SingerPianist 2009)

“Awesome.” (Andeeeeeeeeeeeee 2009)

Soul Song

“gut” (aldso 2010)

Agincourt by Anna Pope

“Magnificent!!!” (thingirlsrus 2010)

Salt pan by Anna Pope

“very well written with "melting" harmony( even if alittle modern for me) that draws you into the piece. Excellent group also. Thanks” (wljmrbill 2010)

“Beautiful Anna.” Very thought provoking words and well blended with the Ensemble.” (thingirlsrus 2010)

Agnus Dei, Missa da pacem (Josquin)

“lovely, but you know, this mass was proven to be not Josquin's but Noel Bauldeweyn” (flammesombres 2010)

Illumina by Orlando di Lasso

“Just lovely.” Congratulations! :)” (DagorMorwen 2010)

“Nice!” (curlysloppy 2010)

Amazing harmonics (Amazing Grace sung using vocal harmonics)

“Thats crazy!:O” (Gosalyn87 2011)

“That was magnificent, finely executed! (LukeSnyderMusic 2010)

“Wow, that was excellent and flawless! Great job!”  (yuichituba 2010)

Praeter rerum seriem by Josquin

“Very beautiful and sublime.” (chuckmettle 2010)

Death hath deprived me, Weelkes

 “Lovely warm sound.” (vampSaam 2010)

Rosa fragrans, Anon

“lovely... beautiful images of roses to complement the music.”  (vampSaam 2010)

Riu, riu, chiu by Mateo Flecha el Viejo

“Well done, great sound & pictures!” (vampSaam 2010)

Puis qu'en oubli by Machaut

“I LOVE this song so much, cant get enough!” (kduv889 2010)

“Bravo very good performance and pronunciation. May be dissonances are more strong.” (frenchiecocorico1 2010)

Absalom fili mi by Josquin

“good on you! thanks for this.” It is a rare piece to find on YouTube - or anywhere - and I believe on the first real modern 'songs' ever written, where feeling, words and music all really fit together”  (flowforms 2010)

The Agincourt Carol, C15 Anon

“Hey Anna.... I enjoyed this very much. And you have a very pretty church there. I believe that John Dunstable composed this masterpiece to celebrate the English victory at Agincourt. Dunstable had served Henry V as organist and later the Duke of Bedford. We have the hymn in our hymnal in the setting of "O,Love How Deep, How Broad, How High". Your people did a great job and I for one hope to hear more from your group.”  (jzgtrman 2010)

“very nice, thank you.”  (Hinco01 2010)

Alle psallite cum luya, C13 Anon

“You guys are great! Wow.” (jamesiegod 2011)

Ja nun hons pris by Richard the Lionheart

“Passion oozes from every note of this music, transporting me to the time of the crusades. I love it!” (thewolfinme 2011)

Jerusalem by Gesualdo

“Gesualdo is fast becoming one of my favourite renaissance composers, thanks for posting!”     (thedrumbum1990 2011)

Machaut, Ma fin et mon commmencement

“very nice, many compliments!  (ChesterEldar 2010)

“I regret not learning French” (SeanTagen 2010)

Montserrat Codex - Mariam Matrem

 “Absolutely gorgeous! Congratulations!” (gustavodmaia 2010)

When David Heard - Pope - part 2

 “Inspiring. Beautiful.”  (thingirlsrus 2011)

He Diex by Adam de la Halle

“Wonderful <3 !” (pawsoned 2011)

“You guys ROCK!” (kimkim4774 2010)

Dindirin, dindirin

“THANK YOU!!!!!!!”  (Redalchemi 2010)

“Love the sound! Go Lyrebyrd! Beautiful images to go with this lovely ditty.” (vampSaam 2010)

Around us by Matthew Atherton

“Terrific song with fantastic amalgamation of voices and dynamic contrast. Reminds me of all the world around us and in particularly the unseen world, outerspace.”  (TheMarimba2000 2010)

“good song mr atherton:)” (notjustfast71 2010)

“Excellent blending of voices and the composition is beautiful. Pictures add to the experience.”  (pollybaker61 2010)

“Very well done. Terrific blending of your voices. I sang in a small college choral group and loved it.” (wljmrbill 2010)

When David Heard by Eric Whitacre

“Heard the BYU version today. I think it's way better, but this is still pretty awesome.” (TheReighnart 2011)

Medieval music - Fowles in the frith, Anon

“Was amazing and I really liked to know the description of it too thankyou.” (PandemicZombie 2011)

“Beautiful.” (Kevinsufacation 2011)

Comments from performances


‘A Mediæval Christmas at Urrbrae House’, December 2011

From Friends of Urrbrae House Newsletter

To conclude a stellar year of music-making at Urrbrae House, on 11
December, 2011 The Lumina Vocal Ensemble presented a stunning
selection of carols and sacred music from the 12th century to the 21st

 Under the direction of Anna Pope (former Musical Director, Wolfson
College Choir, Cambridge, UK) Lumina was formed in Adelaide in 1999 and
currently comprises 11 singers specialising in discovering and
presenting rarely heard heard music from mediaeval times through the
Renaissance but including contemporary music. Lumina has developed an
international following through 5 acclaimed CDs and has over 50,000
hits through You Tube.

The Urrbrae House concert was narrated by Tom Burton, Professor of
English, University of Adelaide.

The Lumina Vocal Ensemble can again be heard at the 2012 Adelaide
Fringe Festival including at Urrbrae House, 3pm, Sunday, 18 March. A
concert not to be missed!

Hugh McClelland.

‘A Mediæval Celebration’, Adelaide Fringe Festival March 2011

Lumina + Lyrebyrd

“I really love the variety of the groupings of singers, instruments, and the various blends of both. Bravo!” (MC)

“thanks for all your work in envisioning and realising this delicious concert.  I just loved the repertoire.  My favourites were both the Dunstable O Rosa Bella and Quam pulchra est and the Manfredina and La Rotta.  … Really interesting and new repertoire…  plus the two beautiful venues.  I can't decide which one I liked better...”  (RB)

“Great Gigs!” (KH)

“A transporting and evocative experience, greatly enhanced by the instrumental playing as we entered and by the authentic and moving dance performances. Singing and instrumental playing at its best. Sumer is icumen in given a wonderfully lively and forthright rendition, possibly the best I’ve heard, and I’ve never heard Anna or Rosemary sing better than in Kalenda maia, but this is just to mention two singers and two works of a wholy supurb concert of many marvelous works and sets of performances by soloists and ensembles, and not forgetting the expressive wind and strings, with the telling rebec. Congratulations to everybody involved with the concept and the execution – a memorable event.” (DB)

The final Fringe performance I went to was A Medieval Celebration starring Lumina (choir), Lyrebird (musicians) and Tudor Rose (dancers). I went to another medieval-themed performance by Lumina alone three years ago (and obviously liked them enough to come back), and it was interesting to note the differences between that performance and this. It was a grander performance with the singers accompanied by musicians and dancers, it was held in a venue better suited to the music and to the comfort of the audience, and songs were grouped by theme rather than by period and geography as they were last time. Some of these changes are unequivocally improvements, while others are matters of taste. (from blog by ‘flesheatingdragon’

‘Future Now’ Composers’ workshops, choral workshop and performance, August 2010

"the workshops and concert were an exciting, informative & lovely experience"

"one of the most successful concerts I've ever been to - there was such a buzz and excitement"

"All performances full of reality, life and variety"

"high energy"

"It is a really good thing for these composers of new music to have available to them a choir of such skill, sensitivy and dedicated involvement to try out their works and give the first concert performance, not to mention a modern, broad-minded and good Australian composer to make suggestions".

"The piece with both choirs in it ['Awake'] was breathtaking and very powerful"

The aboriginal-inspired piece ['Captivity Song'] was "one of the highlights of the concert - very emotional and moving"

"what a joy to work with Stephen and Lumina".

"the choral workshop was brilliant - everyone should have been there - singers and conductors from all over South Australia".

"Can't wait to hear it on the radio"... "when will that be?"

‘Angels vs Demons’, Adelaide Fringe Festival 2010

Eventually, a bit better rested, I head down to the Reading Room of the Barr Smith Library for this performance. The Reading Room is another of my favourite places in Adelaide, partly because of its inspirational beauty, but also because of memories of lustful teenage fumblings within it’s sleepy hallowed halls. The Room is implicitly split into two – one half providing ample space for the performers (and which they utilise well), the other containing a surprisingly large audience.

The Lumina Vocal Ensemble consist of a healthy fifteen choral singers, and they seemed to exude a distinct mood that felt like I imagined “renaissance” should feel. The opening piece, Dies Irae, Dies Illa, sees half-a-dozen men from the Ensemble perched at the far end of the Reading Room – an aeon away, but the space adds a stunning echoic ambience to the sound.

The men move to the implicit barrier that separates Them from Us, and are joined by the rest of the Ensemble for Anna Pope’s The Traveller. Part I features some lovely gender-split overlays and alternations between the men and the women, and Part II is simply thrilling – explosions in tempo create a real rollercoaster of a listening experience. James Scott’s baritone solo in Part III, though, is absolutely amazing.

Saam Thorne’s The Common Perception of Demons is brilliantly constructed, with the Ensemble clapping and stomping the pace into the piece; The Truth of Demonic Existence is an almost mirror-image of a follow-up, with wind-whistles and clicks creating ambience. The penultimate song Faire is the Heaven has a stunning conclusion, but then Rachel Sag’s Speak Of The Devil kicks in straight away… complete with a breakdown and a rap(!), this is a very contemporary end to an otherwise classical performance.

I loved this, I really did. With the sun streaming through the BSL windows, it’s an utterly ethereal experience hearing these soaring voices and orchestrations echo throughout the Room. The Ensemble themselves were glorious; the songs (mostly penned by members of the Ensemble) worked brilliantly.

[‘Festival Freak’ Blog]

‘Australian Soudscapes’, Adelaide Fringe Festival 2009

“I got down to the Lumina concert Australian Soundscapes last week, it was fabulous, the best they've done I think.  They started the programme with an Aboriginal greeting and acknowledgement followed by a beautiful, haunting Yidaki (didgeridoo) solo, that led into Sarah Hopkins Soul Song (a lovely combination of wordless voice and Yidaki).    It all created a gentle gateway to the double meanings in much of the music, and the echoes of ancient chants and mysteries whispering through the modern english words and harmonies.   Much of the music was by Anna and Rachel and really impressive, I particularly liked Bushfire by Anna and Hymn to Cooinda by Rachel.    They are doing a CD of the programme ...  I'd love to see them do a CD devoted to Anna's and Rachel's music, they are both highly talented composers and deserve greater recognition than they get.   I'd also love to hear some of their music, Rachel's in particular, sung by a quality Children's choir like Gondwana Voices, one lovely piece called Berry Springs just begs for young voices to play with it.” (JA)

“attended "Australian Soundscapes" last night and both really enjoyed it. … her [Rachel’s] songs were brilliant. What a unique piece of work. The bird sounds were amazing.” (J)

“… are your feet back on the ground? - what an amazing concert - I felt quite transported to the actual places in some of the songs.  Well done - and thank you to the choir for being so brave as to tackle such extraordinary music.” (C)

"brilliant" "incredible performance" (AB)

‘Spain vs Italy’, November 2008

“Lumina continues to improve, and has really staked a claim to be the 'early music' group in Adelaide.” (BM)

”The instruments added a new dimension to Lumina’s performance, there was lots of variety, and it was good the way the musical story gathered momentum and complexity through the centuries.” (AB)

‘Medieval Magic’, Adelaide Fringe Festival 2008

Blog by Adrian

The rest of this post is dedicated to a review of Mediaeval Magic by the Lumina Vocal Ensemble, a choiral presentation of music from Europe in the Middle Ages. It was the last Fringe event that I’d booked to see, and I went with a friend who I had invited to the show.

My hopes for the performance were mostly realised. For example I had been concerned that it would be too England-centric and limited in variety, but I needn’t have worried. The performance included songs from various parts of Europe, songs with various themes whether religious or secular, and songs both famous and obscure. Plenty of historical background was provided – mostly in the printed pamphlet but also in summary by spoken word – and it was delivered with a sense of humour. On the whole I was very pleasantly impressed.

The enthusiasm of the singers was evident throughout, particularly in the performance of Sumer Is Icumen In. They really breathed life back into this old classic.

My criticisms are mostly a consequence of the venue. The performance took place inside an old church with uncomfortable pews and no air conditioning (free water was mercifully provided in the interval). At times the voices of the singers failed to adequately fill the size of the room, and my favourite songs were generally those with a little musical accompaniment – even if it was only a drum or a bell to mark the beat – because this helped the sound to fill the available space.

The singers departed at the end of the show without interacting with the audience, so there was no opportunity to thank them for the entertainment or to share any encouraging comment that one might wish to share. That felt a little disappointing, but it may well have had something to do with the fact that the two-hour performance finished not long before eleven o’clock at night.

In summary, my friend and I both found the performance to be most enjoyable and interesting, and the night out to have certainly been worth it.

“This group really rocks…  high quality, affordable and just a little different.” (RS)

“[We] absolutely loved the Friday night concert.” (JD)

“Thank you all for a WONDERFUL evening of truly beautiful voices , I enjoyed it very much!! I've only heard that singing style in sound tracks to movies etc and always found it very evocative - but seeing it performed  live was amazing!” (SC)

Other things which audience members commented on:

  • the fact that we have an individual sound and are not the same as other choirs
  • lots of new music people hadn't heard before
  • the quality of the singing, use of different groupings of voices, and a variety of musical approaches used for many of the pieces
  • the variety of the program and the way the narrations dovetailed with the singing, and helped them to better understand the context of the pieces
  • enjoyed the two contemporary pieces added into the program (‘Alleluia’ Anna Pope and ‘The three ravens’ by Rachel Sag)
  • a couple of people who had never been to a classical choral concert before really enjoyed the music and found the performance very accessible :-) The variety of different types of pieces and the excellent narrations helped with this!
  • the way we presented the music - wearing different clothes and even no shoes!

‘England vs France’, 2007

”a concert I am privileged to have attended, and one which everyone will remember for years to come. People wouldn't be able to explain why it was a special concert because they only have one voice and can't convey the full magic of the full team. It takes years of accumulated experience to create such a wonderful ensemble.” (JS)

”there are a number of exceptional voices in the group, and yet they blend so well, adding together to create a unique sound which is not like other choirs. The quality of the singing ranges from solos to ensemble singing alike - such a versatile group.” (CB)

”the group has always been excellent, but has now reached a new level.” (AB)

"the sound was wonderful, and the harmonies can't be faulted" (Blog by DS)

Various other comments included: "inspiring", "interesting", "beautiful", "thought-provoking" and "great - really enoyed it". "departure from what we'd done before... adventurous programme - remarkable because it had such a broad canvas and also including surprises", "a remarkable accomplishment - different" a "choral adventure", "wonderful", "a triumph", "lovely" "it is so rare to hear music of such quality and so well performed"

"Every person in the Lumina group has a beautiful voice and amazing dedication, especially given their busy lives... True professionals and a remarkable group of people - very special people". They also have "impressive endurance!" (CB)

"When the ABC radio last week had nothing but football on, it's such a relief to have such music to cleanse the soul" (A)

 And some comments on the theme of ‘England vs France’:

“And the result? Few ventured an opinion on this, but one person thought the French won "by a whisker" :-) I certainly think Josquin gives the French an unfair advantage, although, perhaps if we'd done a bit more Dunstable.... But I heard another person say they thought England had some great stuff with their earthy early music "not too 'clever' "... “

Botanic Gardens 150th Anniversary Closing Ceremony, October 2007

“very special to hear beautiful music outside amongst nature!”

“great choice of music – very appropriate with nature theme.”

“memorable and different” (AB)

St Michael’s Mitcham, August 2007

Thanks to the Lumina Ensemble for singing the service for the Feast of the BVM last month...  the music was sublime. Thanks for giving the Feast such colour. (LL) 

Music for the soul, November 2006

“I was transported by the glorious music, thank you.” (JS)

“I had been having a day, but the concert made me feel so much better - uplifted.” (LP)

“Clare Maclean’s ‘Christ the King’ was a highlight – I enjoyed it more than the recording I have heard, as it expressed the words and music better.” (J)

“The medieval pieces were wonderful!” (C)

Choir of the Year competition, August 2006

[As part of the State final, Lumina performed to a packed Aelaide Town Hall and came second]

“I was pretty excited last night to finally get to hear Lumina. What a great ensemble, a collection of beautiful voices and intelligent singers! Congratulations on gathering such a fine ensemble, and then, of course, for the excellent work you have done with them. Competing is always challenging and risky, and the judges' awards so subjective - who knows exactly what they are listening & looking for?  While winning is always fun, it's not always the way it goes. A shame for Lumina last night, but nevertheless, a striking, beautiful performance. I look forward to hearing the next performance.” (MC)

“Very moving performance. You could have heard a pin drop in the audience all the way through.” (AB)

“I listened to Lumina's performance last night and it sounded terrific. Congratulations.” (PD)

…really enjoyed hearing the choirs the other night; particularly we enjoyed yours.
Your personal contribution was extremely impressive. I think it is the first time we have heard music you composed, not forgetting hearing the singers you conduct! Congratulations on your achievements and Lumina's. >From my perspective your mob should have won the competition: more interesting music, better voices, stronger 'lines' (if that is what you call the subsections).
Looking forward to the next time and good luck for more success.” (JW)

“…large chunks of what we did last night were top notch, and at the best end of our performance spectrum." (AM)

‘O rosa bella’, December 2001

“As an audience member for much of the concert... I thought the sound was well-balanced and rounded, and the performances always interesting and often very good.  The group sounded good in its various combinations....” (BM)

“Many thanks again for last Sunday. It was a great afternoon of entertainment.  It is good to know that the art of unaccompanied part singing is not dead!  Your use of the balcony was very creative – it worked extremely well.  The highlight for me was your presentation of Ceremony of Carols...” (JF)