VOX CAPE TOWN PRESENTS
OF BARRELS AND BLOSSOMS
Alternatively, the deluxe CD is available from Upbeat Music at Piazza St John, Sea Point (021 434 1994, [email protected]). This may be the perfect gift for a fellow music-lover!
On Saturday 12 September 2020, singers and special guests gathered in the spring sunshine to celebrate the launch of our fifth CD. At this intimate event – our first opportunity to get together in person since the start of the national lockdown in March – we savoured a festive glass of Cap Classique amongst the beautiful spring flowers and toasted to good health and good music. We are grateful to Karen Woodcock and her team at Groot Constantia for allowing us to celebrate in the beautiful surroundings of South Africa’s oldest wine-producing estate.
Put a musical SPRING in your step with our latest collection of recordings – a rich bouquet of choral masterpieces from home and abroad.
VOX Cape Town’s fifth album, aptly titled Of Barrels and Blossoms, is a collection of highlights from our wine and music pairings at Groot Constantia (“ViniChoral”) and our botanically-inspired recitals at the UCT Irma Stern Museum (“Flower Songs”).
It was recorded at CapeTown Sound in November 2019 and comprises the Five Flower Songs by Benjamin Britten, new music by local composers Nicky Schrire and Matthew Dennis, and choral gems by Ola Gjeilo, Philip Glass, Thomas Morley and Petrus Lemmer.
Contributions by Fi Smit (poetry readings), Matthew Ferrandi (clarinet), Clinton Claasen (piano) and Nicky Schrire (vocals) recreate the intimate, immersive atmosphere of our memorable performances at these iconic venues.
The unique, whimsical design of the CD packaging was conceived by Casey Driver and features two original paintings by Margot Dower. Inside, a full-colour booklet contains the words and translations of the choral texts as well as detailed listening notes by Owen Rogers.
The printing costs associated with this CD were kindly sponsored by the Mapula Trust. Bill van Rensburg is also acknowledged for his generous support.
Of Barrels and Blossoms, concluding our fifth birthday celebrations in 2020, is another way in which we hope to provide comfort and community through choral music during these times of stay-at-home performances.
 In vino veritas – Paul Gibson (b. 1952)
 Ubi Caritas – Ola Gjeilo (b. 1978) with Clinton Claasen (piano)
 Now is the month of Maying – Thomas Morley (c. 1557-1602)
 There are some men – Philip Glass (b. 1937)
 Caged Bird – Nicky Schrire (b. 1986) with Nicky Schrire (guest vocals)
Two Pastoral Ballads – Arranged by Matthew Dennis (b. 1991)
 Down by the Salley Gardens with Matthew Ferrandi (clarinet)
 The Sprig of Thyme with Matthew Ferrandi (clarinet)
Five Flower Songs – Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) with readings by Fi Smit
 Poem: To Daffodils – Robert Herrick
 To Daffodils – Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)
 Poem: The Succession of the Four Sweet Months – Robert Herrick
 The Succession of the Four Sweet Months – Benjamin Britten
 Poem: Marsh Flowers – George Crabbe
 Marsh Flowers – Benjamin Britten
 Poem: Evening Primrose – John Clare
 The Evening Primrose – Benjamin Britten
 Poem: Ballad of Green Broom – Anonymous
 Ballad of Green Broom – Benjamin Britten
 Rooi Disa – Petrus Lemmer (1896-1989) with Matthew Ferrandi (clarinet)
Here is another wonderful offering from VOX, the choir which has contributed so much already to the musical life of Cape Town. Under their imaginative and inspiring director, John Woodland, they have explored unusual and interesting repertoire, in unusual and interesting venues, and are obviously attracting growing audiences.
Even over the past year in lockdown they have been finding innovative ways to keep the choir active, and audiences in touch, with online offerings and new CDs.
Of Barrels and Blossoms was recorded before lockdown, and has recently appeared with classy packaging. They have managed to draw in artists from other disciplines as well, and the CD features some of these on the cover. The CD is also available online, but the pastel colours work rather better on the original CD than online.
The music chosen has much to offer , from new South African compositions to works from the standard choral repertoire. The singing is always enthusiastic and the enunciation is clear. I could have done with a slightly warmer acoustic for some of the pieces, and whilst the “blossoms” are well represented, the “barrels” could have had more of an outing! There is no doubt that this is a devoted and disciplined team who love what they do.
But these are small criticisms of a lovingly produced CD which adds to the growing repertoire and renown of this adventurous ensemble.
Richard Cock (Conductor)
25 January 2021
VOX Cape Town isn’t just a choral group – it’s a one-stop creative collective. The overlap of production credits with the list of singers is striking: artwork, poem readings, liner notes and more are the work of ensemble members, and as polished as their musical performance. Of Barrels and Blossoms is an attractive and professional package, from bibulous welcome to floral benediction.
In vino veritas (Paul Gibson) is light and easy on the year – but not, I imagine, all that easy to sing. The rapid shifts of tempo and dynamics demonstrate tight ensemble and cast-iron discipline. Ubi caritas (Ola Gjeilo) is contemplative, with shifting textures gorgeously intensified by Clinton Claasen’s piano, also illustrating the focus and sublimation of ego that good ensemble music-making demands.
There are some men (Philip Glass) is angular and mildly discordant, but not so astringent as to repel the less adventurous ear (like mine). Nicky Schrire’s setting of Maya Angelou’s Caged Bird gently takes us from traditional four-square part-song style (hints of Loch Lomond) to more audacious harmonic and rhythmic territory. The progression excites, but never alienates.
John Rutter writes music that sounds simultaneously fresh and nostalgic. VOX make the most of this quality, and Down by the Salley Gardens is particularly soulful and moving, enhanced by Matthew Ferrandi’s heartbreaking clarinet obbligato.
The five Benjamin Britten Flower Songs embrace a wide botanical, poetical and musical range: taken together, in this performance, an admirable demonstration of choral versatility. The readings, done with insight and delicacy by Fi Smit, do both the poems themselves and Britten’s settings great credit.
Rooi Disa (Petrus Lemmer), devotional and restrained, with its gentle clarinet descant, is a beautifully muted and deeply touching ending to the collection. The translation of Burger Gericke’s words provided for the the CD booklet by Owen Rogers at first seems quaintly archaic, but in fact cleverly evokes the devout innocence of the original. (Gericke, appropriately enough for a floral programme, was a protea farmer!) The listening notes for the whole programme, also by Rogers, are invaluable and elegantly formulated.
In an era of little patience and less attention to detail, it is heartening to find this expression of a joy, artistry and fellowship that can only be achieved through concentrated effort, endless rehearsal and unwavering attention to one’s co-performers. VOX Cape Town pull off that great prize of ensemble singing: making months of slog, sweat and tears sound effortless.
Paul Wise (Fine Music Radio)
30 January 2021
Pre-Recording Open Rehearsal
“It was a huge pleasure to witness! You all sing magnificently.”
“The friendly/happy/family feeling […] meant a lot to me.”
“I especially enjoyed it when you used only your expression and body language to elicit a response. Awesome!”
These were some of the appreciative comments from the scores of supporters who joined us at our second-ever open rehearsal on Monday 7 October 2019 at St George’s Grammar School. Whether curious to experience what happens behind the scenes or hoping for a last chance to hear (live) the repertoire from our recent projects, guests savoured a glass of wine as we put the finishing touches to some of our favourite music ranging from Benjamin Britten to Nicky Schrire. (Our studio session was booked for the following weekend!) Many thanks to in-VOX photographer (and singer) Simon Hartley for capturing these moments.