ROCS – Ein Chor at Hymnitation

Was ist ROCS? Die RMIT Occasional Choir Society. Ein Chor von ehemaligen und derzeitigen Student:innen.

Ich war am Samstagabend dort und hatte sehr viel Spaß. Sarah war auf der Bühne und sang Leonard Cohens Hallelujah – was ich tatsächlich als eines der Highlights empfand. Sie hielt sich dabei wie die meisten an der Version von Jeff Buckley, ihr Gesang ging aber über das bloße Kopieren hinaus und ihre Stimme klang klar im Raum. Ich hatte ebenfalls Spaß an den “Nonsense-Stücken” wie Sandra Uitenbogerds Missa Lolcat, an R.E.M.s Losing My Religion und mehr.

Hier eine längere Beschreibung durch ein ehemaliges Chormitglied. Ich kann ihren Enthusiasmus teilen.

ROCS: Hymnitation, Storey Hall, tonight

Back in the day, when the world wasn’t so much out of whack as it is now, keeping a student choir going was a simple enough matter. Now? Corporate universities, online courses, students either having to commute from the family home or work unseemly hours to pay their extortionate rents, plagues, pestilences and all the rest of it – all these conspire to make student choirs a constant battle for their continued existence. It is therefore all the more wondrous to see that most of them are still going, with constantly replenishing cast members.

At ROCS concerts you will hear things you will never find anywhere else. Not for them the tired repertoire, the schoolmasterly maestro swinging his baton, the same old same old. There were many conductors. I counted at least five. It is a hallmark of this choir that it appears to be that rarest of mythical beasts: a functioning anarcho-syndicalist collective. (Sandra prefers it that way!) I am bound to tell you that not everything came off. It is a necessary consequence of always trying new things. Please: let me tell you what really did.

Of the solo works, I was pleased to hear Sarah Winkler breathe unexpected life into that hoary chestnut Hallelujah! Her light, tremolo soprano rendition of it was as sufficiently remote from the late Mr Cohen’s glyphosate baritone as it was from the street choir versions which have plagued us of late, and was a welcome addition to the evening. The solo component was however predictably stolen by Phoebe Allgood, who accompanied herself as usual in Lloyd Webber’s Gesthemane. Her soaring soprano arose from her smoky contralto opening like a phoenix ascending from the hall’s Penrose tiling. Her dynamic range is even more impressive than when last I heard her.

The full ensemble works came off best when backed by the substantial orchestra assembled; although special mention must be made of Dylan Tran’s arrangement of Billie Eilish’s What Was I Made For? It is a demanding piece, and was excellently conducted by Morgan Jenkins. (Apparently it is from the Barbie movie, which I have not yet seen.) We also had three movements from Sandra Uitenbogerd’s Missa Lolcat. I have heard the entire mass before, and I would happily have hearkened to all of it again. It was excellently performed by a shifting cast of singers. Ceiling Cat, deliver us all from evil.

Frequenters of ABC-FM will know of the thriving genre of computer game music. A lot of our best composers write for gamers. And why should they not? Better that than writing symphonies and concerti for over-privileged aristocrats and Prince-Bishops as once our best and brightest did. Christopher Tin is one of these, and tonight we had his Sogno di Volare from a game called Civilization VI. The choir and orchestra overwhelmed us with his mighty chords. It was as if Storey Hall were insufficiently majestic to contain such vast harmonies.

And then there was CORP (Compulsively Over-Rehearsing People). This is a long-standing subgroup of ROCS. Tonight’s iteration was an exalted one: Sandra, Lettisia, Anna (welcome back!), Phoebe, Elliott and the ineffable Mr Chas. Really, I could listen to CORP all night. They gave us lots of Sandra’s arrangements, three of her catches, and – most gloriously – REM’s Losing My Religion. About that: is there something about Michael Stipe’s mumbling, impenetrable vocals which inspires people to want to bring out the serious music beneath the incoherence? (I think so. I’ve done things to Shiny Happy People myself.) CORP is always good. Tonight they were magnificent.

Especial thank yous to Ashley Bonnell for splendid behind-the-scenes managing against the odds; to Gilligan for being Gilligan only more so; and also to Elliott Westbury for not only singing tenor wonderfully, but playing piano and bringing along his own orchestra to supplement the local band. A rousing evening, and thanks to all.