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Canberra Choral Society's Verdure celebrates nature in the National Arboretum

Verdure. Canberra Choral Society and Wild Voices Music Theatre Juniors. Village Centre, National Arboretum. Sunday March 26 at 5.30pm. Adults $35, Concessions $30, Students $20, Children under 12 free. Bookings: trybooking.com/253229

The Village Centre at the National Arboretum will be filled with the sound of voices as the Canberra Choral Society together with Wild Voices Music Theatre Juniors give their first concert under the direction of their new artistic director, Dianna Nixon, on Sunday, March 26. Anthony Smith will accompany the choir.

This twilight concert entitled Verdure features all things green and begins with Trees, a setting by Daniel Brinsmead of a poem by Joyce Kilmer and concludes with Make Our Garden Grow, music by Leonard Bernstein.

"It will be a program that explores different sonorities," Nixon says, "about an hour's music with a narrative running through it."

It wasn't Nixon herself who chose the Arboretum as a venue but it's an aim of the CCS planners to explore non-traditional venues and the idea of beauty as a backdrop to sound fits well with the scenic panorama encircling the Village Centre.

"We'll have to place the acoustic carefully," Nixon says. There will be suggestions of the wind, the ocean and bird-song in the music – but no attempt to portray the "feeble yelps and squeals" of the wedge-tailed eagle whose striking metal sculpture has become something of a symbol of the Arboretum.

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Nixon brings a wide range of experience as a pianist, singer, actor, director and animator to her new role. She was the vocal coach for the recent production of Cold Light at The Street Theatre and emphasises how very important it is for every word to be clearly heard and accurately pronounced. In this concert the children will have spoken text – spoken by them from where they will be scattered through the audience.

"And CCS is really trying to look at themed programs this year," she says, "each program with a theme running through it."

What does she hope that a member of the audience will derive from a performance?

"Personally I want to feel that the people on stage will grab me at the beginning and take me on a journey so that I feel a connection and a flow", she says.

Three Australian composers, including two from Canberra, are featured in this program.

Daniel Brinsmead has set the words of the American poet, Joyce Kilmer ("I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree...") to music with a strong Australian flavour and very different from the popular setting by Oscar Rasbach sung most notably by the bass Paul Robeson. A graduate of the ANU School of Music, Brinsmead has been choir master of several choirs in Canberra as well as distinguishing himself as a composer, vocal soloist, arranger and orchestrator. This piece will be sung a cappella by the choir.

Stephen Leek's music is published, performed and recorded in many countries of the world. He is currently artistic director/manager of the Young Music Society in Canberra but roams the world as a freelance musician and educator. His composition The Silent Gums has a text written by Anne Williams and children of Eltham East Primary School. There will be a piano accompaniment to the children's voices.

The third Australian composer represented at this concert is Frank Hutchens, actually a New Zealander who adopted Australia as his country of residence later in his life. His Ode to the north east wind is a setting of the very English poem by Charles Kingsley. Here is text to really challenge the singers to pronounce every word accurately, to exercise the tongue and the lips.

A Girl's Garden is a setting by the American composer Randall Thompson of one of the poems from Frostiana, the voices with piano accompaniment; and the other American contribution is Bernstein's Make Our Garden Grow, the finale to Candide, his operetta after Voltaire's novella.

The program also includes The Blue Bird, a setting by Irish composer Charles Villiers Stanford of a poem by Mary Coleridge and In Windsor Forest, a five-movement song cycle with text from Shakespeare set by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Nixon will ask the audience not to applaud between the movements so that the flow of music and words is uninterrupted.

Nixon has made an arrangement of the aria, Ombra mai fu, from Handel's opera Xerxes in which the king of Persia sings of the glories of a plane tree.. It will feature all the voices in unison in small sections with a solo and piano accompaniment.

This concert will celebrate not only beautiful thematic music but the growing beauty of one of Canberra's greatest attractions.