Capitalising on the recent success of first-year orator Adele Burke in the Palladian Cup, vocalist Rachel Jeffreson added points of her own to the board with a well-earned second prize in the Solo Vocal section of the competition on 27 March.
Rachel, the winner of the same section last year, was again recognised by the judges for her communicative gifts. The third-year student performed a little-known song, Tim Rosser’s ‘Last Night When I Returned,’ which tells of a ghost visiting her widower, only to discover that he has moved on with his life. While the ghost insists that she is happy for her former husband, the music tells a very different tale; its chromatic harmony casts doubt over the genuineness of her words, portraying her a bereaved yet stoic person robbed of the family life she had dreamed of. It is the tension between text and music that Rachel captured so beautifully; one would be hard-pressed finding an artist more apt to project the subtle conflict inherent to Rosser’s contemporary masterpiece.
Rachel was not, however, the only Androvian to command the attention of the audience. Andrew Knight’s rendition of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ showcased a voice almost certain to be snatched by an impresario and shared with audiences in opera houses all over the world. Andrew, who is in his second year at St Andrew’s College, is one of very few young men who would have dared tackle the 1945 Rogers and Hammerstein classic. The Conservatorium student brought to the black and white dots upon his sheet music the hallmark of engaging music-making: the willingness to take risks. From the moment he took the stage, it was clear that he was ready to tell a story – and with great conviction he told it.
What audience members, who had the Sydney University Refectory bursting at its seams, did not see is the extraordinary amount of preparation behind each performance. In addition to the incalculable hours of practice and lessons required to hone the tools of musical expression, all performers had to endure rehearsals, sound checks and the extraordinarily painful – ‘nerve wracking’ is an understatement – feeling of waiting to take the stage as the proceeding performer takes their bow. Many artists find this process utterly exhausting, perhaps to the extent that they question why they do it. While the answer may never be entirely clear to the performer, the value of their sacrifice is certainly clear to their audience: hearing music-making of last night’s calibre is quite simply enriching and life-affirming.
The evening was, in sum, yet another vindication of intercollegiate collaboration; the provision of a platform on which to share ideas – on this occasion musical ideas – is something our crazy, chaotic world all too seldom affords.
- Will Cesta, Dean of Admissions