Thursday, December 12, 2013

Choir and orchestra impressive

Tuesday evening's performance in the Dunedin Town Hall of Handel's Messiah was one of the best I have heard in Dunedin.

City Choir Dunedin with its recent 150th anniversary events and Southern Sinfonia's trip to Japan has seen both these groups step up to impressive new levels in performance.

Musical Director David Burchell conducted an unabridged version from the harpsichord, and the standing ovation and long applause from a large audience confirm my sentiment.

Sinfonia's strings maintained a particularly united tone throughout - tight and free from "loose ends", and trumpet solos were excellent.

Clarity and pulse were seldom compromised and the orchestral "solo" Pastoral Symphony was a beautifully articulated cantabile highlight. Good dynamics and choral blend in Glory to God in the Highest and a brilliant delivery of And with His Stripes we are Healed were choral highlights.

Soloists on this occasion were Lois Johnston, whose pure-toned quality soprano range excelled throughout, with artistic florid embellishment and melismatic passages, several at virtuosic tempi.

Alto Amanda Cole has fine tone and projection in the upper register, which added lustre to decorated cadence points, but there was a lack of strength in the lower voice where many of the solo lines sat, and despite her passion and sincerity the sound failed to dominate, becoming lost in the string blend.

Tenor David Hamilton delivered his text with rapport and strength - such a convincing soloist with mellifluous tone. His commanding narrative in Comfort Ye set a standard for all that followed.

The bass soloist was Jonathan Lemalu, whose voice I find is changing from the youthful clear-toned bass which many locals watched develop. The unique wonderful richness in the timbre remains as does his professional delivery and countenance, but at times heavy vibrato muddies intonation definition in the lower scalic passages.

A triumphant performance overall to herald the festive season.

Review by Elizabeth Bouman for the Otago Daily Times, 12 December 2013.

Feedback received from the audience

From Melissa:
Was so Absolutely Fantastic!! Loved the Choir and the Musicians were Brilliant. Wonderful production.

From Catherine:
I think this was the best performance you've done - congratulations to everyone involved!

From Rosalind:
A sparkling performance from start to finish! The tone clear and bright throughout, beautifully light and dancing in the fast numbers (All We Like Sheep, His Yoke is Easy, He Shall Purify etc) a full-bodied and thrilling sound in the big choruses but never ponderous or heavy. My niece who had just arrived from UK where she has heard many Messiah performances pronounced it "Storming!"

From Jane:
As you may know, I was ushering last night, not singing. I thought I would pass on to you a comment I overheard as patrons were leaving. One old gentleman (probably around 80) said: "It's the best Messiah I've heard for years!" Judging by his age and the fact that I've seen him at many many classical music concerts over the years, I believe it to have been a heartfelt comment.

From Anne:
Friends thought it was the best performance they had heard. And I really liked this from another friend of mine: “One of the best parts of that Messiah last night was the altos! You all were so smooth and strong.”

From Marguerite:
I was walking down Moray Place after the concert and I met two women whom I didn't know from Adam who said, "What a wonderful performance, it was great"!

From Judy:
The Messiah was the best performance I've ever heard from the choir. It was their combined total enthusiasm.

No comments: