Tuesday, January 1, 2013

150 Years

City Choir: 150 Years in 2013

City Choir Dunedin acknowledge our history and our achievements while promoting Dunedin as a major cultural centre in New Zealand.

City Choir first entertained audiences 150 years ago. The Choir traces its origins back to the Dunedin Philharmonic Society, which gave its first public performance − Handel’s Messiah − on 24 December 1863. The name ‘Dunedin Choral Society’ was adopted in 1871, and is still in use as our title of incorporation. Over the years the Choir has performed under a number of other names and now performs as ‘City Choir Dunedin’. Read more about the Choir's history in this article by music historian Dr Jenny Burchell.

To mark the anniversary, we commissioned a new work from Christopher Marshall; entitled For What Can Be More Beautiful? , this was premièred in March. Partly inspired by the concurrent 150th anniversary of Dunedin Botanic Gardens, it is in two movements, the first a highly expressive setting of part of the Song of Songs, rich in garden imagery; the second a lively syncopated exposition of the merits of fruit trees. The new work presented challenges but brought huge rewards to the performers, and the audience received it with great enthusiasm. The full set of orchestral and choral scores are available for loan.

The Choir was delighted to perform the Verdi Requiem in Dunedin with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra during June 2013, and also toured to join forces with Auckland Choral, Orpheus Choir of Wellington and the Christchurch City Choir for the performances in the major centres. This invitation by the NZSO acknowledged not only the Choir’s 150th anniversary but also our inspirational and dedicated Musical Director, David Burchell.
Choral Masterpieces, conducted by David Burchell.    Photo credit: Pieter du Plessis
Labour Weekend (26 and 27 October) saw City Choir Dunedin in party mood as we commemorated 150 years with a reception, dinner, church service and the highlight, a gala evening of Choral Masterpieces, sung by an augmented Choir and accompanied by the Southern Sinfonia. We were delighted to welcome around 30 singers from all corners of New Zealand who joined the City Choir singers in this performance.


"Since the days of the Gold Rush, City Choir Dunedin has made an exceptional contribution to the musical life of the Otago region. From the Proms to Messiah, the Choir presents a rich and varied programme of choral music, beautifully performed. The Verdi Requiem with the NZSO earlier this year was a highlight for audiences nationwide and testament to the quality of the Choir. I congratulate everyone associated with City Choir Dunedin on reaching this very significant milestone."
 - Hon Christopher Finlayson, Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage

The City of Dunedin is incredibly proud of our City Choir. For 150 years, City Choir Dunedin has, in one or another incarnation, delighted audiences with its sublime musical offerings of master works from the choral repertoire. Not only does the Choir make a vast contribution to the rich cultural life of Dunedin, but it also provides opportunities for younger soloists to gain valuable performance experience as they embark upon their careers. Not many people know this, but City Choir Dunedin is the second-oldest choir in New Zealand, with the Auckland Choral Society being a little older. I congratulate City Choir Dunedin on its achievements over the past 150 years and wish it all the best for a bright future. If the accolades after the Choir’s recent tour with the NZSO are anything to go by, we can look forward to enjoying many more worldclass performances from City Choir Dunedin.
 - Dave Cull, Mayor of Dunedin

"As Vice-Chancellor of the University of Otago, I am delighted to have the role as Patron of City Choir Dunedin. The Choir has made a significant contribution to the musical heritage and rich cultural life of our community, and it continues to provide a platform for younger soloists to develop and excel. Over the years, many University staff have forged strong links with the Choir, and we look forward to the ongoing success of this wonderful organisation. I would like to congratulate the Choir on reaching this very significant milestone, and wish them all the best for the future."
 - Professor Harlene Hayne, ONZM, PhD, HonDSc, FRSNZ
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Otago

"Ngā mihi nui kia koutou katoa
Congratulations City Choir Dunedin on your 150th anniversary. You are one of New Zealand’s most illustrious performing arts organisations with a distinguished pedigree tracing back to the pioneering Dunedin Philharmonic Society and its first public performance, Handel’s Messiah, on Christmas Eve 1863. Yours is an extraordinary artistic journey in our young country. You have established a proud history of choral excellence in New Zealand which continues to develop and build from generation to generation. Long may it continue!
Best wishes from all at the NZSO."
- Christopher Blake, QSO, Chief Executive, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra

"The Southern Sinfonia congratulates City Choir Dunedin on reaching its 150th year. Countless thousands of people have been enriched over that time by singing in or listening to the Choir. While orchestras make a wonderful sound, few would argue that the most exquisite of all instruments in the human voice. The Choir provides such a tremendous opportunity to experience the excitement, emotion, drama, and sense of fulfillment that comes from being part of a large and creative group of people. For the Southern Sinfonia, the chance to work alongside the Choir means that we can be part of a creative collaboration which makes Dunedin such a special place to make music. All the best for the next 150 years of great choral music-making."
- Stephen Christensen, President of the Southern Sinfonia

"On behalf of the New Zealand Choral Federation, please accept my warmest congratulations on the choir’s 150th anniversary. City Choir Dunedin has been at the heart of musical life in the city since the early days of settlement and is a significant part of our country's cultural heritage. The Governance Board of NZCF was very pleased to hear of your highly successful celebratory concert last weekend and wishes you all the best for the remainder of this anniversary year."
- Christine Argyle, Chair, New Zealand Choral Federation

Handel's Messiah

Our special year ended appropriately with a performance of Handel’s Messiah on December 10, and we welcomed back four soloists who have a special relationship with the Choir – Lois Johnston, Amanda Cole, David Hamilton and Jonathan Lemalu.

Dr Jenny Burchell researched and wrote this interesting article about the performances of Messiah during the Choir's 150-year existence: Handel's Messiah and the Dunedin Choral Society 1863 - 2013.

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