Showing posts with label Handel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Handel. Show all posts

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Choir’s best-ever ‘Messiah’ a treat

Messiah, 25 November 2023. Photo: Ian Thomson
Handel’s Messiah 
City Choir Dunedin, Dunedin Town Hall 
Saturday, November 25 

Those who said, ‘‘I’ve heard it before’’ and stayed away missed a musical treat when, in a triumphant return, Handel’s Messiah was presented in the Dunedin Town Hall on Saturday evening. 

It was a night to savour. 

With accompaniment by the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra, Dunedin City Choir excelled in its best-ever performance of the work. Conducted by choir director David Burchell, who also played the harpsichord, there was no sign that he — like many choir members — had just recovered from Covid. 

Originally performed in the lead-up to Easter, Messiah is now a pre-Christmas fixture on musical calendars. Charles Jennens’ English libretto made accessible the story of Christ’s birth, crucifixion and resurrection, especially given the clear diction of all four soloists. Elizabeth Mandeno (soprano), Maaike Christie-Beekman (alto), Lachlan Craig (tenor) and Wade Kernot (bass) delighted the audience. 

Craig’s confident opening recitative set the scene, then — supported by the 70-strong choir — the story continued with Christie-Beekman’s strong depiction of the prophecy of the virgin birth and Kernot’s beautifully conveyed emotion in the Isaiah passage (‘‘The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light’’). 

The soprano introduced the New Testament with the angels appearing to the shepherds and Mandeno’s clear rendition was a pleasure to hear. 

The duets between alto and tenor, and alto and soprano were well done, although at times the voices were a little overwhelmed by the DSO. 

Effectively a trumpet/bass duet, The Trumpet Shall Sound was truly impressive, Kernot’s superb breath control matched by that of trumpeter Ralph Miller. 

Messiah demands a lot of a choir. Dunedin City Choir impressed throughout but was at its very best in We Like Sheep Have Gone Astray and the final chorus, Worthy is the Lamb. The choir’s discipline and the seamless transitions between chorus and soloists were a tribute to the many hours of rehearsal under Burchell’s direction, recognised by the well-deserved standing ovation given at Messiah’s conclusion.

Saturday’s Messiah was the perfect lead-in to Advent. 

Review by Gillian Vine, The Star 30 November 2023

Monday, November 27, 2023

A rite that endures for good reason

Photo: Ian Thomson 25 November 2023

Messiah, City Choir Dunedin and Dunedin Symphony Orchestra, Dunedin TownHall, Saturday, November 25, 2023. 

The Southland Times review of the premier of the entire Messiah by the Invercargill Philharmonic Society in 1878 noted the "indefatigable" conductor (Hautrie West) and that the "ordeal" of the rehearsals had met a "very successful performance", before an enthusiastic but sparse audience. 

Then as now, the effort required to bring such a vast and long work to fruition still requires its leader to be indefatigable, the choir to be committed to many rehearsals, and the instrumentalists to be ever present. City Choir Dunedin, Dunedin Symphony Orchestra and soloists Elizabeth Mandeno (soprano), Maaike Christie-Beekman (mezzo-soprano), Lachlan Craig (tenor) and Wade Kernot (bass) under David Burchell produced a highly successful performance. 

The less than capacity audience included those who knew to stand up for, and sing along to the Hallelujah Chorus. It also included those new to this rite who grew fidgety over the work’s duration. They rewarded the performers with a prolonged standing ovation. 

As in 1878 the Messiah presents its soloists with something of a rite of passage. The demands of the work are heavy. If the voice is not sufficiently agile or powerful the result can be turgid; every repetition requires renewal; performance stamina should endure long intervals of inactivity. Each had their highlights — Mandeno’s clarity in There Were Shepherds and Rejoice Greatly, Beekman’s dramatic portrayal of He was Despised and Rejected, Craig’s pleading in Behold and See if There be Any Sorrow and Kernot’s triumphant The Trumpet Shall Sound. Each is also culpable of being tongue-tied in the more convoluted melodic lines. The choir’s devotion to task overcame similar shortfalls, but shone in those choruses sung from memory.

Handel’s stalwart Messiah is a rite that endures via its devotees’ devotions.

Review by Marian Poole, Otago Daily Times 27 November 2023.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Stellar soloists make beloved classic sing

Messiah 2021. Photo by Ian Thomson.

Handel's Messiah

Tuesday 7 December 2021, Dunedin Town Hall

City Choir Dunedin, four fine soloists and Dunedin Symphony Orchestra turned in stellar performances at the choir's two-yearly presentation of Handel's Messiah on Tuesday evening.

Review by Gillian Vine, The Star, 9 December 2021.

Messiah: Soloists cap splendid showing

Messiah 2021. Photo by Ian Thomson.

Handel's Messiah

Tuesday 7 December 2021, Dunedin Town Hall

Handel could never have imagined Messiah, his oratorio written in 1741, would live on through generations, becoming such a popular work throughout the world, especially on the Christian calendar, where it is customary to perform it before Christmas. 

City Choir Dunedin, accompanied by Dunedin Symphony Orchestra conducted by David Burchell , delivered this massive dramatic musical work to a very appreciative audience on Tuesday evening in the Dunedin Town Hall. 

The soloists were Lois Johnston (soprano), Claire Barton (alto), Oliver Sewell (tenor), and Paul Whelan (bass). 

I have attended and reviewed many performances of Messiah and along with others to whom I spoke, felt this performance was one of the best. Maybe after a lean year for live musical events it was the exhilaration of just being in the town hall as the drama and passion of text unfolded. But the musicians were definitely all in top form, and Sewell’s opening Comfort Ye and aria certainly set a very high benchmark for others to follow, as glorious tenor timbre and robust cadential ornamentation filled the auditorium. 

The choir of 90 were in great form, with full marks for strength, blend and top soprano intonation. A highlight was the ardour and detail accorded the big chorus numbers, such as And the Glory, Lift Up Your Head, and of course the famous Hallelujah with its soaring triumphant climaxes. Burchell drew excellent dynamic contrast for sections of Since by Man Came Death

The baroque orchestra responded to paces set, fusing tight string blends with stylistic embellishment and exciting crescendi. Trumpet highlights were strong and true. 

Soloists advanced the plot with precision and sincerity. Whelan’s big resonating bass achieved clarity of text, especially in The Trumpet Shall Sound with an impressive decorated final cadence. Barton filled He Was Despised with appropriate sentiment, and Johnston (who at 24 hours’ notice replaced an indisposed soprano) was never tentative, although I felt she was a little lightweight, but her famous aria I Know That My Redeemer Liveth was superb. 

The final Amens were followed by long applause and standing ovation. A magnificent performance.

Review by Elizabeth Bouman, Otago Daily Times, 9 December 2021

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Inspired and uplifting performance

Handel's Messiah
Tuesday 10 December 2019, Dunedin Town Hall

Handel's evergreen oratorio Messiah was given an inspired and uplifting performance in Dunedin Town Hall on Tuesday by City Choir Dunedin, four guest soloists, and the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra -- all under David Burchell's unerring baton.

This work, composed in 1741, comprises a mammoth meditation on the Christian message, with dramatic interludes. Its many contrasts of texture, dynamics and scoring demand great sensitivity and flexibility from all those on stage, but smooth follow-throughs -- obviously resulting from much careful rehearsal -- always ensured a real sense of continuity and held the large audience's attention.

Soloists Rebecca Ryan (soprano), Tessa Romano (alto), Andrew Grenon (tenor) and Joel Amosa (bass) all gave sterling performances in their different ways, though Romano's dulcet tones often failed to carry in the large hall.

Especially impressive were Grenon's expressive ornaments in 'Comfort ye', Ryan's bright delivery of 'Rejoice greatly', and Amosa's stentorian 'The trumpet shall sound' coupled with Ralph Miller's silvery trumpet obbligato.

But it was the choir's part in this great work that brought it most to life for the audience -- they even burst into applause after the 'Hallelujah' chorus! If aggressiveness was needed (in 'He trusted in God'), the choir gave it; if florid counterpoint (in 'His yoke was easy' -- ironically, one of the hardest choruses to sing) was called for, they produced it. Best of all were three choruses sung from memory -- 'Glory to God', 'Lift up your heads' and 'Since by man came death'.

The Dunedin Symphony Orchestra, led by Miranda Adams, added greatly to the performance's strength and seamlessness, with Burchell's well-chosen tempos for the set-pieces always firmly established.

And the continuo group -- cellist David Murray and organist Johnny Mottershead, with Burchell on harpsichord -- were always at the ready for the recitatives.

Not just a pre-Christmas treat, then, but a true treasure!

Reviewed by Donald Cullington, The Star, 12 December 2019.

Pre-Christmas tradition at town hall - hallelujah!

Handel's Messiah
Tuesday 10 December 2019, Dunedin Town Hall

On Tuesday evening, the Dunedin Town Hall resounded with music of one of the best-known oratorios. Messiah by George Frederik Handel.

In recent years Messiah has become a two-yearly Dunedin pre-Christmas event, performed by the Dunedin City Choir and the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra.

The three-hour performance seems to have retained its popularity -- this year's good-sized supporting audience reacted with standing ovation, prolonged applause and "Bravos".

David Burchell conducted from the harpsichord, producing a brilliant overall performance. The choir of 120 achieved excellent standards in their big choruses, two of which ('Lift up your heads' and 'Since by man came death') were memorised, and exceptional balance and beauty of tone were achieved in 'And with his stripes we are healed'.

The tenors excelled in some of their scalic runs, and soprano top register notes were strong and true.

Following the overture, tenor Andrew Grenon opened Part One, achieving relaxed but strong and convincing recitativo with fluency in 'Comfort ye'.

Soprano soloist Rebecca Ryan generated a big, beautiful sound and delivered with melismatic precision and stunning ornamentation. A highlight was her 'I know that my redeemer liveth'. 

Tessa Romano was considerably "under-weight" in her alto solos despite fine melodic decoration and clarity of text.

However, a strong, authoritative style came from bass Joel Amosa, with well-paced scalic shaping and embellishments, not always easy for a bass voice, and I'm sure he wished Handel had not chosen a high E to climax 'The trumpet shall sound'.

The orchestra (led by Miranda Adams) was impressive, especially with string co-ordination of Baroque embellishments, and two trumpet players gilded everything superbly.

I followed the music on my well-worn 19th century family score, alongside a senior singing pupil who was enthralled by her first Messiah experience.

Review by Elizabeth Bouman, Otago Daily Times 12 December 2019.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Vibrant, dedicated and enthusiastic musical triumph

Standing ovation for Messiah 2017. Photo credit Ian Thomson
Handel's Messiah
Tuesday 12 December 2017
Dunedin Town Hall

Although originally written as pre-Easter music, it has become traditional for the approach of Christmas to be heralded worldwide by performances of Handel’s majestic oratorio Messiah, writes Elizabeth Bouman. City Choir Dunedin, Dunedin Symphony Orchestra and their guest soloists with musical direction from David Burchell, thrilled last evening with a full performance of the English-language Baroque oratorio which was first performed in Dublin in 1742 and has now become one of the best-known and most frequently performed choral works in Western music.

Dunedin’s performance last evening was a triumph, vibrant and well-paced, full of enthusiasm and dedication to delivering text and score.

The choir’s big choruses, (some performed without reading the score) such as Glory to God in the Highest, And the Glory and, of course, the Hallelujah achieved excellent balance of harmony and articulation, and the dynamic contrast in Since by Man Came Death was outstanding.

Madeleine Pierard (currently home from London) filled the hall with soprano strength and confidence for all her solo work.

Mezzo-soprano Claire Barton (Dunedin) possesses strong alto timbre, and her performance of He Was Despised, interpreted with passion and solemnity, was superb.

Tenor Ian Tetley (UK) achieved smooth almost counter-tenor-like tone in his upper register at times, especially in Comfort Ye, and his neat ornamentation also impressed.

Bass Jared Holt (Wellington) has a deep rich vibrato and like many with his voice type, had difficulty in clarity of definition in many of the melismatic passages Handel wrote for this part.

The orchestra showed precision and good articulation throughout, responding to Burchell’s command from his seat at the harpsichord.

It really was a magnificent occasion, rewarded by a very well-deserved standing ovation.

Review by Elizabeth Bouman, ODT 13 December 2017

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.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Standing ovation for 'Messiah'

What is it I wonder, that makes people sit for two and a-half hours, listening so intently to Handel's most famous oratorio Messiah, written in just three weeks in 1741.

"Christmas just wouldn't be the same without attending a performance of Messiah," one patron told me.
City of Dunedin Choir and Southern Sinfonia shifted their two-yearly performance of Messiah to the Regent Theatre this year, and the very well-filled venue created a different view and atmosphere, but the familiar choruses and arias certainly rang out loud and true last evening, as Christ's life on earth was outlined in music, and the final Amens were followed by tumultuous applause and standing ovation.

David Burchell conducted magnificently from the harpsichord, with a wise choice of tempi. The 29-member baroque orchestra excelled in their response. The choir's performance, with several choruses from memory, was very impressive and disciplined, despite a little under-weight in the tenor section.

Strong soprano tone reached their pinnacle in the Hallelujah Chorus, and exciting strength and verve from all sections was accorded the big choruses such as Lift Up Your Head.

The three choruses in the "Agony of the Cross" section were delivered with clarity and particularly fine nuance.
Soprano Anna Leese, now well entrenched in a successful international career, was home to perform. The voice is noticeably maturing and rich and all her arias were exquisite with the finest legato tone. Come Unto Him was stunningly performed - so liquid and pure through subtly embellished phrases.

Mezzo Wendy Doyle (Wellington) was successful in a convincing delivery from a particularly low timbre register, and young tenor Cameron Barclay (Auckland) brought clear diction and sincerity to his solos.
Bass Chalium Poppy (Tauranga) performed with confidence and strength although was not always technically secure.

By Elizabeth Bouman, Otago Daily Times 14 December 2011

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Flash Mob Video

Thanks to Steve Ting for filming City of Dunedin Choir and Southern Sinfonia players at our "flash mob" event on Saturday 10 December at Wall Street mall. Enjoy!

Listen to the Channel 9 interviews with Philippa and Deborah at the flash mob event on the Channel 9 website... 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Messiah score

Especially for new choir members - note that members are expected to have their own copy of Handel's Messiah since this work is performed every second year. The Watkins Shaw edition is recommended.

Here are some options for sourcing a copy:

Copies of Messiah can be purchased online from: 


Amazon Australia

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Messiah 2007 with Anna Leese

The following is an extract from the review of this performance, by Elizabeth Bouman in the Otago Daily Times:

"Both the Choir and the Sinfonia are a credit to a city of this size and excelled in conquering the demands of this three-hour Baroque marathon.

The 110-strong choir gave energy and full resonant sound for Burchell to draw upon for the big choruses. Setting their sights early in "And the Glory" and "Glory to God", phrasing and articulation were generally good, with passionate voicing. As to be expected the "Hallelujah" chorus was a highlight, rising to a thrilling climax...

I thought the choir was fantastic.

Soloists add the gilding to any oratorio and having Dunedin-trained Anna Leese in the country for a short visit of recitals was a real bonus.

Prolonged applause and footstamping followed the resounding "Amens", and tired but jubilant musicians felt the buzz of completing yet another outstanding delivery of this 1742 masterpiece."

Performance: Handel's Messiah, Dunedin Town Hall, 11 December 2007

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Sublime performance

 Performance: Elgar's Dream of Gerontius, Dunedin Town Hall, 8 September 2007 

The City of Dunedin Choir with members of the Southern Consort of Voices and the St Paul's Cathedral Choir, the Southern Sinfonia, tenor David Hamilton, mezzo-soprano Helen Medlyn and bass David Griffiths, with conductor David Burchell, Dunedin Town Hall. Extract from the review by Elizabeth Bouman in the Otago Daily Times:

"This late Romantic oratorio, written by Edward Elgar in 1900, is challenging for any choir. Saturday's performance was sublime and all credit to organisers for presenting such a grand work in our city."

"Stunning choral sound lifted Praise in the Holiest to great heights, contrasting with subtle shading of the many gentle more restrained passages. The Demon's Chorus was a highlight - rythmically taut and contrastingly vibrant."

"Conductor David Burchell is to be complimented on leading both Choir and Sinfonia successfully through this two-hour journey with unflagging energy, an impressive sense of drama, and sensitivity."