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Demanding ‘Messiah’ sung with skill and confidence

The Canberra Choral Society Massed Choir and Orchestra performing “Messiah”. Photo: Peter Hislop.

Music / “Messiah”, Canberra Choral Society Massed Choir and Orchestra, Music by George Frideric Handel, conducted by Dr Graeme Morton. At Llewellyn Hall December 3. Reviewed by LEN POWER.

COMPOSED in 1741 by George Frideric Handel, “Messiah” was first performed in Dublin, Ireland, in 1742. Since then it has become one of the best-known and most frequently performed choral works in the world.

George Frideric Handel.

In three parts, the first concerns itself with the prediction by the “Old Testament” prophets of the Messiah’s coming and the virgin birth. 

The second covers the annunciation, Christ’s passion, his death, resurrection and ascension, the first spreading of the Gospel through the world and culminates in God’s glory with the famous “Hallelujah” chorus. 

In the third part, there is the promise of redemption, a prediction of the Day of Judgement, the final victory over sin and death and the acclamation of Christ.

The Canberra Choral Society Massed Choir and Orchestra plus four soloists under the baton of conductor, Dr Graeme Morton produced a memorable evening of fine music.

The orchestra began with “Sinfony”, played with assurance and skill, and this fine level of performance continued throughout the concert. Its sensitive playing of the pastoral “Pifa” was particularly notable.

The four soloists – Susannah Lawergren, soprano; Stephanie Dillon, contralto; Andrew Goodwin, tenor, and Andrew Fysh, bass, sang with accuracy and warmth.

Lawergren’s solos in “The Annunciation of the Shepherds” and “Christ’s Healing and Redemption” were memorably sung, especially “Rejoice Greatly, O daughter of Zion”.

“Messiah” conductor Graeme Morton. Photo: Peter Hislop.

Dilllon’s solo, “He was Despised and Rejected” and her duet in the third part with Goodwin, “O Death Where is Thy Sting”, were particularly memorable.

Goodwin gave “Ev’ry Valley Shall be Exalted” a fine performance early in the evening. His beautiful tenor voice and fine diction brought out all the shades of meaning in the words. “Thy Rebuke Hath Broken His Heart” in the second part was sung with great sensitivity.

Fysh, with his first solo “Thus Saith the Lord of Hosts”, proved to be in fine voice and his breath control was excellent in “Why do the Nations so Furiously Rage Together?” and “The Trumpet shall Sound” (with great trumpet work by Brendan Tasker) was also especially well sung.

The large chorus sang the demanding music with skill and confidence throughout. Highlights were “For Unto us a Child is Born”, “All we, Like Sheep, Have Gone Astray”, “Since by Man came Death”, as well as an astounding performance of “Hallelujah”.

This was a great evening of sublime music with everyone at the top of their game.

“Messiah” soloists directed by Graeme Morton. Photo: Peter Hislop.

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