25 November 2019

So this is Christmas

It's Messiah so it must be Christmas. We went to Handel Messiah. Not a rare event, but a pleasant one. This time, in Llewellyn Hall, with nice comfy seats in place of church pews, so that was a plus. Not the only plus, of course. It's a great work, very memorable and attractive and satisfying as choral works are. And it's a work of audience participation, standing as we all did through the Hallelujah chorus, then clapping. The clapping surprised me. It's the end of part two, but I didn't expect the interruption of applause. Roland Peelman was up front, conducting from the harpsichord chair, flailing and emoting as he does so effectively. Anything Roland puts his hands to is gold. And the orchestra was that. They worked hard, certainly not least Kyle on bass, and it was consistently comfortable and easy and melodious. Peter Clark led from the first violin chair, emoting with body movements and leading a very responsive and neatly consonant and flowing group. Amy Moore, Stephanie Dillon, Richard Butler and Andrew O'Connor sang the solo parts with confidence. At various times, I was convinced by each of them. The choir was large, Canberra Choral Society Massed Choir, being the CCS augmented with paying unauditioned guests. I toyed with this one year, but it's a big ask, a short, intensive preparation and quite costly. So no. The Llewellyn never grants players the ability to overwhelm with power and volume. No different here: for all the numbers, the choir was not powerfully loud, although you adjust and it is satisfying. The part were a little unbalanced, too, but that's a function of lack of men in choirs and largely unavoidable. Dan Walker had clearly prepared the choir well with Anthony Smith as accompanist. But the time went quickly, and I felt more intimacy this time than most. Perhaps the choruses or the structure is becoming better known to me, but the hours (3.5 hours from start to end, including the interval) went intriguingly and pleasantly. It's a lovely tradition if a harsh story that's less central to our society these days. But the program argued it had been written as entertainment, for theatre rather than church, and so it's fitting and it worked. A big and satisfying production.

The Canberra Choral Society, its massed choir and orchestra, performed Handel Messiah at Llewellyn Hall under Roland Peelman (conductor) with Peter Clark (concertmaster) , Amy Moore (soprano), Stephanie Dillon (alto), Richard Butler (tenor) and Andrew O'Connor (bass).

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