Handel’s Messiah: a choral concert reviewed by Victor Grynberg

December 14, 2022 by Victor Grynberg
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Since I attended the opening of the Sydney Opera House 50 years ago, I have attended perhaps more than 1500 performances there.

The Sydney Philharmonia Choirs at the Sydney Opera House. Photo: Simon Crossley-Meates

It’s easy to say those performances have been of all shapes and sizes with music ranging from the 12th Century (Hildegard von Bingen) to compositions of this year.

Handel’s Messiah is one piece of music often performed at this time of the year. Since its premiere in 1742, this composition has been continuously in the repertoire in Christian countries and churches.

I’d never attended a concert of the Messiah before but this year I wanted to hear what made this so special. Three sold-out performances at the Concert Hall of the SOH is indicative of the popularity.

Performed by four outstanding soloists and the combined Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, supported by the Sydney Philharmonia Orchestra all conducted by the maestro Brett Weymark.

After a short musical introduction, it was quite astounding to see a choir of almost 700 singers rise. What they produced was magnificent with the wonderful new acoustics of the Concert Hall.

I’ve attended concerts with, say 300 singers before, but 700! Starting with a collection of regular Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, we also had choirs from western Sydney (River City Voices), the Wollongong Messiah Choir and 400 voices from what’s been described as the Sydney Philharmonia Christmas Choir. Many of that particular choir were, in fact, non-auditioned. Ordinary members of the public with a love of singing and a willingness to put in countless hours of rehearsal, so the final product was superb!

I’ve long thought Brett Weymark was one of Australia’s musical jewels, and his record of conducting choral groups for over 20 years to the very highest standard is proof of his ability. Brett may have an OAM after his name, but despite being a Republican, I’d love to see a Sir in front of his name. Similarly, for artists like Graeme Murphy and Richard Tognetti.

Much loved Soprano Lorina Gore headed an excellent quartet of soloists. Her purity of voice rang out across the hall, as did the tones of Mezzo Ashlyn Tymms, Tenor Nicholas Jones and Baritone Morgan Pearse. I suspect we will see a lot more of these three younger artists in years to come.

As the name implies, this oratorio is about the life of Jesus, but the text has all been taken from the Old Testament, which is why in 2016, a performance of this work was presented in Israel with the original old Hebrew of the bible replacing Handel’s use of the English translation.

Just to hear the big hit, the super famous Hallelujah Chorus, sung so perfectly by so many makes the concert worthwhile.

To all those who worked so hard, Bravo.

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