Haydn's Creation with Opus

The world quite literally came to The Bay of Plenty last Saturday evening with a stunning musical performance of Joseph Haydn’s The Creation by an ensemble of world-class musicians and singers. They came together under the superb baton of guest conductor Indra Hughes to bring this musical masterpiece especially to Tauranga. The audience of several hundred was spellbound from start to finish.

Written between 1797 and 1798 this oratorio celebrates the biblical story of ‘God’s creation of the world over six days’ as described in the Book of Genesis and Milton’s Paradise Lost.

This beautiful work, sung in English, is in three parts for soprano, tenor and bass soloists with a chorus and orchestra. It conveys not only Haydn’s musical sensitivity and, at times, his Handel-like weight, but also his humour and accessibility, which delightfully match voice and instrumentation to the elements of the creation story: the beginnings of earth, light, darkness, sky, water, seas, plant life, animals and ultimately, man and woman – Adam and Eve.

Parts one and two unfold with the orchestra and the three soloists as Archangels Raphael (Chalium Poppy, bass), Uriel (Iain Tetley, tenor) and Gabriel (Jayne Tankersley, soprano) interspersed with passages from the choir. Part three depicts Adam and Eve, represented by Poppy and Tankersley, as soloists and duets with the choir and orchestra.

As Raphael, Chalium Poppy opens with a gentle then rich bass delivery to begin our journey. The world is created before us as the three perfectly-pitched soloists, the choir and orchestra weave the story illustrating the six days of creation. Poppy, Tetley and Tankersley display great vocal heights and depths that are superbly controlled throughout as we imagine, through music and voice, the elements of the creation. Haydn’s playfulness is delightfully captured by Poppy and Tankersley together with the orchestra as they convey, for example the creation of the animals. As tenor, Tetley’s role as Uriel was effortless and thoroughly absorbing with his beautiful pitch and soaring, elegant notes.

The setting at St Mary Immaculate Church enabled us as an audience to sit right alongside conductor Indra Hughes and the orchestra and witness closely their energy and talents. For example, Japanese-born Yoshiko Tsuruta’s thrilling playing of timpani was almost taiko-like. The choir’s thoroughly professional and polished performance connected to us with confidence and warmth.

Conductor and musical director Indra Hughes took us along with the musicians and singers. He directed the performance with delicacy, strength, precision and a physicality that drew us into this enchanting world from beginning to end.

Chalium Poppy, Iain Tetley, and Jayne Tankersley, as well as Indra Hughes and several members of the choir and orchestra are all highly acclaimed musicians with years of international experience and expertise who have individually chosen to make their homes in Aotearoa - New Zealand. Several live in Mt Maunganui, Tauranga or nearby and all share a love of musical depth. Together, they delivered a superb performance that concluded with the audience on its feet for a 10-minute ovation, and in which they did themselves and Tauranga proud.

Scholars Pro Musica’s musical director, Chalium Poppy, moved to Mt Maunganui five years ago after a distinguished career as a church-based musician, conductor, oratorio soloist, operatic singer in Europe and North America. He has set about to generously share his knowledge and passion for classical and sacred music in the Bay of Plenty working as a full-time musician and establishing his chamber choir. It has been his dream to present Haydn’s The Creation here in Tauranga and on Saturday night he realised his dream. Poppy’s ‘creation’ certainly deserves to be seen more widely than Tauranga and his music leadership for the region more than merits the ongoing and growing support of local patrons and sponsors alike.

Scholars Pro Musica’s (now Scholars Baroque Aotearoa) next performance, along with soloists Jayne Tankersley, Stephen Diaz, Iain Tetley and Tavis Gravatt, under the musical directorship of Chalium Poppy, is Handel’s Messiah, on Saturday 19 November at St Mary’s Immaculate Church. Don’t miss it.

Annette Scullion
Saturday 27 August, 2016
St Mary's Catholic Church, Tauranga