4th Annual Messiah with NZbarok - Review

Photo by Ezra Newick, 2018

Photo by Ezra Newick, 2018

If I were to sit down with ballpoint pen and a ream of manuscript paper for 8 hours a day over three and a half weeks, I could copy George Handel’s Messiah in its entirety. I’ll get around to it.

In 1741, Handel, armed with quills and inkpots, spent the same time composing 53 movements. The result was a two and a half hour long Messiah with minimal alterations. If that fact amazes you, then wait until you hear the music.

With hundreds of others, I had the pleasure of attending a performance of this work at St. Mary Immaculate Church last Saturday, performed by Scholars Baroque Aotearoa with NZBarok Orchestra and four exceptional soloists. The quality was such that I could have closed my eyes and pretended I was anywhere in the world at any time. But I wasn’t. Thankfully, I was in Tauranga.

The perfectly played period instruments interweaved with Scholars Baroque Aotearoa. To describe the choir as ‘angelic’ would be an understatement. I watched the audience as often as I watched the performers and sat back in awe as the emotions of the crowd visibly rose and fell with the intensity of the work. I couldn’t help but smile as others sang along to their favourite chorus with fingers and feet set free in a range of joy-induced polyrhythmic brilliance.

Following an early performance of the piece, Handel was thanked for bringing entertainment to London, to which he replied “I should be sorry if I only entertained them. I wish to make them better”. Maestro Chalium Poppy must be thanked for the entertainment factor, donning traditional attire and leading the ensemble with personality and flair. However, it was also this man’s job to achieve Handel’s ultimate goal for the Messiah, to make people feel better. And he did just that.

Thank you Maestro, Scholars Baroque Aotearoa and NZBarok. This was our Messiah, Tauranga, and certainly I feel better for having enjoyed it with you.

Review by Matt Bodman

Performed with NZbarok
on Saturday, November 24
at Saint Mary Immaculate Church