Scholars in splendid form for demanding Handel works

Crowns and Kings

BOP Times Review

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Chalium Poppy, music director of the Tauranga choir Scholars Pro Musica (now Scholars Baroque Aotearoa), ventured where many choral directors may fear to tread in choosing George Frederick Handel's showpiece Dixit Dominus to open the Scholars' second concert for 2018. 

The prodigiously gifted German-born 22-year-old Handel was in Rome (1707) spreading his wings when he composed this Tour de Force. Dixit Dominus requires unremitting energy and dramatic intensity.

Did the Scholars pull it off? 

Yes, they did!

Poppy led the choir with NZbarok orchestra accompanying in an exuberant performance that has taken them to a new level of achievement. There was energy and precision, crisp articulation of the fast semiquaver passages, rhythmic buoyancy and enviable phrasing. 

Five soloists are called for in Dixit Dominus. Sopranos Jayne Tankersley (one of New Zealand's most experienced singers of the music from this period) and Regan McFarlane duetted with elegant poise. Mezzo-soprano Cecily Shaw, tenor Iain Tetley and bass Tavis Gravatt added fascinating texture. 

The second half of the concert found Handel in England (1727) now a nationalised British citizen and commissioned to compose the music for the coronation of King George II and Queen Caroline. 

The first Anthem, Zadok the Priest, a work of such unsurpassed genius, has been sung at every British coronation since. The orchestra's rather subdued arpeggio introduction only served to highlight the spine-tingling explosion of sound at the choir's entry. 

There was beauty of tone and musical intelligence in the singing of the stately Let Justice and Judgment part of the 2nd Anthem.

The 3rd Anthem My Heart is Inditing, composed for the crowning of Queen Caroline was more reflective in style. Here was contrast between the demure queen and the virile king. Here again was a demonstration from the Scholars of the ebb and flow of the musical phrase which has become a hallmark of Chalium Poppy's choral musicianship. 

The 4th Anthem The King Shall Rejoice had trumpets sounding, timpani crashing and the Scholars in most splendid form. There was prolonged applause for a very fine concert of some of the finest ceremonial music ever written. 


Review by Christine Leaf
Published in The Bay of Plenty Times
Thursday, August 30, 2018

Performed with NZbarok
on Saturday, August 25
at Saint Mary Immaculate Church