On a day when New Zealanders were glued to screens to witness the modern kiwi phenomenon called an All Blacks victory, I had the privilege of being transported to 17th Century England to hear works of the greats: Purcell and Handel presented by Scholars Baroque Aotearoa and Consort.
St Peter’s Anglican Church, Mt Maunganui, although not quite St Paul’s Cathedral, was a fitting venue for these works, a lovely acoustic and an intimate setting for the instrumentation of chamber choir and orchestra. The fear I often have with works like these is that it is very difficult to maintain a balance of voice to instrument while maintaining a cohesive sound. This fear was not realised. The orchestra managed to blend exceptionally well with each other and the choir, leaving space for soloists and matching the full weight of the chorus. The fantastic piccolo trumpet playing of Bill Stoneham, the somehow lyrical and metronomic playing of the cellist Yotam Levy and the exceptional Continuo of Dr. Indra Hughes (who wrote the very note-worthy programme notes) were my instrumental highlights of the evening. Guest soloists Cecily Shaw and Aidan Phillips gripped the audience with superb command. Local heroes shone through just as brightly. Tenor Jeandré Le Roux was faultless in his execution of difficult passages.
In the final movement the Scholars mustered a sound so powerful that I felt it in my bones. We felt glimpses of this throughout the evening but it was at the climax of the final work that the power was finally released. The audience was so enthralled with this finale that they sat, holding their applause until Maestro Chalium Poppy dropped his hands in a bow.
As Mr. Poppy explained, this was a work that held personal significance in his journey as a musician. This emotion was felt, respected and shared by the Scholars and their audience creating an evocative performance. How privileged we are to have such a talented group of musicians in regional New Zealand.
Review by Josh Crump
Performed with Jubilate Ensemble
on Sunday 22nd September
at St. Peter's Anglican Church, Mount Maunganui