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Winning combination results in an evening of entertaining music

Review 10 April 2021

Local hero, conductor Nigel Weeks QSM proved once again just how essential he is to Nelson’s musical world with his ability to put together a very entertaining evening of music, blending local choirs, musicians, and guest stars.

His judicious combining of the Nelson Youth Choir and our venerable Civic Choir provided some lovely sound.

The accompanying orchestra excellently complemented John Rutter’s Mass of the Children, the featured work, a modern (2003) composition that contains the usual parts of the Missa Brevis, but also includes intervals of spiritual poetry.

The Gloria, especially, was full of interesting and difficult cross-rhythms executed by the choir with such confidence and brio as to suggest some Aaron Copland vision of the American West.

Some have taxed Rutter for his pop influences but I felt these were in good taste. I particularly enjoyed the young voices sweetly singing Rutter’s setting of the famous William Blake poem Little Lamb, who made Thee? as part of the Agnus Dei, with Civic’s gentle underpinning.

The Dona Nobis Pacem was interspersed with lovely Rutter settings of appropriate poems sung by soloists, soprano Lilia Carpinelli and baritone Chris McRae, whose voices were a most satisfying match in timbre.

The net result was an interesting interpretation of the Missa Brevis, for which the combined choirs, soloists, and orchestra all deserve full credit.

In contrast, John Ireland’s Greater Love Hath No Man felt a little underdone and perhaps of another era, in spite of the help of Lilia Carpinelli’s soprano solos and the reliable organ accompaniment of Alan Gray.

To see what really goes on in the production of sounds from the Cawthron Organ as a part of the stage spectacle is a tribute to his discrete professionalism.

The audience was entranced by guest pianist Matteo Napoli’s wonderful renditions of Chopin’s Nocturne no.2, op.27, and the Polonaise op.22, a virtuoso performance that had us on our feet applauding. How lucky we are to have the husband and wife team of Lilia and Matteo bringing us such talent.

Hear my Prayer, by Mendelssohn, ended the concert and featured Carpinelli and Chris McRae as soloists, with organ accompanying the choir. Such a war-horse, yet fresh every time! The choir must be able to sing it in their sleep but delivered a well-nuanced chorus behind the soaring solo soprano lines and reliable baritone support from Chris McRae.

Well done to all the musicians who have had to work around Covid restrictions. Your audience appreciated listening to great live music once more.

Jenny Snadden  reviewed Mass of the Children, by John Rutter. Nelson Civic Choir and soloists, Saturday, April 10, Nelson School of Music Auditorium.


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