Fauré Requiem and a selection of songs by New Zealand composers, Nelson Civic Choir and Orchestra, Nigel E. Weeks Conductor, Hunter Meek, soprano, Iain Tetley, baritone, Paul Rosoman, organ, Nelson School of Music Auditorium, NCMA, Sunday 24 November 2019, reviewed by Ruth Allison.
The Nelson Civic Choir is going from strength to strength. Under the assured baton of conductor Nigel E. Weeks and with an impressive array of sponsors, they are bringing choral quality to receptive and appreciative audiences. Sunday’s concert played to a full house, a state of affairs guaranteed to raise morale and encourage future enterprise and ambition.
The quality in this instance was charismatic singing from Whanganui baritone Iain Tetley, a piercingly, haunting Pie Jesu from Kapiti Coast young soprano Hunter Meek and fine, supportive organ accompaniment from Wellington International Concert Organist Paul Rosoman, to say nothing of their own local piano accompanist, Kate Scarlett. With strong reinforcement from a small chamber orchestra, the choir rose to the occasion. Despite some tentative starts from all sections of the choir, the Requiem showed sensitivity and control. The conductor moved gracefully through the seven movements, at times attaining an admirable cohesion with choir, orchestra and soloists to reflect the peace and consolation which Fauré saw as the focus of his work. Baritone Iain Tetley contributed gravitas and richness in the Offertory and Libera Me which served to heighten the clarity and a rightfully unadorned delivery of the Pie Jesus from Hunter Meek. The requiem finished with a sensitive In Paradisium.
It is always heartening to hear New Zealand composers being performed and the Choir’s choice of several songs in the second half by composers Chris Artley, David Childs and David Hamilton proved popular. These were accessible, comfortably managed by the choir and thoughtfully performed. The choir looked happy; this always has a positive flow-on effect for the audience. St Luke’s Magnificat by David Hamilton had the added bonus of a beautifully scored organ accompaniment. Making the most of visiting baritone Iain Tetley, the choir programmed a performance of Handel’s Where’er You Walk. This insightful rendition, with its careful embellishments, was a special treat, as was Mallote’s popular The Lord’s Prayer.
One of the all-time-greats, Zadok the Priest, made a rousing finale. Sung with enthusiasm and clear diction, this coronation anthem for King George II in 1727 by Handel was a fitting end to a cracking concert. As my companion commented, ‘I wonder if it will be played for Prince Charles when he ever gets to be crowned king?’ If that time comes. In the meantime, with the celebration of their 160th anniversary in 2020, this concert augurs well for the Nelson Civic Choir. Congratulations on a fine performance.