Thursday, March 29, 2012


Christ Church St Laurence present the Lenten Concert 2012: MESSIAH by G.F. Handel at Christ Church St Laurence, Railway Square, Sydney.

I once sang in a choir, Handel's ACIS AND GALATEA. I loved it. My family household was not very 'art' conscious at all, but along with L.P. recordings of Mario Lanza (my dad's favorite) we did have highlights from Handel's MESSIAH featuring Joan Sutherland. I recently bought for myself a DVD recording of the MESSIAH featuring Cantillation and Teddy Tahu Rhodes from ABC Classics (2002). I had heard a very stimulating discussion on the Handel work on ABC Radio National during their Summer Season and thought it was time I had the music close at hand. Besides, I love the baroque 'noise'-music very much, as well.

At the same time that I became aware of THE MERCHANT OF VENICE being performed at the Genesian Theatre, scanning the What's On in the  Sydney Morning Herald, I saw that the MESSIAH was to be given at Christ Church St Laurence. A chance to hear it live and in an intimate and ' holy' space. Sunday afternoon at 3pm.

It was moving for me to be seated on two different occasions in two churches in the one weekend. I was brought  up a Catholic and although I am now R.C. (retired catholic), once a Catholic always a Catholic, they say! The Genesian Theatre building dates from 1868 as a Catholic Church, St John the Evangelist, and it has served many functions in its time until 1954 when it became the home of The Genesian Theatre Company which was formed in 1944. The remnants of the church architecture dominates the theatre experience. On the other hand Christ Church St Laurence, part of the Church of England, founded in 1845 is still a functioning  church. I had never been in the building before but was aware of the fame of the Church's choir. The interior of the church is suitably cool and historic in its furnishings. A sense of genteel austerity mixed with ritual celebration. This being a Lenten Concert, the holy images are swathed in purple cloth, awaiting the Easter season and its major celebrations. The Messiah oratorio examines the death and resurrection of the Christ and the text provides a biblical commentary on the significance of Jesus as Messiah in Christian thought and belief.

The Choir of Christ Church St Laurence and The St Laurence Baroque Orchestra presented MESSIAH by G.F. Handel. Amy Corkey(Soprano), Anna Dowsley (alto), Christopher Saunders (tenor), Craig Everingham (bass) under musical director Neil McEwan.

The performance was reverent and steady paced with all the pauses unrushed. I revelled in the sound and the intimacy of the performance even if I did wish that the tempo overall was a little more urgent. The work kind of languished in the respectful approach and seemed to lack the vigour of the urgency of the content. On a few occasions, when the  urgency was taken up e.g. the bass air, "Why do the nations so furiously rage...." it pinpointed my restless with the too leveled tempo telling.

In that place, the Christ Church of St Laurence, with this music, it was a pleasant means to meditate, in the autumnal light through the stained glass windows, on one's own life and the impending sense of mortality, that I feel coming, a little too fast. Is there an after life? This work urges one to desire it was so. Richly so.

Whatever my contemporary logic urges, once a Catholic always a Catholic. I still bless myself when passing a church, just in case God is watching!!!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was at this concert on the Saturday night and I too loved the music being played in this lovely church. Hearing the Messiah for me is always a moving experience and in these beautiful surroundings and a lush acoustic it gave a special quality that was so very much appreciated by the audiences. I agree with you that there was a lack of urgency with the recits that made the 'Theatre' of the piece lag but this is a minor quibble. The highlight for me( and my reason for being there)was to hear Christopher Saunders. I have heard him sing the Messiah at the Sydney Opera House before and I'm always moved by his performances. I wonder if he is a Christian? He certainly believes every word he sings and his tenor has a special quality. I'm looking forward to attending more concerts. R.