When: Friday 6th May 2016
Where: Casablanca Theatre, Rotorua
Musical Director: Evelyn Falconer
Thanks to the enterprise and enthusiasm of their conductor Evelyn Falconer, and the choir's energy and style, their Show Stoppers was indeed a hit with the audience. She had chosen with discernment some of the cream of songs from Broadway musicals, those which have lasted and would have been remembered well by many in the audience. With the help of colourful costumes and the atmosphere in the home of Rotorua's musical theatre, the singers revelled at the chance to indulge in some showbiz. The arrangements of the songs for four-part choirs had the stamp of quality and impact, and gave musical substance to the singers who had a discipline coming from standard choral works. The programme was studded with the names of worthy lyric writers and composers, like Bernstein, Sondheim, Gershwin, Lerner and Loewe, so that many of songs had musicality and depth. The appeal of others came from being so tuneful or convivial, but all of them could be enjoyment with affection. Evelyn sang too, joining three friends as the corporate entertainers Off Broadway, to adding pizzazz and vitality to the concerts. The unflagging accompanying trio, led by pianist Kathryn Lauder, was a great boon to the singers.
Hanno Fairburn via Rotorua Daily Post
Who: Opus Orchestra with Hamilton Civic Choir and Rotorua District Choir
When: Saturday 12th December 2015
Where: Founders Theatre, Hamilton
Musical Director: Peter Walls
Soloists: Soprano - Madison Nonoa, Alto – Kate Spence, Tenor – Filipe Manu, Bass – Chalium Poppy.
Handel's sacred Oratorio the Messiah composed in 1742, judging from the size of the large audience is still loved through the generations by audiences 272 years later. The work is long and has many sections, so occasionally performances are reduced by omitting some of the sections; in this performance there were no cuts, so the audience were treated to the complete Messiah.
Firstly, all the soloists performed with distinction, with beautifully weighted phrases. Madison Nonoa, with her beautifully clear light lyrical soprano hues proved captivating in I know that my Redeemer liveth. Kate Spence's gorgeous velvety colours were well articulated in O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, and in the heartfelt and unhurried He was despised and rejected of men. Filipe Manu from the beginning set the tone for the performance, his rich patina in the opening Comfort ye, comfort ye my people saith your God, was like silk, while his Thou shalt break them, was purposeful and strong. Chalium Poppy's dark lustres and dramatic tones captured the essence of And I will shake all nations, while the lyric while element shone in The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light. The famous bass solo (or duet with trumpet soloist Bill Stoneham), The trumpet shall sound, was unforgettable and proved one of the solo highlights.
The Hamilton and Rotorua Choirs singing 10 choruses, requires considerable stamina and the ability to pace themselves. This was done from the opening And the glory of the Lord, through to many of the favourites, For unto us a child is born, and Let us brake their bonds asunder, to the famous Hallelujah chorus, where everyone stood and the final magnificent Worthy is the Lamb, followed by the glorious final Amen.
Finally to the Opus Orchestra and Director Peter Walls, who's well-paced and stylishly measured was not too fast, nor to slow; Walls lets the music breathe, where rests are as important as the notes, it was consistent in tempi and style, which created a unified thoughtful performance where Opus was well balanced and blended with choir and soloists. This set the foundation for a very memorable performance being an excellent interpretation of one of the greatest oratorios. All involved should be exceptionally pleased with the results.
Review by Andew Burchanan-Smart via Stuff
Where: Rotorua Civic Theatre
When: Sunday 13 December 2015
This wholely admirable performance showed resoundingly why Handel's great oratorio has been ever-popular for over 250 years.
The Rotorua Districrt Choir, Hamilton Civic Choir, fine soloists and Opus Orchestra emphasized in Handel's broad and dignified music the qualities of the story of Christ which are in turn touching, majestic and exciting.
Conductor Peter Walls managed these forces splendidly, deftly controlling the ebb and flow of the work's drama to give it freshness and integrity.
Both choirs had been thoroughly prepared separately and blended impressively for an agile and incisive performance.
They had sound support from the resilient Opus Orchestra, with a
solid underpinning by cellos, basses and harpsichord.
A feeling prevailed that there was a full understanding between conductor, singers and orchestra, with each inspiring the others.
All four soloists were commendable, vitally effective in their own roles and always convincing.
Soprano Madison Nonoa had great appeal for her bell-like tones and satiny smoothness, while Kate Spence's pliant alto voice over a wide range was marked by total sincerity.
Filipe Manu 's strong tenor voice and measured words lent a heartfelt nature to all he sang, and the stirring resonance of bass Chalium Poppy gave his arias authority and impact.
Saturday 19 September 2015
Conductor: David Squire
The large audience heard a massed choir perform the Requiem with passion and energy, and one worthy of the great composer.
Singers had been drawn from the Rotorua District Choir and thirteen other choirs around the Central North Island and trained separately.
They came together admirably and blended consistently, with notable support from the Mozart Festival Orchestra.
There was strength in all sections and they never sounded unwieldy even though the singers were widely dispersed.
The concert started with satisfying accounts of Ave Verum and Laudate Dominum, then a lively strings-only Divertimento conducted by Jim McGregor.
Conductor David Squire got fine choral qualities from the singers and a fitting intensity for this funeral mass which depicts the dramatic journey of the human soul to eternal light.
He skilfully controlled the flow between the quiet passages and climaxes like the stark Dies Irae, with its vision of burning souls, and Rex tremendae which expresses the terror of the day of judgement.
Four soloists were somewhat over shadowed by the force of the choir, but lent a gratifying tone to the work.
Despite its modest size, the orchestra had the power to meet the singers' needs, especially from the brass and timpani
Great credit must go to all those who organised and presented this remarkable event.
Saturday 26 September 2015
Conductor: David Squire
Then on Sunday people came from all points of Waikato’s compass to almost fill the 800 seats in the Chapel of Christ the King at St Paul’s Collegiate, to hear the final performance of A-Massed Mozart which had been presented in Rotorua, Taupo, Tauranga over the previous week. We know that New Zealand has an international reputation for its long tradition and high standard of choral singing. Well this concert certainly demonstrated that. The combined choir of about 150 under the fine conducting of David Squire sang Ave verum corpus and Laudate Dominum first. They filled the huge space with a unified sound of such great beauty and warmth we were quite carried away. The major work was the Mozart Requiem. This was simply stunning. These huge vocal forces were able to overwhelm us not only with the sheer volume of sound but also a driving intensity that was awe inspiring. It gave an epic quality that reminded me of the storm scene in King Lear. It also struck me how so much of this mighty work, especially the first half, is unrelenting in its energy and emotional agitation. This was a concert the like of which I cannot recall experiencing before or if so a long time ago. The soloists Madison Nonoa, Elisha Hulton, Filipe Manu and Ian Campbell made a glorious contribution and the non-professional Mozart Festival Orchestra conducted by Jim McGregor provided a very creditable accompaniment which added an essential part to the occasion. There is no space or time to explain how this project came about but all thanks must go to the NZ Choral Federation Waikato/Bay of Plenty branch under the inspired chair of Jayne Tankersley for producing this event. I must however list the choirs taking part to illustrate how wide and deep is choral activity in this region and beyond: Oriana Singers, Rotorua District Choir, Taihape Arcadian Singers, Taupo Choral Society, Tauranga Civic Choir, Waitomo Caves Choir, Edgecumbe Choir of Whakatane, Thames Chorale - and singers from these Hamilton choirs, Cantando, Cantamus, Festival Choir, Hamilton Civic Choir, MineAccord and Mosaic.
This wonderful enterprise must become an annual event. What about Beethoven’s Mass in C major next? Or the Dvořák Requiem?
Saturday 6 June 2015
Conductor: Martyn Heath
Conductor Martyn Heath skilfully marshalled together his alert singers
and an eager orchestra to deliver compelling results for two works with religious origins but in very different styles: the heartfelt and the hearty.
Schubert's devotional German Mass was marked by the choir's pleasing sincerity and mellow support from the mainly wind instruments, but it was impaired by uneasy brass one-bar flourishes at the end of each section.
Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, one of the most popular of choral works for its mixture of excitement and warm, vocally-rich textures, is a secular celebration with themes of Fortune, Nature and Love, and it awesomely blends Medieval textures and ear-catching modern sounds.
Although the thunderous opening for Fortune is so familiar, the choir's exuberance and riveting timpani made hearing it still arousing.
The singers had commitment and tonal reponsiveness right through the work's many changes of pace and mood, with the orchestra's strength and nimbleness letting it be an effective equal partner.
There was much to relish, like the womens' tender middle section of Floret Silva and the mens' driving rhythms in Fortune Plango.
This Carmina Burana stands as one of the choir's most impressive and memorable performances for its dynamism and songful radiance.
Christmas from Around the World
5th December 2014
Conductor: Martyn Heath
The choir's annual carol concert has become a cherished event in Rotorua's music calendar.
An imaginative programme, the building's great character, and the intimate placement of singers and audience all contributed to an occasion which had an overwhelming feeling of good fellowship and optimism.
Even if the choir's performance suffered from the difficult acoustics caused by the choir's placement and a distinctive architecture, the sheer enjoyment of the occasion was hardly spoilt.
Conductor Martyn Heath had selected some carols in the English tradition, like 'Joy to the World' and 'We Wish You a Merry Christmas', but most of the programme was taken from the wide variety of the places and times where Christmas has been celebrated.
If some of the new carols were not as affecting as they could have been, this came from their unfamiliarity in contrast to that of the hearty old favourites.
Especailly appealing was the programme's extensive range of moods and styles, from the touching 'Huron Carol' to the down- to -earth 'cowboy Carol'.
A full complement of recorders from descant to contra-bass in the 'Out of the Woodwork' ensemble gave a rich, mellow sound with fitted in splendidly with the singers and the surroundings.
Kathryn Lauder's deft keyboard accompaniment gave the choir admirable support.
Songs of Two Cities 13th July 2014
There was some sort of chemistry in the air which made an open-hearted concert by two fine choirs into a celebration of choral singing.
The well-prepared choirs from Michigan, USA and Rotorua caught the spirit of the occasion, and relished an imaginative and varied programme.
Each choir thrived both at the chance to show off their undoubted qualities to the other when singing on their own and when joining forces.
They had the benefit of having conductors, James Parker and Evelyn Falconer, who are outstanding motivators and equipped with impressive skills at getting choral ensemble and expression from singers.
The visitors' convincing Maori pronunciation in the Maori folk hymn Ka Waiata a Maria and their heart-felt performances of American spirituals made these highlights.
Their strong American "can do" attitude came out in a medley from Les Miserables when many choir members came forward as soloists.
A sense of fun was added by the Rotorua choir in the witty Moa song and 'Fats' Waller's The Joint is Jumpin'.
When the choirs combined for two songs their voices blended splendidly. Both the Rogers and Hammerstein If I Loved You and the popular Hine e Hine with soloist Elizabeth Pilaar were very touching.
Lullaby of Broadway
Under the theme of Lullaby of Broadway, the Rotorua District choir celebrated the joy of living with a heart-warming spring programme.
Their conductor Evelyn Falconer had chosen appealing Broadway and Hollywood hits, mostly from the 1930s, an era when the emphasis was on catchy or buoyant tunes.
All were cheerful, tasteful and melodious, ranging from the easy sentiments of Over the Rainbow to the gusto of Fats Waller's The Joint is Jumpin'.
Rather than adopting Broadway pizzazz, the choir had its expected disciplined style and the ensemble's lyrical and expressive singing added a welcome degree of sensitivity to the performance.
Their new venue had some distinct advantages, like good visibility for the audience and an atmosphere which fitted the sophistication of the programme.
Kathryn Lauder's keyboard accompaniment gave the choir splendid support and the instrument's tones, which ranged from the smooth to brassy, suited well the musical style of each number.
A toe-tapping injection of optimism and melody came from the dynamic Western Heights High School Big Band.
Under their inspiring director Paul Sanders, the players put energy and jauntiness into swing numbers, spiced up by the sparkling talents of brass and drum soloists and a vocalist.
By Hanno Fairburn