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Congratulations to Joseph Nolan and the Cathedral Consort for their performance of Messiah at Perth Concert Hall last Tuesday night, which has netted rave reviews in The West Australian and on Arts Hub.

Mr William Yeoman of The West wrote:

"A famous yoga teacher once said (and I paraphrase from memory here) imprecision was an impiety. The same could be said about the performance of sacred music — or indeed any music of real quality. It’s not a question of honouring God; it’s a question of honouring the composer, the audience, fellow musicians and, of course, yourself.

But precision is only half the story. And that’s where a performer such as organist and St George’s Cathedral master of the choristers Joseph Nolan comes in. His is a precision born of passion, commitment and, yes, a sense of honour.

Which is why Tuesday night’s performance of Handel’s sacred masterpiece Messiah was such an unqualified triumph. Although performed with reduced forces approximating those Handel used in Dublin in 1742, the effect was as overwhelming, if not more so, than that of a more usual larger choir and orchestra.

So: nine string players using baroque instruments and bows; two natural trumpets and timpani; a harpsichord and chamber organ (Stewart Smith in fine form); a 16-voice choir.

The venerable soloists will be no strangers to Perth audiences: soprano Sara Macliver, mezzo Fiona Campbell, tenor Paul McMahon and bass Andrew Foote. As Sandra Bowdler points out in her excellent program notes: “There is no such thing as a definitive Messiah.” And perhaps there is no such thing as a definitive performance of Messiah. But this one must have come pretty damn close.

Nolan is always an animated conductor, yet his gestures are never superfluous or showy. Neither are the resulting musical gestures.

Choruses already replete with startling word-painting such as His yoke is easy, his burden is light, All we like sheep, Surely, He hath borne our griefs, Let us break their bonds, Hallelujah and the majestic finale Worthy is the Lamb that was slain with its magnificent “Amen” were characterised by absolute clarity of diction, fluid, highly articulated runs, radiant textural and chordal balance and spine-tingling climaxes.

Each soloist was equally impressive. Macliver’s refulgent Rejoice, sung here in the dancing 12/8 triplet version, was a real highlight, while Campbell’s He was despised, by contrast glowed with a transfigured bitterness that was very effecting.

McMahon’s rich, flexible tenor announced its expressive eloquence immediately in the opening recitative Comfort ye and air Ev’ry valley; the heightened drama of Foote’s Why do the nations was almost a set-piece in itself.

Throughout, leader Paul Wright and his fellow string players adopted a pungent, vibrato-less string tone that accentuated the texture of the part-writing while providing a telling foil to the mellowness of the organ, the brightness of the harpsichord and brass and the sharp, hard thunder of Tim White’s timpani.

This was uncompromising musicianship of the highest order. It’s just a pity more people weren’t present to hear it."

The Arts Hub review can be found here.

Congratulations to Joseph Nolan and the Cathedral Consort for their performance of Messiah at Perth Concert Hall last Tuesday night, which has netted rave reviews in The West Australian and on Arts Hub.

Mr William Yeoman of The West wrote:

"A famous yoga teacher once said (and I paraphrase from memory here) imprecision was an impiety. The same could be said about the performance of sacred music — or indeed any music of real quality. It’s not a question of honouring God; it’s a question of honouring the composer, the audience, fellow musicians and, of course, yourself.

But precision is only half the story. And that’s where a performer such as organist and St George’s Cathedral master of the choristers Joseph Nolan comes in. His is a precision born of passion, commitment and, yes, a sense of honour.

Which is why Tuesday night’s performance of Handel’s sacred masterpiece Messiah was such an unqualified triumph. Although performed with reduced forces approximating those Handel used in Dublin in 1742, the effect was as overwhelming, if not more so, than that of a more usual larger choir and orchestra.

So: nine string players using baroque instruments and bows; two natural trumpets and timpani; a harpsichord and chamber organ (Stewart Smith in fine form); a 16-voice choir.

The venerable soloists will be no strangers to Perth audiences: soprano Sara Macliver, mezzo Fiona Campbell, tenor Paul McMahon and bass Andrew Foote. As Sandra Bowdler points out in her excellent program notes: “There is no such thing as a definitive Messiah.” And perhaps there is no such thing as a definitive performance of Messiah. But this one must have come pretty damn close.

Nolan is always an animated conductor, yet his gestures are never superfluous or showy. Neither are the resulting musical gestures.

Choruses already replete with startling word-painting such as His yoke is easy, his burden is light, All we like sheep, Surely, He hath borne our griefs, Let us break their bonds, Hallelujah and the majestic finale Worthy is the Lamb that was slain with its magnificent “Amen” were characterised by absolute clarity of diction, fluid, highly articulated runs, radiant textural and chordal balance and spine-tingling climaxes.

Each soloist was equally impressive. Macliver’s refulgent Rejoice, sung here in the dancing 12/8 triplet version, was a real highlight, while Campbell’s He was despised, by contrast glowed with a transfigured bitterness that was very effecting.

McMahon’s rich, flexible tenor announced its expressive eloquence immediately in the opening recitative Comfort ye and air Ev’ry valley; the heightened drama of Foote’s Why do the nations was almost a set-piece in itself.

Throughout, leader Paul Wright and his fellow string players adopted a pungent, vibrato-less string tone that accentuated the texture of the part-writing while providing a telling foil to the mellowness of the organ, the brightness of the harpsichord and brass and the sharp, hard thunder of Tim White’s timpani.

This was uncompromising musicianship of the highest order. It’s just a pity more people weren’t present to hear it."

The Arts Hub review can be found here.