Kapiti Chamber Choir offers antidote to Christmas commercialisation

Joyous Christmas Music
Christmas Oratorio by J S Bach

The Kapiti Chamber Choir with Orchestra directed by Stuart Douglas

Soloists: Imogen Thirlwall – soprano, Emily Simcox – contralto, James Adams – tenor, Kieran Rayner – bass
With a 20 piece Orchestra led by Jay Hancox.

St Paul’s Church, Kapiti Road, Paraparaumu

Sunday 25 November, 2.30pm

Praise be to Stuart Douglas and the Kapiti Chamber Choir for giving Kapiti residents the opportunity to hear arguably the best Christmas music ever written, Bach’s Christmas Oratorio. Accompanied by an excellent orchestral ensemble they gave an enormously joyful performance from the first thrilling trumpet notes of Andrew Weir’s piccolo trumpet to the full bodied final chorale. They were obviously in the hands of a conductor with a great sense of musicality and style.This performance was not just a series of arias and chorales but a thoroughly integrated dramatic event.

The Orchestra, led by Jay Hancox, was a mixture of capable amateur and professional players, many of whom are Kapiti residents. Their playing was vibrant and exciting though just occasionally a little too heavy for the bass and contralto soloists in their lower registers. The instrumental obbligatos, virtually duets with the solo singers, were sensitively performed by Andrew Weir on trumpet, Peter Dykes on oboe and Malu Jonas on flute, all of whom gave thoroughly professional performances.

Douglas’s choice of the four young soloists was excellent. They all sang beautifully and were able to convey the full drama of the Nativity story. Soprano Imogen Thirlwall has performed several times in Kapiti and her rich and powerful soprano soared easily above everything the Orchestra threw at her. Emily Simcox, contralto, who has previously performed with the Kapiti Chorale, has a voice  of great warmth and tenderness which she combines with a riveting presence.

As the Evangelist tenor James Adams proved himself a true story-teller, singing with drama and communicating well with the audience. Bass Kieran Rayner has been singing in Kapiti since he was very young and showed the increasing maturity and depth of his voice. His well-known acting skills were well to the fore in his exciting presentation.

The choir performed Bach’s very demanding score with vigour and precision, providing a big sound when necessary but also great delicacy in the unaccompanied chorale Ich steh an deiner Krippen hier. The usual lack of strength in the tenor section, due to lack of tenors, did not seriously detract from this uplifting performance. The soprano section was notably excellent.

With judicious cutting of the original score by Douglas we were given a full two hours of glorious music – a wonderful antidote to the crass commercialisation of the season. As I was leaving an audience member said to me “I feel so much better for that”.


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