Singing stars join NZSO for triumphant Christmas concert

Handel’s Messiah has been synonymous with the Christmas season for generations. Its instantly recognisable ‘Hallelujah’ chorus is undoubtedly one of the most loved in the choral repertoire.

This festive season, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra brings this popular oratorio to life with a stellar cast of singers and The Orpheus Choir of Wellington.

Vocally gifted Kiwi sisters, soprano Madeleine Pierard and mezzo-soprano Anna Pierard, will be joined by Ashburton-born tenor Simon O’Neill, and Australian bass Andrew Collis.

A Baroque-sized New Zealand Symphony Orchestra will replicate Handel’s modest instrumental forces in this uniquely intimate performance featuring harpsichord and chamber organ.

The choral contribution will be far from modest however. Our four internationally-successful singers will be backed by the powerhouse of around 100 voices from The Orpheus Choir of Wellington, and brought together by leading Australian conductor Graham Abbott.

Abbott has conducted Messiah an impressive 70 times, with all the major Australian orchestras and many other organisations. He is a formidable force with which to bring this substantial body of top singers and world-class musicians together in union for one of the world’s most glorious and famous works.

Make this festive NZSO concert an experience to cherish with your loved ones in the lead up to this Christmas.

Celebrate the season with Messiah, in association with FishHead.

Fun Facts:

  • The music for Messiah was composed extremely fast – reportedly in only 24 days.
  • Handel began composing the great oratorio on 22 August, 1741, after receiving the text from Charles Jennens. Jennens compiled the scriptural text from the King James Bible and the Psalms included with the Book of Common Prayer.
  • In the Christian tradition, the figure of the “Messiah” is identified with the person of Jesus. Handel’s Messiah has been described by the early-music scholar Richard Luckett as “a commentary on [Jesus Christ's] Nativity, Passion, Resurrection and Ascension”, beginning with God’s promises as spoken by the prophets and ending with Christ’s glorification in heaven.
  • Handel’s score included unfilled bars, scratchings-out, blots, and other uncorrected errors, revealing its speedy composition, some say in a fervour of divine inspiration.
  • Handel wrote the letters ‘SDG’—Soli Deo Gloria, ‘To God alone the glory’ at the end of his manuscript which has led to the belief that this music was divinely inspired.
  • Messiah premiered in Dublin in 1742 and at London’s Covent Garden nearly a year later. Its original performance arose from an invitation from the Duke of Devonshire, then serving as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and was a charity concert benefiting the prisoners’ debt relief, the Mercer’s Hospital, and the Charitable Infirmary.
  • Handel attended a performance of Messiah on 6 April 1759 at Covent Garden, eight days before his death.