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Hallelujah! More singers, more players, for NZSO’s Messiah in December

Handel’s famous oratorio Messiah is so popular with Wellington audiences, this December the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra will perform it for the sixth year in a row on a dazzling scale.

In what promises to be an exciting production of the festive favourite, the performance will feature 140 singers from The Orpheus Choir of Wellington, more than three times the number of singers who performed it last year. The number of NZSO musicians has also been increased from 29 to 40.

This year’s production will be led by lauded Australian conductor, singer and Sydney Philharmonia Choirs Music Director Brett Weymark. Weymark’s acclaimed performances of Handel’s oratorio include his annual concerts at the Sydney Opera House featuring 400 singers. His Sydney Philharmonia Choirs this year will join other choristers and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra for a Messiah boasting 650 singers.

When asked about the magic of Messiah, Weymark has said: “Messiah has enthralled audiences for more than 250 years, and when people hear the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus performed live for the first time, they always appreciate why.”

Joining the conductor are some of the best vocalists in Australasia. Christchurch-born bass powerhouse Jared Holt will share the stage with three exceptional Australian singers – renowned soprano Celeste Lazarenko, Wagnerian mezzo-soprano Deborah Humble and consummate tenor Robert Macfarlane.

George Frideric Handel’s masterpiece was first performed in Dublin in 1742. The composer was looking for ways in which to create novel and compelling music and for Messiah to be enjoyed by everyone, whether they were nobility, landed gentry or commoner. A review in the Dublin Journal declared:

“Words are wanting to express the exquisite Delight it afforded to the admiring crowded Audience”.

Following the premiere, Messiah was so well received that within a few years it was regularly performed and is now one of the few works from the mid-1700s that has had a constant performance history. Today it is one of the most performed oratorios in the world and one of the best known. It was even reinterpreted in gospel, blues, jazz, R&B and hip-hop for the 1992 album Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration featuring Stevie Wonder.

While the large number of voices and orchestra raising the roof has become a Messiah trademark, in the early days combined choirs supplied to cathedrals came to only 24 singers, with soloists expected to sing with the chorus, accompanied by musicians numbering between 20 and 30.


For interviews, more images and information:

Tom Cardy | Publicist

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra | Te Tira Pūoro o Aotearoa
M +64 275 745 294


NZSO: Messiah

DEBORAH HUMBLE Mezzo-soprano

HANDEL Messiah
Libretto written by Reverend Charles Jennens

WELLINGTON | Michael Fowler Centre| Saturday, 9 December| 7.30pm