Friday, December 5, 2008


As I have repeatedly intimated (now look here, and here, how may times have I told you?), the little town of Palmerston North in the interior of Aotearoa New Zealand (we can not see the sea from here, only fiery volcanoes) was to have a performance of Joseph Haydn's Die Schöpfung (which does not mean "Die shopping!", but is German for "The Creation"), sung in Milton's style of English.

This is the message I sent to opera-lovers (who might have planned to hear Mozart's Don Giovanni on the radio) to entice them under false pretences to an operatorio:

You have a prior engagement which has priority, a previous appointment which must not be broken, to save you from disappointment.

You will be at the Regent on Broadway at 3 pm, either on the stage (with me) or in the audience (with Helen my wife) to see two large choirs in seamless combination, with a 50-piece orchestra (or 4 dozen, count'em, and don't overlook the harpsichord).

Joseph Haydn's oratorio The Creation (giving George Frideric Handel some competition). An opera with a cast of thousands (the celestial beings will be invisible, though)

Extra! Read all about it! First man and woman in high degree of bliss (and you will be, too)

And for the rest of the human race:

For lovers of fine music (Joseph Haydn, The Creation),
Bible stories (God saw everything he had made, and behold it was very good),
Milton's poetry (opening her fertile womb the earth obey'd the word),
Satanic reverses (despairing cursing rage attends their rapid fall).

If you are anywhere near my little village of Palmerston North in Aotearoa New Zealand on Sunday at 3 pm on the 30th of November in the year of our Lord 2008, hie you to Broadway and step right up to the Regent, and enter its halls for the entertainment of a lifetime.

And God said: "Let there be light", and there was indeed light!

Hear bright light set to music by Haydn.

Massed choirs sing as and like angels.

Heavenly trumpets, sackbuts, horns, hautbois, flutes, viols of all shapes and sizes, and an authentic harpsichord (home-made) carry you to another world, a new created world, in the beginning.

Six days of delight encompassed in a single ecstatic afternoon.

For tidings of great enjoyment resort ye (with a click of a finger) unto:

Well it has finally happened, and you can read Stephen Fisher's favourable (fabulous actually) review of it at Choir Quire. I was sitting at the end of a long row, so don't look for me in the contracted (not to say, censored) photograph there.

And after doing a 50-minute walk under the blazing sun I reached the theatre in time for a "warm-up" (not what I really needed) under hot stage lights.

This is my response to the amazing event that turned my humble hamlet into a cultural city:

Warning, plagiarism might be detected by machines designed for that purpose, but when a person has internalized the words and music of a great opus, things come bursting out.

Achievèd is the glorious work!

After all those months of slaving over a hot score:
Our duty we have now perform'd.

And behold, it was very good!

There were doubters who said we were:
misled by false conceit, ye strive at more than granted is.

But throughout all those grilling thrilling drilling sessions:
Softly fly the golden hours.
Ev'ry moment brings new rapture,
ev'ry care is lull'd to rest.

And we reached the point where:
Now chaos ends, and order fair prevails.

And God said, Let there be light
and was there ever light!
It was not light light, and not heavy light,
but it was resonant light which did indeed
to the ethereal vaults resound.

Let his name resound on high.
Praise the Lord, utter thanks,
Yahweh's praise for ever shall endure. Amen.

Yes, my prayers were answered, and that abomination of desolation "Jehovah" was removed. But the name Yahweh was not there either. We sang:
The LORD is great, his praises shall endure.

But I wonder how many times Jehovah slipped out in the excitement, in the *heat* of the moment under the bright lights.

Are the tunes and words still buzzing around in your head and bursting out at inopportune moments? On Tuesday I was in a monastery, chanting with monks; on Wednesday I spent all afternoon whistling and humming along with Strauss waltzes and polkas; but on Thursday snatches "of the second day, the second day", and "in lofty strains let us rejoice" were still rising up.

Alison Stewart and Guy Donaldson had done wonders with the rough and raw material at hand. The firming meant displays of the wonders of the work.

Morag Atchison's photograph attracted many into the auditorium, and her voice was deemed to be 'gloriously warm'.

Richard Phillips, from Cardiff, with a 'richly expressive tenor voice', mercifully refrained from breaking into his other languages (Welsh, Chinese, and Japanese).

Hadleigh Adams (who was made for the part of Adam, and had been Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof) had to hold his 'splendidly fine bass voice' back from breaking into Hebrew, or Yiddish.

At the interval I went out into the auditorium to do a survey of the consumers, and I was able to report that our product was judged to be wonderful.

And now, Stephen Fisher, in the Manawatu Standard, has given his considered opinion on the performance as "immensely satisfying", and the jewel in the crown of all the music-making in our metropolis (yes, our stocks are rising, while all the rest are plummeting) in 2008.

In the Tribune, Christopher Abbey's headline was: Audience enraptured by stunning oratorio.

The two reviews are reproduced at Choir Quire.

As I said in a message to the three marvellous soloists:

You have been a vital part of something very special in a town which is often the object of humour, and which the national orchestra will no longer visit, and which is bypassed by the travelling opera company. So we have to make our own music, and your support has been highly appreciated by us.

Awake the harp, the lyre awake, and let your joyful song resound, Renaissance Singers, PN Choral Society, Manawatu Sinfonia.

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