Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra's Celebrate Christmas is a seasonal signing-off so popular that it can sustain two well-patronised Parnell performances.

Even though the Holy Trinity acoustics may not be the kindest, and performances don't always have town hall polish, there's a real charm in a programme that runs from Corelli's Christmas Concerto through star turns by soprano Madeleine Pierard to cheery sing-along carols.

It set off with a welcome Baroque bias. Conductor Johannes Fritzsch took the Graduate Choir NZ and orchestra through a spirited opening chorus from Bach's Christmas Oratorio and Pierard's three arias included Handel's Let the Bright Seraphim delivered as a playful sparring match with Huw Dann's clarion trumpet.

Full marks too for the choir and its conductor Terence Maskell for not pulling punches in the celebratory joy of Sweelinck's Hodie Christus natus est.

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In the second half, after a well-played but ponderous Nicolai overture, it was time for short, sweet crowd-pleasers, with Chris Artley's Love came down at Christmas pretty enough to run under the titles of a holiday rom-com. Goosebumps threatened when Pierard, choir, orchestra and the cathedral's multi-million dollar organ brought O Holy Night to a climax.

The final singalong was an a cappella coup. Maskell's choir, placed along the aisles, introduced Silent Night in vibrant te reo, inspiring a hearty audience response in English.

What: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra
Where: Holy Trinity Cathedral
Reviewer: William Dart