Uwe Grodd chose his words carefully, introducing Auckland Choral's Monday Messiah.
The conductor urged us to remember Handel's 23-day vigil writing this oratorio, combining the best elements of all his other music to create a "potent mix that binds us together as only a great masterwork can, regardless of race, religion or background". Last year, Handel's score was proudly given to us without cuts, but tonight there were nips and tucks. The losses were telling, from the brief choral burst of Let all the angels of God worship Him to the graceful conciliation of the air, If God be for us.
Soprano Madeleine Pierard commanded the highest admiration from her first recitatives, with her unfailingly incisive phrasing and steadfast intonation. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion dispensed joy at a clip that would have had Handel's toes tapping, with some daring decorations. Later, the singer soared effortlessly to a top B flat while embellishing He shall feed His flock.
Telltale signs of unfocused tone emerged during Henry Choo's first recitative; by the brief Behold, and see if there be any sorrow, the Australian tenor was audibly ill-at-ease.
Mezzo Carmel Carroll brought an understated naturalness and vocal composure to "He was despised," that was welcome alongside her energetic but stressed navigation of Handel's more virtuoso moments.
I was surprised to hear David Greco tackling bass solos when, earlier this year, he was singing countertenor on a recent Jack Body CD.
Numbers like The people that walked in darkness and Why do the nations need the weight and resonance of a bass voice, and the Australian baritone was too often in a state of vocal fluster.
While there was much to admire in Uwe Grodd's marshalling of his forces, occasionally a stolidity crept into the choral singing.
Pipers Sinfonia provided spirited accompaniment and the sharing of continuo duties between two organs, harpsichord and lute was beautifully done. But was the amplification necessary for the last-named instrument responsible for the burps of sonic flatulence that repeatedly broke into the evening's Handelian calm?
What: Auckland Choral
Where: Auckland Town Hall