If Auckland Choral's Messiah marks the closing of our concert year, then 2017 was given a rousing send-off.
Conductor Uwe Grodd invariably introduces the oratorio from the stage and, on this occasion, he praised the power of its music to bind us together as only great art can.
Auckland Choral was fired with admirable momentum and enthusiasm; fugal choruses were fearlessly delivered and, when composer Handel's music asked for sprightliness, the singers were alert to Grodd's lively baton.
Pipers Sinfonia, led by Miranda Hutton, was particularly energised, offering the luxury of two continuo players as well as Michael Bell on the town hall organ, adding moments of Handelian pomp and grandeur.
Messiah performances are ultimately judged by their soloists and this was a vintage line-up, from the irresistibly comforting welcome of Australian tenor Robert Macfarlane.
Joel Amosa was nimble and lyrical in some demanding solos, prefacing his great trumpet aria with a recitative of exquisite portent. Elisabeth Harris revealed the advantages of a rich contralto tone for unlocking the powerful emotions of "He was despised", with minimal ornamentation.
Lauren Armishaw's last Auckland Messiah was in 2012 and, five years on, she projected the same unfailing radiance. The soprano's final aria, so often excised in performances, glowed with unforced naturalness, framed by two monumentally thrilling choruses.
What: Auckland Choral
Where: Auckland Town Hall
Reviewer: William Dart