There was festivity in the air at Holy Trinity Cathedral for Auckland Choral's Magnificat concert.

Bach's Magnificat, which lent the programme its title, shows the composer at his most celebratory, with a Leipzig Christmas on his mind.

Uwe Grodd set his forces off with gusto and, throughout a demanding score, maintained style and cohesion - even when, early on, the voluminous acoustic, optimistically described as "ethereal splendour" in the programme booklet, could have created disarray.

The disciplined musicians of Pipers Sinfonia enthusiastically took to the criss-crossing dialogue of Bach's counterpoint, topped by the clarion thrill of three trumpets.


There was some well-focused choral singing, even if heartier moments tempted some into shouting. The only nerves came in the Suscepit Israel. Even with the support of the soloists, who had joined the choral ranks for solidarity, this was a shaky ride.

Bach has no mercy on his soloists, expecting instrumental perfection from the very fallible human voice. One was too aware of the strain and effort being made in navigating tortuous lines, not helped by sometimes stolid continuo accompaniment.

The exception was mezzo Bianca Andrew, one of NBR New Zealand Opera's young emerging artists.

From the first phrase of her Et Exsultavit, she exuded confidence, connected with her audience and made it clear that we were here to rejoice.

The choir would have its chance for further rejoicing at the end of the evening in Haydn's Te Deum.

Haydn also lays down a few winding trails, which were smoothly negotiated. Auckland Choral gave us big, bold chords in the major and a nice line in beseeching chromaticism in the minor.

On the contemporary side, James Macmillan's A New Song was cautiously paced but, despite some rather exposed unison work, was an effective journey, boosted by James Tibbles' sonorous organ.

John Tavener's Song for Athene, a more transparent and treacherous piece, was less happy.

Sustained over a growling, quavering bass, it was hardly a surprise that somehow, over the course of six minutes, there would be an alarming drop in pitch.

What: Auckland Choral
Where: Holy Trinity Cathedral
When: Saturday