The theme of the old biblical prophet Elijah in Felix Mendelssohn's glorious oratorio orchestrated the annual New Zealand Opera School chapel service yesterday.

The service - titled In Praise of Music - featured the Mendelssohn work throughout as a musical blessing personified.

And the congregation of 400 - it was standing room only - at the Wanganui Collegiate chapel were riveted.

With the 24 opera students in the glowing candle-lit choir stalls either side of the altar, the magnificent pipe organ, played by Alan Gray of Nelson, resonated from the loft and there was also accompaniment from a virtuoso trumpet played by Whanganui's Clyde Dixon.


In full voice, the congregation and opera students' rendition of Jerusalem was rousing and inspiring.

This old hymn by William Blake and Sir Hubert Parry is a powerful piece that enthralls today and forever.

Another old hymn, Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory, was dedicated to the memory of John Gray, a long-serving committee member and treasurer of the Wanganui Opera Week committee who died late last year.

Here again, a fine and memorable choice which stirred the hearts of all.

Solos from the oratorio included Ye People Rend Your Hearts, sung with warm lyrical empathy by Wellington tenor Frederick Jones, and Hear Ye Israel,, sung by soprano Eliza Boom with an enduring passion.

Edwards Laurenson's Give Me Thy Son - also from Elijah - was stirring and beautiful.

Another Mendelssohn song, On Wings of Song, played as a duet with Luca Manghi on flute and David Kelly on piano, was a delicate touch and a very sweet song to hear as a delicate interlude.

This choir of young opera voices lifted to the rafters in the beautiful old chapel, with candles glowing in the sconces and the stained glass windows casting a special glow.
To hear a service like this with such singers and musicians is a treasure indeed for a Whanganui audience.

Once again the chapel service oozed warmth and passion, and when the students filed down the centre aisle at the close they were all beaming and proud.

Beautiful classical music was ours again in Whanganui ... praise the lord!