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Big Stage for Messiah at Nelson Cathedral

The Nelson Civic Choir won't just be hitting the high notes when they perform Handel's Messiah at Nelson Cathedral later in November - they'll be lifted to the height of the pipe organ by a huge stage created from materials donated by Nelson Pine Industries.

The stage will cater for 80 singers and will span the current choir stalls in the Cathedral, elevating the singers and giving the audience a full view of the choir.

Conductor Pete Rainey says it has been very difficult to house a large choir in the cathedral - a venue that offers excellent acoustics and atmosphere for choral performances: "This is a significant structure that will totally change an audience's experience of a choir," he said. "In the absence of a performing arts venue in Nelson this is a necessary move and we anticipate it getting a range of use at the cathedral - Messiah is a fitting start."

Handel's 'Messiah' was first performed in Dublin in 1742 with Handel conducting from the harpsichord. He had composed the work in just three weeks, setting scriptural texts in a series of contemplative arias and grand choruses.

"Since that first charity performance in Dublin, Handel's Messiah has become the most frequently performed oratorio in all English speaking countries," Rainey said. "By staging it in November we will be one of the first of many performances this Christmas - other choirs will be practicing just as we are, in village halls and city cathedrals world wide."

The 80-strong Nelson Civic Choir will be joined by a 20 piece chamber orchestra and by high profile soloists from around New Zealand for the performance.

Dynamic mezzo, Helen Medlyn, a 2002 Arts Foundation of NZ Laureate, is a versatile performer with a busy career here and overseas in opera, oratorio and vocal symphonic works as well as musical theatre and cabaret. She sang earlier this year in Nelson's Sealord Night With the Stars.

Wellington soprano Jenny Wollerman is an experienced soloist on both the concert and opera stage, having performed throughout Australasia, Britain and elsewhere. Her opera roles include Mimi, Pamina, Fiordiligi, Micaela, and she recently performed in Mozart's Requiem with the NZSO.

Bass, Roger Wilson has a large operatic, concert and recital repertoire and is one of NZ's most experienced and versatile singers. He began his performing career in Switzerland and Germany in the 1970's.

Tenor Philip Roderick is a young, promising singer studying with Flora Edwards at the NZ School of Music in Wellington, and he has sung with many choirs including Tower NZ Voices. He was tenor soloist in a performance of Messiah in Wellington last year.

Victor Kisnichenko is principal trumpet player in the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. He trained in Russia and Sweden and worked with many orchestras and as soloist before coming to NZ. He has performed twice in Nelson with the VIVA Chamber Orchestra, and in NZ ChamberBrass at the Adam Festival of Chamber Music last year. Rainey says Victor is an outstanding trumpeter. 'He can play as though you could hear a pin drop, and equally fill the whole cathedral with sound. He's an astonishing player that never fails to please an audience.'

Rainey said seeing Handel's Messiah is something everyone should do at least once in their lives: "With such a lineup of excellent musicians, this event promises to be very special for Nelson audiences," he said.

Tickets for the 24 and 25 November performances may be purchased from Everyman Records in Hardy St for $30 (prime seating) and $20 (restricted viewing).


ENDS

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