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St Matthew Passion – An Epic Musical Creation

St Matthew Passion – An Epic Musical Creation

presented by City Choir Dunedin

Sunday 31 March 2019, 2:00 pm

Dunedin Town Hall

David Burchell, conductor

Soloists: Iain Tetley (Evangelist), Scott Bezett (Jesus), Lois Johnston (Soprano), Claire Barton (Alto), Andrew Grenon (Tenor), Malcolm Leitch (Bass)

City Choir Dunedin

Christchurch City Choir

Fairfield School Choir, Forte

Dunedin Symphony Orchestra

A performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion, to be held in the Dunedin Town Hall on Sunday afternoon 31 March 2019, has been programmed as the celebratory oratorio to mark the twenty-year anniversary of City Choir Dunedin’s longest serving Musical Director, David Burchell. Over that time, David has directed, guided, encouraged and enthused the Choir, lifting its performance to a high standard equalling that of many top-class European choirs. Under David’s influence and musicianship, the Choir’s membership has grown significantly over the last two decades.

In David’s words: “On arrival Dunedin in 1999, it was clear to me that City Choir had the makings of a very good choir, and this was soon demonstrated as we plunged in at the deep end with Verdi’s Requiem for the first time. I am extremely pleased with what the choir has achieved over the last nineteen years – we have explored a diverse variety of repertoire, including most of the major ‘standard’ symphonic choral works – performed regularly with the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra (with whom we have an excellent relationship), and several times with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, including our national tour of the Verdi Requiem.

“After over 1000 rehearsals with the choir I always look forward to the next, whether we are learning something completely new to the choir, or revisiting an old favourite. The choir has risen to many challenges, including singing in a number of foreign languages and unfamiliar styles.

“We have frequently programmed Bach’s major choral works, as he is a composer with whose music I closely identify, with the result that the choir is very familiar with his style, and with the German language. We have not sung the intensely dramatic St Matthew Passion – considered by many to be his finest work – since 2005, so it is a significant and appropriate way to celebrate the start of my 20th year with City Choir Dunedin.”

Bach’s St Matthew Passion is the largest single composition he ever wrote, both in terms of length and in terms of forces called for in the score. It tells of the last two dramatic days of Christ’s life leading to His crucifixion. St Matthew Passion is performed around the world near the time of Easter, in keeping with its history and story, and City Choir Dunedin is proud to present this work just prior to Easter. Christchurch City Choir and Fairfield School’s choir ‘Forte’ are excited about participating in this production. With more than 200 musicians on stage, it will be an epic performance and this highlight in Dunedin’s musical calendar is not to be missed.

We are proud of the line-up of acclaimed soloists for this performance. Of special interest is young Scott Bezett, a rising star among the many successful soloists educated and trained at the University of Otago. His voice coach is Associate Professor Judy Bellingham, who is also a Vice-President of City Choir Dunedin. City Choir believes it is essential to give promising young singers an opportunity to gain experience on the concert stage. Scott is also a keen rower. In an interesting twist, choir member Alister Robinson (a bass) is the Vice President and a Trustee of the Otago University Rowing Club.

“Scott was a member of a University of Otago rowing eight that competed very successfully in Chengdu, China in 2017. I was the manager of that team and Scott was one of the leaders of our group which made my job very easy. Scott's fitness and wonderful ability as a rower has given him excellent aerobic capacity and I'm sure that helps his singing”, says Alister.

More about Bach’s St Matthew Passion

In the Middle Ages Christian churches began observing Holy Week by retelling the story of Christ’s crucifixion in music. Bible verses were set to chant melodies, with St Matthew Passion culminating in one of the most ambitious musical compositions of all time.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) composed his St Matthew Passion for the 1729 Good Friday service at St Thomas Church in Leipzig, Germany. The story of the Passion begins in the turmoil of Jesus’s last days in Jerusalem and ends with his crucifixion and burial. The bleak drama is brought to life by Bach’s musical expression of the Christian tenets of love, grace, and salvation. This epic work, perhaps Bach’s most personal, often moves from a moment of violent operatic drama to a solo aria, frozen in time, an utterance from deep inside the soul.

The St Matthew Passion is one the greatest creations, revealing layers of meaning in the text. The great variety of music in the Passion is dramatic, passionate and emotional, and surprises abound.

Tickets available from Ticketmaster


David Burchell, conductor

David Burchell has been Musical Director of City Choir Dunedin since the beginning of 2000 and is now the longest-serving Musical Director in the choir’s history. It was under David’s direction that City Choir prepared for a performance with the NZSO in 2010, when the NZSO deemed City Choir to be the strongest and most competent of all NZ’s choirs. Soon afterwards City Choir was invited to join the NZSO on their 2013 New Zealand tour of Verdi’s Requiem. This was the highest accolade and acknowledgement of David’s influence on City Choir Dunedin’s level of performance.

He is Organist and Choir Director at St Joseph’s Cathedral, and Senior Organist and Parish Choir Director at All Saints’ Church. David is the Dunedin City Organist, the University of Otago’s Graduation Organist and organ tutor in the Department of Music. He is Musical Director of The Little Box of Operas, Otago’s new chamber opera company, a regular conductor of the Dunedin Youth Orchestra, and occasionally works with St Kilda Brass.

David is a graduate of Oxford University and there enjoyed a lengthy association with the renowned Choir of New College Oxford, first as Organ Scholar and later as Assistant Organist. This included a term in charge of the choir, television and radio broadcasts, and participation in the recording of many CDs as organ accompanist and soloist. He has also worked as a university lecturer and was director of the Newcastle University Orchestra. From 1999 to early 2011 he was Organist and Choir Director at St Paul’s Cathedral, Dunedin.

As Musical Director of City Choir Dunedin he directs performances of major works for choir. Recent performances have included The Armed Man by Karl Jenkins, J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, Haydn’s Theresienmesse and C.P.E. Bach’s Magnificat, Vivaldi’s Gloria and Lambert’s The Rio Grande. Previous programmes have included Britten’s Saint Nicolas, Alexander L’Estrange’s Zimbe!, Coleridge Taylor’s Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, Christopher Marshall’s For What Can Be More Beautiful?, Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle, requiems by Mozart and Fauré, Bach’s Mass in B Minor, Magnificat, St John Passion and St Matthew Passion, Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius, David Hamilton’s Missa Pacifica and Handel’s Messiah.

David has appeared as organ soloist with the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra in Poulenc’s Organ Concerto, Saint-Saëns’s Organ Symphony, and in the première of Anthony Ritchie’s Organ Overture. He has also appeared with the orchestra, directing from the harpsichord, in Bach’s fifth Brandenburg Concerto and as harpsichordist in C.P.E. Bach’s Concerto for

Harpsichord and Fortepiano.

Iain Tetley (Evangelist)

Iain Tetley hails from Norwich in England. Since coming to New Zealand in 1997 he has performed as a choir member and tenor, baritone and bass soloist with Auckland’s leading choirs, and was a member of the chamber choir Musica Sacra from 1998 until 2013.

Iain’s career roles include singing in an octet for the Queen in Taupo in 2002; with the late John Scott, former organist and choirmaster of St Paul’s Cathedral, London in 2006; the baritone solo in Carmina Burana with Auckland Choral in 2007; and the role of Zadok the priest in excerpts of Handel’s Solomon in 2011. This is Iain’s third appearance with City Choir Dunedin and the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra, following Bach’s Christmas Oratorio in 2016, and Messiah in 2017.

In his role as conductor Iain directed Sing Waiheke from 2002 to 2010, the Auckland Youth Choir from 2003 to 2004, and was a Deputy Conductor of Musica Sacra from 2005 until 2013, conducting the Duruflé Requiem in 2010. In 2008 he combined Sing Waiheke, the South Auckland Choral Society and the Franklin Community Choir, a full orchestra and eight soloists in the successful Auckland première of Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace, a work he conducted again in 2015 for the 100th anniversary of ANZAC day. He conducted the Franklin Community Choir in Pukekohe from 2008 until 2016, when he combined two choirs for Mendelssohn’s Elijah.

He was the musical director for Fiddler on the Roof on Waiheke Island in 2011, and from 2012 to 2017 directed the South Auckland Choral Society. In 2014 Iain formed a new choir called Cantorum, specialising in Renaissance and Baroque music, and in 2016 he conducted Cantando Choir in Hamilton in a concert of opera choruses and swing music. Iain has recently moved to Wanganui, where he is the musical director for Schola Sacra.

Scott Bezett (Jesus)

Scott Bezett is a Dunedin-based baritone who has just completed his third year at the University of Otago, studying towards a Bachelor of Arts and Science in Classics, Mathematics and Classical Voice (under the tutelage of Judy Bellingham). St. Matthew Passion is Scott’s first venture into the world of oratorio and he is delighted to be making his debut performing with City Choir Dunedin.

Scott began his performance career in musical theatre roles at high school before performing in We Need a Little Christmas for Musical Theatre Dunedin, and Grease: The Arena Spectacular and Mary Poppins for Taieri Musical/DKCM. He made his operatic debut as the Sergeant of Police in Opera Otago’s 2017 production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance. Roles since then have included the Baritone in Tom Johnson’s The Four Note Opera (Little Box of Operas), Masetto in Don Giovanni (Opera Otago) and the Wolf in Seymour Barab’s Little Red Riding Hood (Opera Otago). Scott was selected to sing as part of the Lexus Song Quest Masterclasses 2018 and has also received the Muriel Herbert Prize (2017) and the Dunedin Musical Society Prize (2018) from the University of Otago.

Outside of performing, Scott is a keen rower, competing for North End Rowing Club in Dunedin. He has represented the University of Otago in international regattas in China and was the captain of the New Zealand Universities rowing eight that competed in Australia in 2017 and 2018.

Lois Johnston (Soprano)

After graduating from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Lois carved a niche for herself as an accomplished performer of early and contemporary music. She was a regular soloist in the UK with groups such as the John Currie Singers, Ludus Baroque and the Dunedin Consort. Appearing as one of the flower maidens in Sir Simon Rattle's BBC Proms performance of Parsifal, Lois discovered a love of opera, prompting her to take a postgraduate course at Birmingham Conservatoire, specialising in operatic performance. Her favourite roles include Vixen, Liu, Servilia and the Queen of the Night, and she often performs at opera galas here in New Zealand and in Europe. She is also regularly to be seen as an oratorio soloist and on the concert platform.

As a professional chorister, she sang for several years with the Netherlands Radio Choir, Choir of the Enlightenment and European Voices with whom she toured in many of Sir Simon Rattle's productions with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, including Idomeneo (Salzburg Festival, Lucerne Festival) and Peter Grimes (Salzburg Festival). She also maintains her Scottish connections by continuing to sing with Scottish Opera, most recently in Tosca, Cavalleria Rusticana, Pagliacci, Werther and The Flying Dutchman.

Lois has had the very great pleasure of working with many of the world's finest conductors and directors, including Sir Roger Norrington, Sir Charles Mackerras, Jane Glover, Stephen Barlow, Sir David McVicar, and Sir Trevor Nunn.

She has been a passionate and dedicated teacher working from her home studio for almost 20 years, and has taught voice at the University of Canterbury, the Pettman Junior Academy and continues to teach ChristChurch Cathedral's boy choristers at the city's Cathedral Grammar School. She is also an itinerant vocal teacher at Columba College and has just begun a new role teaching at Dunedin’s Saturday Morning Music Classes.

Claire Barton (Alto)

Mezzo-soprano Claire Barton was born and raised in Dunedin and is a graduate of the University of Otago and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. 2019 marks 10 years since her first performance with City Choir Dunedin.

Claire made her professional debut with Opera Otago at the age of 25 in the role of Mrs Slender in Salieri’s Falstaff. Other performances in Opera and Musical Theatre include Carlotta in The Phantom of the Opera for Musical Theatre Dunedin, Mad Margaret in Ruddygore for The Really Authentic Gilbert and Sullivan Performance Trust, Mrs Partlet in The Sorcerer with the Oxbridge Opera Company and The Contralto in The Little Box of Opera’s production of The Four Note Opera. In her final year of study at Otago she was a finalist in the Lexus Song Quest and won the Otago Daily Times Aria, the Nelson Sealord Aria and the Wellington Regional Aria. She was twice runner-up in the New Zealand Aria Contest (2007 and 2010) and was a 2008-9 Emerging Artist with New Zealand Opera.

Recent performances include the alto solos in Mozart’s Requiem (Christchurch City Choir), Handel’s Messiah (Nelson) and Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater (Port Chalmers and Invercargill). She made a cameo appearance in Rainbow Rosalind meets the Orchestra and in December sang the role of Mother/Grandmother in Seymour Barrab’s Little Red Riding Hood for Opera Otago.

Claire is passionate about the importance of engaging children and adults in the art of classical singing. Alongside a busy performance diary, she runs a private singing studio in Dunedin and is convenor of the Dunedin Junior Vocal Competition. She is also a committee member of The Little Box of Operas, and last year became a member of the council of the New Zealand Association of Teachers of Singing (NEWZATS).

Andrew Grenon (Tenor)

Andrew secured a place at the Wales International Academy of Voice when head tutor, internationally acclaimed tenor, Dennis O'Neill (CBE) heard him sing at the New Zealand Opera School. He spent two years in Cardiff under the tutelage of O'Neill and other tutors such as renowned soprano Nuccia Focile. This was made possible by generous support from, among others, the New Zealand Opera Foundation, the Dame Malvina Major Foundation, the Wallace Arts Trust and The Arts Foundation. Andrew is proud to be born and raised in Christchurch. He completed a MusB in performance music with Honours at the University of Canterbury in 2006, under the tutelage of Vernon Midgely and Dame Malvina Major.

As well as an appearance with City Choir Dunedin some eleven years ago, Andrew has performed as a soloist with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, the Christchurch City Choir with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, the Orpheus Choir with Orchestra Wellington, Bach Musica, and Viva Voce.

He made his debut in a principal operatic role in 2013 with NZ Opera as Acis in Handel's Acis and Galatea, while he was a Freemasons NZ Opera Resident Artist. The following year he sang again for NZ Opera as Gastone and Giuseppe in Verdi's La Traviata. He has also appeared with other NZ operatic companies, including Day's Bay Opera and Opera Otago. He was a Dame Malvina Major Foundation Emerging Artist with New Zealand Opera in 2009 and 2010. Andrew is currently a Freemason's Resident Artist with NZ Opera.

Other performances in 2019 include Bach's B Minor Mass with Bach Musica, two concerts with the Royal New Zealand Navy Band, Hamilton Gardens Festival soiree with Opera Brava, and Music in the Parks at Auckland's Dingle Dell Reserve with NZ Opera.

Malcolm Leitch (Bass)

Malcolm's singing career began at Chichester Cathedral (UK) as a boy chorister. Since then he has sung for eight years as Bass Lay Clerk at ChristChurch Cathedral (NZ), and has recently returned to New Zealand after an extended period singing in the UK, primarily based at Chelmsford Cathedral as Bass Lay Clerk. During this time he also sang at the Cathedrals of St Paul's (London), Canterbury, York Minster, Ely, Christ Church (Oxford), Worcester, Winchester and Chichester, and at the Cambridge Colleges of Kings and St John's.

As a well-known and in-demand concert soloist in the London and East Anglia regions, Malcolm performed repertoire including Handel's Messiah, Orff's Carmina Burana, Elgar's Dream of Gerontius, Fauré and Mozart's Requiems, Mendelssohn's Elijah, Bach's St John Passion and Duke Ellington's Sacred Music. In addition to being the principal bass soloist at Chelmsford Cathedral, Malcolm also performed regular recitals around the region, including song cycles, cantatas and lieder by composers such as Rachmaninov, Schubert, Bach, Vaughan Williams, Purcell and Britten. Malcolm has performed on television and radio, and has featured on various CD recordings, in both the UK and New Zealand.

Now based in Christchurch, Malcolm has performed with various regional groups around the country since his return, across the classical repertoire and in opera, including Handel's Messiah, Mozart's Requiem and Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors. Malcolm has a variety of up-coming engagements around New Zealand across the major centres in opera and as concert soloist.

City Choir Dunedin

City Choir Dunedin has been entertaining audiences for 155 years. Over the years the choir has been led and inspired by many talented and dedicated musical directors and it is undoubtedly their drive and vision that are among the reasons for the choir’s longevity and success, combined with the commitment of singers, the hard work of committee members, audience support, and financial assistance from many sources. David Burchell has been Musical Director of City Choir Dunedin since 2000.

As Dunedin’s leading exponent of large-scale choral works, the choir strives for the highest standards in performing the classics of the repertoire, such as Bach’s St Matthew Passion and Christmas Oratorio, Handel’s Messiah, Beethoven’s Ninth and Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius.

In addition, the choir has performed major new works by New Zealand composers. For its 150th anniversary in 2013, City Choir commissioned and premièred a new composition from Christopher Marshall entitled For What Can Be More Beautiful? In 2016 the choir sang Anthony Ritchie’s Gallipoli to the Somme, in 2012 The Journey Home by John Drummond, and Missa Pacifica by David Hamilton in 2006.

City Choir Dunedin’s 150th anniversary season included going on tour with the NZSO, performing the Verdi Requiem not only in Dunedin, but also joining forces with Auckland Choral Society, Orpheus Choir of Wellington and Christchurch City Choir for performances in the major centres of New Zealand.

City Choir Dunedin enjoyed travelling again in 2014 for a performance of the Vaughan Williams A Sea Symphony with Auckland Choral and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, in June 2018 to Oxford and London for performances of Gallipoli to the Somme, and to Auckland in December 2018 for two performances of Messiah with Auckland Choral and Pipers Sinfonia.

Christchurch City Choir

A first-class symphonic choir, the Christchurch City Choir plays a significant role in the city's music and civic life, performing choral works of great beauty to loyal and new audiences each year. The City Choir has a long and proud history of contributing to the musical fabric of the city stretching back over 125 years, performing works from the established repertoire as well as lesser-known and contemporary works.

Formally established following the merger of two long-standing choirs in 1991, the Choir flourished for 22 years under the musical leadership of the highly respected Brian Law who retired at the end of 2013. The baton was then taken up by Andrew Withington who, with energy and ideas aplenty, presented a rich and varied programme which appealed to a wide range of audiences. In 2016 the Choir had the privilege of working with several distinguished guest conductors and are thrilled to have Dr John Linker take up the baton and lead the choir on the next phase of our journey.

The Choir’s annual concert programme often involves the contracting of professional musicians and organisations such as the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Woolston Brass, along with local kapa haka groups and Christchurch schools. Previous performances have attracted soloists of international acclaim, including the Choir’s Patron, Simon O'Neill.

Fairfield School Choir, Forte

Forte is Fairfield School’s auditioned choir. The choir of 30 Year 5-8 pupils rehearse twice a week and enjoy learning and performing together. Recent highlights have been singing Carmina Burana with City Choir Dunedin and the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra, at the Lighting of the Octagon Christmas Tree, at the Launch of the Kmart Wishing Tree, as a guest choir at the Annual Red Cross Choir’s performance, at the Mosgiel RSA ANZAC service, and performing to residents at local rest homes. The choir is directed by Alison Tay and accompanied by Alison Gray.

Dunedin Symphony Orchestra

The Dunedin Symphony Orchestra (DSO) is Dunedin’s only professional orchestra and is funded by Creative New Zealand. It has a reputation for the high calibre of its performances. Since 1966, the orchestra has been presenting its audiences with performances of a wide range of orchestral masterpieces featuring international and New Zealand conductors and soloists.

Dunedin is very much the home base of the orchestra and its players, and most of its performances take place in the city. The orchestra’s versatility allows it to present a wide range of other artists, such as Te Vaka, singers from the Dunedin Sound genre, etc. In addition, the orchestra accompanies City Choir Dunedin, Opera Otago and the Royal NZ Ballet, ensuring audiences can enjoy choral, operatic and ballet masterpieces too. The DSO has also worked with NHNZ on several innovative multi-artform projects.

The DSO has a proud tradition of providing orchestral players in the community with a comprehensive range of educational projects to nurture future players, from the DSO Academy for younger, developing players, through to its University Scholarship for potential DSO players, and masterclasses and workshops for advanced players. The orchestra also presents chamber concerts at schools around Otago which enables access for those centred far from Dunedin. A high proportion of the DSO players form the backbone of the city’s music teaching infrastructure, demonstrating how integral the orchestra is to the city and the University of Otago.


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