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Cellist-turned-conductor Leads NZSO For Handel’s Inspirational Messiah

Acclaimed Italian conductor Umberto Clerici makes his New Zealand Symphony Orchestra debut with a lavish performance of Handel’s masterwork Messiah, in association with Sky City Hotels Group, in Wellington on 10 December.

Clerici, a virtuoso cellist before he took up conducting four years ago, is joined by four outstanding soloists: soprano Emma Pearson, mezzo-soprano Deborah Humble, tenor Lila Crichton and bass Wade Kernot, and the Tudor Consort choir.

Best known for its inspirational ‘Hallelujah Chorus’, George Frideric Handel’s Messiah is one of the most popular oratorios in the world, and often performed during the festive season.

Clerici moved to Australia in 2014 to become Principal Cello of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. In 2018 he was asked if he would like to conduct a concert. He agreed and spent six months training as a conductor.

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“I was always interested, not necessarily in conducting, but always interested in communication, in the involvement between musicians. I was curious. I wanted to try,” he said in an interview this year.

The success of his first concert as conductor led to more opportunities with regional and state orchestras in Australia. “Since then, it has gone crazy. It’s boosted me so much faster.”

His experiences as a musician contribute to his quick success in conducting, he believes. The musicians he conducts know he has been there and walked in their shoes.

“It felt very natural with your own colleagues. Most of the time when you do it with your own colleagues they hate it, suddenly from playing with them you are bossing them around or telling them what to do. My colleagues were so supportive.”

This year he’s conducted the Queensland, Melbourne, West Australia and Adelaide symphony orchestras. The Queensland Symphony has appointed him as its chief conductor from next year.

Tickets for Messiah are available from ticketmaster.co.nz.


Attached images: (1) Messiah soloists, clockwise from left: Emma Pearson, Lila Crichton, Wade Kernot, Deborah Humble. (2) Messiah conductor Umberto Clerici


in association with Sky City Hotels Group



DEBORAH HUMBLE Mezzo-soprano




HANDEL Messiah
Libretto written by Reverend Charles Jennens

TE WHANGANUI-A-TARA WELLINGTON | Michael Fowler Centre| Saturday, 10 December| 7.30pm

Ticketmaster | 0800 111 999| ticketmaster.co.nz


George Frideric Handel’s Messiah was first performed in Dublin in 1742. The composer was looking for ways in which to create novel and compelling music and for Messiah to be enjoyed by everyone, whether they were nobility, landed gentry or commoner.

There was such demand for tickets, gentlemen had to leave their swords at home, and ladies had to refrain from wearing their hooped skirts just so they could squeeze an extra 100 people into the hall.

Following the premiere, Messiah was so well received that within a few years it was regularly performed and is now one of the few works from the mid-1700s that has had a constant performance history. Today it is one of the most performed oratorios in the world and one of the best known. It was even reinterpreted in gospel, blues, jazz, R&B and hip-hop for the 1992 album Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration, featuring Stevie Wonder.

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