Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass

2018 CCPC Posters Nelson Mass

Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass was performed by the Central Coast Philharmonia Choir to a full house at the St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Woy Woy on Saturday 10th November 2018.

Review by Stephanie Short

From the first  breathtaking solo by Amanda Hutton, mezzo soprano, with piccolo trumpet played by Timothy Rees, the choir and orchestra were in exquisite alignment.

This beautiful concert of classical sacred music for choir and orchestra by Handel, Mozart and Haydn, was the final concert to be conducted by the beloved Musical Director, Philip Rees OAM.  From the opening remarks of Choir Patron Patrick Donnellan it became clear that the concert would be a celebration of Philip Rees’ 35 most productive and enjoyable years with the Central Coast Philharmonia.

The centrepiece of the concert, Haydn’s ‘Nelson Mass’, is a classic Mass, composed by Austrian composer, Joseph Haydn, and first performed in 1798. It is Haydn’s largest mass, and one of his most popular and beloved works. This particular piece of sacred music is one of the favourites of this Choir too; first performed by them in 1985. The central theme of the Mass, completed after the Battle of the Nile (1798), and within months of the Battle of Trafalgar (1805), was originally entitled ‘Mass for Times of Distress’.   Before the concert Phil Rees explained, however, that the central exaltation in the Mass is brought about by the prospect of peace. Even on the eve of Remembrance Day, the 11th November, Philip Rees encouraged us to still maintain the hope, the prospect of peace. It was felt that this canonical piece of music in Western art and civilisation was the most appropriate way to celebrate Phil Rees’s contribution to the life and musical enhancements of our community.

Certainly, on this occasion the Central Coast Philharmonia Choir and Orchestra lifted our hearts and minds to new heights.

The audience was united by the heavenly sounds created by Choir and Orchestra, with Soloists, under the baton of our beloved Phil Rees.

There were four soloists: mezzo soprano, soprano, tenor and bass.

Amanda Hutton (mezzo soprano), a long-time favourite of the Philharmonia, sang with poise and clarity.

Livia Brash (soprano) stunned us visually in a forest green sari. She stunned musically too with precision, musicality and a serene presence. Livia is a star with a stunning future ahead of her.

Alex Sefton (bass) sang with precision and warmth to our considerable delight.

Branko Lovrinov (tenor), performed the relatively modest yet important role most effectively with his powerful and expressive voice.

The acoustics of the St John the Baptist catholic church in Woy Woy were superb for this program of classical sacred music.

The concert was enjoyable and uplifting.

Thank you, Phil Rees OAM.

Duncan Waight, President of the Central Coast Philharmonia Choir, highlighted that Philip Rees has performed many roles with the choir over the years: as guest conductor; trombonist; pianist, harpsichordist, singer and then eventually Musical Director since 2001.

Duncan Waight acknowledged: “Phil has certainly taken us on an amazing musical journey through familiar and unfamiliar territory from Vivaldi, Handel, Bach, Haydn and Mozart to some wonderful contemporary pieces by Alexander L’Estrange, Karl Jenkins, Eric Whitacre, Dan Forrest and Christopher Tin.’

Duncan Waight further commented: ‘On a number of occasions Central Coast audiences have been the first in Australia to hear these modern masterpieces.’

There was a consensus in the Choir, Orchestra and audience, that losing Philip Rees AM with his amazing gifts not only as a great musician but as a human being is a great loss for the Central Coast community.

Phil Rees is an irreplaceable treasure.

Duncan Waight noted: “Phil is a wonderful, caring person and an astonishingly talented musician who has made a positive difference in many, many people’s lives within the Philharmonia and in the wider music community. We will miss him dearly and wish him well as he begins a new chapter in Blayney.”

Perhaps we should allow the Choir to have the final say, as they blessed us with an exquisite encore, ‘The Road Home’ by the contemporary American composer, Stephen Paulus, concluding with the following lyrics:

“There is no such beauty
As where you belong;
Rise up, follow me,
I will lead you home.”

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