Review: Sacred & Secular on 18th August 2018

The uncertainty of availability of a venue led the Orchestra to consider something different in 2018. The availability of a Pipe Organ in the St. James Cathedral brought to mind many beautiful pieces written for the Organ and Orchestra, consequently presenting a concert in the Cathedral almost wrote the program for the concert. So for this concert we all went to the soloist instrument rather than having the soloist be amongst the Orchestra on a stage.

A Gregorian chant comes to mind when sacred music is thought of but those lovely male voices praising God don’t need anything like a Orchestra to enhance them. Fortunately Orchestras also have an inspirational repertoire, mainly with voice to give praise, and the Barrier Reef Orchestra chose some of the best. Sydney Mezzo Soprano Tanya Christensen was magnificent singing the Panis Angelicus(Bread of Angels) composed by Cėsar Frank. This much loved music was a joy to hear and certainly filled the Cathedral.

Probably the most well known sacred inspired music is an Oratorio by Handel, TheMessiah and the aria Behold a Virgin/O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion sung again by Tanya was beautiful. The audience had their turn to sing with Tanya and the Orchestra in Jerusalem – that fantasy poem by Blake that Jesus’ feet did walk in England’s green mountains.

The main feature of the concert was the Pipe Organ and, even though this one is reputed to not have much “oomph”, played by Justin Ankus it certainly excelled. Handel’s Organ Concerto in F minor (Cuckoo and the Nightingale) was delightful and brought a little ah of recognition at the bird sounds from people sitting near me.

The third movement finale of Camille Saint-Saȅns Organ Symphony was spine tinglingly wonderful. The music designated “secular” also sounded great with the Orchestra giving its usual 110% (the acoustics of the Cathedral helped as well when you compare it to the dead acoustics of the theatre).

The concert was opened with the rollicking Overture from The Thieving Magpie by Rossini. Bach’s Air on a G String was light and dare I say it – airy. Tanya and the Orchestra excelled with two contrasting love songs – the Habanera from the opera Carmen (Bizet) and a more modern Jerome Kern Music Theatre classic Can’t help Lovin” Dat Man from Showboat.

Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances was lively and again well played by Townsville’s Community Orchestra.

All in all another great concert from the Barrier Reef Orchestra, now in its 18th year it has certainly “come of age” Congratulations to all in it.LGM