Queensland Symphony Orchestra, QPAC Choir, Brisbane Chorale, Brisbane Birralee Voices, Mitchell Butel, Alinta Chidzey, Virgilio Marino, Kimberley Hodgson, Sister Angela Mary Doyle, Jenny Woodward and conductor Simon Kenway. Concert Hall, QPAC, 20-21 December 2013.

Australia’s love of choral and choir singing stemming from our Anglo-Saxon heritage, was never more in evidence that at the finale of Spirit of Christmas when the combined QPAC Choir, the Brisbane Chorale, the Brisbane Birralee Voices and four guest artists sang a very moving “From a Distance.” The sound was magnificent and the audience responded accordingly.

2013 celebrated 30 years of these annual Spirit of Christmas concerts and producer Paul Dellit wisely kept to the tried-and-true format of hymns alternating with Christmas songs old and new.

In a program of many highlights Virgilio Marino’s vocals on the anthem “The Holy City” (Jerusalem) accompanied by the choir was thrilling. Likewise Queensland Conservatorium Music Theatre graduate Kimberley Hodson making her professional debut, with a powerhouse reading of “Just in time for Christmas.” Alinta Chidzey’s vocals sparkled on “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” as much as her outfit, while Mitchell Butel had fun with the Christmas perennial “Rudoph the Red-nosed Reindeer” with an assist from a multitude of kids from the audience up on stage who loved it. When audience sing-a-long was encouraged in the hymns they were well-primed and enthusiastically joined in.

And it was all accompanied by the 50-piece Queensland Symphony Orchestra in top form. Conducted by Simon Kenway, this incredibly versatile unit played everything from big-band swing to light classics and pop and had their own showcase on Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride.” This was the one concert of the year where the orchestra could let their hair down and join in the spirit of the occasion and they did so with obvious relish.

ABC weather-woman Jenny Woodward was a pleasant host, while Christopher Wrench had a grand time on the Concert Hall’s grand organ. But overall it was the perfect blending of over 250 voices that provided the goose-bumps. Choral singing doesn’t come much better than this.

Peter Pinne   

Photographer: Darren Thomas.    

Peter Pinne's review of the QPAC Choir Spirit of Christmas CD

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