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Orchestras, Venues and the Whole Magic Thing

With just this week remaining before Oriana’s Gjeilo/Mozart mega musical feast, the anticipation within the choir and orchestra is palpable. It’s been some time since Oriana has presented a concert of this magnitude, and we are collectively bursting to be ‘through the starting gate, and off and running’.

Oriana has performed many concerts in the past with orchestral accompaniments of varying sizes. Regular choir supporters and patrons will recall several presentations of Handel’s Messiah – the most recent being at the Caloundra Events Centre, with the QSO; earlier performances of Mozart’s Requiem; The Armed Man with the BSO; Bach’s Magnificat; Haydn’s Te Deum, and more. Friends and music lovers, I can tell you that on May 15th and 16th, you are in for a very special treat!

On Mother’s Day, the choir came together for a rehearsal with our soloists, and The Sinfonia of St. Andrew’s, our fabulous ‘backing band’ for this coming weekend’s concerts at the Caloundra Events Centre and St. John’s Cathedral, Brisbane. The way choir and orchestra gelled, almost from the first note together, was quite amazing. Much of that is down to our Music director, the incomparable Andrew Wailes. He has done such a superb job of preparing both choir and orchestra for this presentation, that at times throughout the rehearsal, it was almost as if orchestra and choir were one instrument. Is the orchestra backing the choir, or is the choir backing the orchestra? It doesn’t matter. The point is, it feels as if the collaboration is a match made in some sort of musical heaven.

The two works, the Requiem and Ola Gjeilo’s Sunrise Mass are very different in mood, atmosphere and musical structure. Mozart’s masterpiece features a 28 piece ensemble, encompassing strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion. The Sinfonia is totally up to the task of producing a huge sound when it is called for, as it is in the Dies Irae; but just as capable of playing exquisitely, as evidenced in the sublime Lacrymosa.

For the Sunrise Mass, the Sinfonia is scaled down to its string sections, whose accompaniments vary from minimal, almost haunting passages supporting delicate choral singing, to powerful (but not over-powering) support of full, multi-harmony work from the choir. There are also passages of beautiful, controlled a cappella singing, which provide a lovely, almost spine-tingling contrast to the accompanied sections.

The acoustic environments of the Events Centre and the Cathedral are quite different. St. John’s lofty building has a 5 second reverberation, which calls for a considerable degree of control by the conductor, to ensure that the sound is not ‘muddied.’ Oriana’s performance of Mendelssohn’s Elijah in 2019 provided solid assurance that Andrew will take good care of choir, orchestra, soloists and audience.

The Events Centre has a much ‘drier’ acoustic, with far less natural reverberation. This means that the music can be performed at a slightly faster tempo than in the Cathedral, where the delay has to be allowed for. But that does not mean that one performance will be ‘better’ than the other. The differences in tempo are indistinguishable to the audiences. If the reverberation in St. John’s was not allowed for, the audience’s enjoyment would be compromised.

Oriana has performed on a number of occasions in both venues. Both are very enjoyable experiences for the choir, who are committed to presenting the very best performance of which they are capable. Your enjoyment of this coming weekend’s concerts is assured. With the passion of Oriana, the excellence of our guest soloists, and the sheer brilliance of The Sinfonia of St. Andrew’s, ‘a splendid time is guaranteed for all’.

Ian Rix

10 May, 2021

Performances of the Requiem and Sunrise Mass will be at:

The Events Centre, Caloundra, Saturday, May 15th at 7.00 pm. Book your tickets at the venue or phone 54914240.

St John’s Cathedral, Brisbane, Sunday May 16th at 1.30 pm. Book your tickets at


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