Wednesday, December 20, 2017


Llewellyn Choir
Conducted by Rowan Harvey-Martin
Wesley Uniting Church, Forrest, Saturday 16 December

Reviewed by Len Power

L'Enfance du Christ (The Childhood of Christ) is an oratorio by Hector Berlioz, based on the Holy Family's flight into Egypt.  It was first performed in Paris in 1854.  The work is in three distinct sections.  The first part details King Herod ordering the death of new-born children in Judaea and the second shows the Holy Family - Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus - leaving for Egypt to escape the death threat.  In the third part, the family find refuge in the Egyptian town of Saïs with a family of Ishmailites.

Berlioz’s music for this work has some very tender moments such as the well-known Shepherd’s Farewell and the Mary and Joseph duet.  The music for Herod’s decision to kill the new born children is chilling and dramatic and the whole work maintains interest throughout with its many challenges for soloists and choir members.

Conductor, Rowan Harvey-Martin, has done an excellent job bringing this large work together.  Tenor, Michael Martin, sang the role of the Narrator with great feeling, especially at the start of the third section.  As Herod, Andrew Fysh’s fine bass voice was heard to great effect in the frenzied sequence where he orders the death of the babies.

Rebecca Collins gave an impassioned performance as Mary, singing and acting the role with clarity and warmth.  The duet in the stable in Bethlehem with Rohan Thatcher, in excellent voice as Joseph, was especially notable.  Michael Wilson sang the roles of Polydorus and the Father with strength and dignity.  The shepherd’s farewell to the Holy Family was memorably sung by the large Llewellyn Choir and the finale of the work was sung with great sensitivity.

Terese Rabe and Rebecca Timony gave a fine performance of the flute duet and the Llewellyn Sinfonia played the musical accompaniment very well.

The concert finished with three Christmas carols.  The audience was invited to join the choir in singing the last carol, ‘Silent Night’, and the sound of all our voices filling the Wesley Uniting Church was quite moving.

This review was first published in the Canberra City News digital edition of 17 December 2017.

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7’s new ‘On Stage’ program on Mondays from 3.30pm and on ‘Artcetera’ from 9.00am on Saturdays.