Season Preview: Your guide to the arts in 2021

St George’s Cathedral in Perth has announced the 2021 season of its Concert Series, led by organist and Artistic Director Joseph Nolan, with a new commission amongst the highlights.

The Cathedral continues its partnership with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra in April, to perform Bach’s Easter Oratorio, BWV 249. “This will be the first time a Perth audience will get to hear a fully professional performance of Bach’s Easter Oratorio,” says Nolan, who will conduct the concert. “We were excited about presenting this concert in 2020 and naturally disappointed when we were forced to cancel. So I’m delighted to be getting a second bite of the cherry!”

West Australian Symphony Orchestra, Bach's St Matthew PassionJoseph Nolan, the West Australian Symphony Orchestra and St George’s Cathedral Consort performing Bach’s St Matthew Passion in 2019. Photo © WASO

The Bach sits on a program alongside Duruflé’s Requiem, with soloist Sara Macliver, Fiona Campbell, Paul McMahon and James Clayton joining the St George’s Cathedral Consort and WASO.

Nolan himself will take the spotlight in June, with an organ recital featuring Bach’s Passacaglia in C Minor, BWV 582, Reubke’s Sonata on the 94th Psalm, the Australian premiere of Jean-Valentin Alkan’s Impromptu on Luther’s ‘Un fort rempart est notre Dieu’, and Widor’s Fifth Organ Symphony – with its famous Toccata finale, Nolan’s recording of which Limelight’s Will Yeoman described as “an absolute ripper of a performance that will have you positively skipping down the aisle”.

“The Bach, Widor and particularly the Reubke are regarded as some of the most technically difficult writing for the organ,” Nolan says. “Frankly, they’re akin to playing ‘Teddy Bear’s Picnic’ at half speed compared to Alkan’s Impromptu. This piece is actually written for two players at one keyboard or for piano duet using two players.”

The Cathedral celebrates Christmas with a brand new work by WA composer Lydia Gardiner, whom Nolan has commissioned to write a new version of A Ceremony of Carols to sit alongside Benjamin Britten’s iconic work. “I am personally excited about this concert,” said Nolan. “Britten was a musical genius, and Lydia is creating brand new music that must hold up against one of the greatest musical works.”

The concert will feature the female voices of St George’s Cathedral Consort, with harp accompaniment, in a new choir named Sonus Angelorum – which means “the sound of angels,” a name that Nolan says “matches their sound perfectly”.

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