The greater the challenge, the greater the reward – these words quoted by Maroondah Symphony Orchestra Conductor Willem van der Vis summed up the success of the grand performance of Elijah on Sunday November 26. A large crowd thrilled to the stirling efforts of the MSO musicians, the Maroondah Singers, Diamond Valley Singers, Yarra Valley Singers and Singularity and four outstanding soloists in bringing the prestigious oratorio to life at the George Wood Performing Arts Centre on Sunday November 26.

In a personal letter Willem thanked all participants for their huge effort, saying that for community choirs and orchestras to pull off this major work is something else!  He noted that after a marathon rehearsal on the Saturday he was expecting the whole performance to go “quite well” but “on Sunday, when I first walked on stage at the warm up, I thought wow  –  this all looks and feels so good  –  the stage lighting, the layout, and everyone is so keen”. Thank you everyone so much – you all created this – I felt inspired to just go for it, and it felt kind of easy. It went fabulously well – all the choristers truly gave of themselves, and the four soloists (Joanna Cole, Shakira Dugan, Peter Mander and Michael Lampard) really did add drama to the work. All this explains the glowing feedback we had from members of the audience.

Willem gave special thanks to the choral directors – Lyn Henshall, Belinda Gillam Derry, Cecily Woodbery and Lucas Wilson-Richter – for the huge task of singer preparation (many of whom do not read music).

Belinda, from Yarra Valley Singers, who coordinated the choirs thanked Willem and the orchestra for the opportunity to perform Elijah.

It was an absolutely wonderful experience, especially for some of our choristers who have rarely (or have never previously) performed a major work with orchestra, massed choir and soloists. I had one such lady in tears of emotion yesterday, as she described to me what an impact the experience had had on her. She also praised the directors for their wonderful job in preparing the choirs. I was thrilled with the standard of performance we attained, and I know Willem thought it was probably the best we have ever presented for our bi-annual combined performances (the previous two were Messiah and Carmina Burana). A huge achievement by all, especially considering it was a very big sing.

Belinda thanked the Maroondah Singers for providing their risers for use at the rehearsals and performance. We simply couldn’t have fitted everyone on the stage without the use of your additional infrastructure.