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Saturday, December 1, 2018


(Nigel Fish conducts “Messiah”. Pic by Nash Narrandes)

Singers agreed that it was “one of the best performances” in the capital’s history. (Review by Christi Naudé)

Not even the sweltering heat could dampen the audience’s rousing appreciation for the 154th performance of Handel’s Messiah on Sunday (November 24, 2018). When the last notes of the three-hour concert faded away, a packed audience in Epworth School Chapel rose to their feet to give the conductor, choir, soloists and orchestra a standing ovation.

Choristers from the Pietermaritzburg Amateur Music Society (PAMS), augmented by members of the Eyesizwe Adult Choir, the Howick Choristers and singers of the Midlands Community agreed that it was “one of the best performances” in the capital’s history.

Given the large number of regular Messiah choristers (some sang their first Messiah in 1949!) it is certainly a feather in the cap of PAMS musical director Nigel Fish, who still finds something new and refreshing in the 276-year-old oratorio. “Once again, the incredible journey described in Handel’s marvellous music proved to be immensely moving and inexhaustibly powerful. What a privilege to be involved,” he said.

(Soprano Thembi Sithole. Pic by Jessica Lindiwe Draper)

To 39-year old soprano Thembi Sithole, who works as a Human Resources Officer at the Department of Social Development in Pietermaritzburg, making her debut in this immortal piece of music was “a dream coming true. I had always watched people singing it, longing to sing the soprano part. When I got the chance, I grabbed it with both hands!”

Sithole, who impressed the audience with her beautiful, soul-stirring and accurate interpretation of the music, said she did not want the audience to know that it was her first time singing the oratorio. “I worked very hard to be precise,” she said adding that she works with a pianist and stores as much as she can in her memory to practise on her own since she cannot read music. The mother of two also sings in the African Chorus Choir in Umlazi and the Playhouse Chorale.

She is full of praise for Fish, who will soon be leaving PAMS to focus on his instrumental and teaching work. “Nigel is the most good-hearted, humblest conductor I have ever worked with. He puts his heart into everything he does. I feel so honoured and privileged to have worked with him.”

(PAMS Conductor Nigel Fish with soloists tenor Sibonelo Mbanjwa, alto Margi Nel and bass Simon Bester)

PAMS Chair Jonathan Drapers said, “Music stirs the human spirit in a way nothing else can, and Handel’s masterpiece never fails to do so for me. This time, the swirl of emotions from the joy of the gift of peace through the baby Jesus, to the deep sorrow of the human Jesus, and finally to the intoxicating triumph of the exalted Jesus caught me by surprise. Nigel Fish’s close attention to the musical dynamics brought something new out of something old!”

Those who missed this great performance can press the “catch up” button on the DVD which is available through PAMS Facebook page at

Music lovers, seasoned singers and newcomers, are warmly invited to join PAMS when they start practices again in the New Year. - Christi Naudé