For those with less-than-stellar singing voices, Christmas carol time – and those high notes of Silent Night – can prove challenging. Brett Weymark, artistic and music director of Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, has some plain-speaking advice for those shy about their abilities.
“Just have a bloody good time singing them and don’t be afraid of what anybody thinks,” he says. “As a society we all get terribly embarrassed by singing, but singing is one of the greatest things we can do. It makes you feel better than anything else on the planet and it’s cheaper than psychoanalysis and easier than getting on the treadmill at the gym.”
He has two simple tips to help novice singers sound instantly better. “Think about how you’re standing. If you’re slouching, you can’t get as much air into your lungs. The other thing, and it sounds really silly, is to open your mouth. The sound is much better if you just release your jaw.”
On Sunday, Weymark conducts the vocal talents of Sydney Philharmonia Choirs along with guest soloists Celeste Lazarenko, Nicholas Tolputt, Andrew Goodwin and Christopher Richardson. He’s leading about 550 voices for the biennial Christmas concert of Handel’s glorious oratario Messiah, which contains the familiar Hallelujah chorus. Weymark says unlike many baroque compositions, Messiah has never fallen out of the performing repertoire worldwide. “It’s one of those pieces that has just endured.”
And nearly 280 years on from its composition, Weymark admits Messiah still has the ability to give him goosebumps. “When they sing the very last chorus, where everyone comes together in unison and sings this extraordinary D major chord with full orchestra, literally you can feel the music against your skin like a tidal wave of sound. That’s what always gets me.”
Messiah presented by Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, 1pm, Sydney Opera House, $43-$120, sydneyoperahouse.com