The Messiah


SUNDAY 10 December 2pm

Church of St George & St John 30 Domain Rd Whakatane

Edgecumbe choir is presenting George Frideric Handel's masterpiece, "Messiah”, for the first time under musical direction of Chalium Poppy. 

Listening to the music and message of Handel’s Messiah can bring us a sense of inner peace for the troubled present and bring hope for an uncertain future. 

Choir is delighted to sing alongside our very capable soloists, and to be supported by exceptional organist Dr John Wells.

Musical Director - Chalium Poppy

Organist - Dr John Wells

Soloists: Elizabeth Mandeno – soprano, Laura Funaki – alto, Taylor Wallbank - tenor, James Roberson – bass 


Handel composed this, his most famous oratorio within 24 days. It has often been recounted that during the course of its composition, Handel was occasionally moved to tears and sensed the presence of the Great God of Heaven.

Handel was invited by William Cavendish, Duke of Devonshire and Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, to visit Dublin and present some of his music. In response to that invitation, Messiah was given its premiere performance on 13 April, 1742. This first performance featured a choir of only 10 men and 10 boys loaned to Handel by special permission by the choirs of Dublin’s Saint Patrick’s and Christ Church Cathedrals. The proceeds of this performance were devoted to the relief of prisoners, the support of a hospital, and the assistance of a charitable infirmary. 

This oratorio is so much more than a masterful combination of overture, pastorale, fugue and minuet.  If you are gifted with the sensitivity of faith, Handel’s masterwork will be more than just an annual cultural experience and festive tradition. 


 Musical Director -  Chalium Poppy 


A resident of Mount Maunganui, Chalium has gained both international and national recognition as a multi-faceted musician.  He is in demand as a conductor, soloist, recitalist, music commentator, clinician, examiner, and educator.  Chalium has brought a fresh look and sound to the choir since taking on its conductorship in 2019. 


Since arriving in Aotearoa in 2009 after meeting and marrying a Kiwi abroad, Chalium has been the Organist and Choirmaster of St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Mount Maunganui where he has worked tirelessly to build both the parish choir and the music ministry there with a focus on community-facing musical events.  A specialist in early music performance practice, he founded and continues to conduct the Scholars Baroque Aotearoa in 2010, a 24 voice chamber choir that regularly performs with NZBarok, New Zealand’s only Baroque orchestra.


Chalium dedicates most of his time to running his own private music studio out of his home in Mount Maunganui.  He teaches voice, piano, organ, and harpsichord and regularly prepares his students for competitions, exams, and university entrance.  In his spare time, Chalium, and his husband Michael, enjoy cooking and entertaining together, and being the doting parents to their two dogs, Paddington and Montgomery. 


Organist - Dr John Wells 


John Wells is a classical organist, pianist, teacher, composer and recording artist.  He made the country’s first organ CD in 1989 and is the only recitalist ever to have given an organ concert in a shearing shed.   As Auckland City Organist from 1998 to 2012, he spearheaded the project to build the new Klais organ in the Town Hall; $4 million and 40 tonnes later, it now ranks among the world’s famous instruments.

His skill in accompanying Messiah is legendary and he uses his own version of the score, especially adapted for the organ.  A selection of his CDs will be available for purchase at the concert.

Soprano - Elizabeth Mandeno


Elizabeth Mandeno is a former Dame Malvina Major Emerging Artist with NZ Opera. She studied with Dennis O’Neill and Nuccia Focile at the Wales International Academy of Voice, where she earned an MA with Distinction in Advanced Vocal Technique. Elizabeth has performed as a soloist alongside Dame Felicity Lott and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, and in 2019 she won the Lockwood New Zealand Aria, sponsored by the Dame Malvina Major Foundation.

Notable opera and concert performances include Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem (Christchurch City Choir/CSO), Amina in La Sonnambula (Days Bay Opera), Handel’s Messiah (Auckland Choral, Christchurch City Choir/CSO), St Matthew Passion, Bach Magnificat, Bach B Minor Mass, Schumann Requiem (Bach Musica NZ), Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare, Josabeth in Athalia (Handel Consort and Quire NZ), Haydn’s Creation(NZ Choral Federation), Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire (University of Auckland). 

Elizabeth is grateful to the following people and organisations for their support: Dame Malvina Major Foundation, New Zealand Opera Trust, New Zealand Aria Trust, Dennis O’Neill Foundation, Opera Factory Trust, North Harbour Club AIMES Foundation, The New Zealand Opera School. 


Alto - Laura Funaki


Laura Funaki was born in Ireland but raised in Auckland, singing predominantly in school and community choirs. She trained classically and briefly sang with the New Zealand Opera Chorus before turning her attention to medical studies. She has been a member of various choirs over the years including the Hamilton Civic Choir, Scholars Baroque Aotearoa and Viva Voce. She has had the opportunity to sing as a soloist for the Edgecumbe Choir and Scholars Baroque Aotearoa in 2019. In recent years she has focused her attention on her young children while continuing to work as a medical registrar. Laura has now taken a step back from medicine to focus on her family and hopes to find more time for music beyond Disney. Laura is very pleased to sing with Edgecumbe choir again.



Tenor - Taylor Wallbank


Taylor Wallbank has been singing for 8 years. He first started singing at high school, after his friends suggested he join a choir. He was then invited to join a youth opera initiative and later found himself in a full-scale opera, performing with international opera singers. In 2017, Taylor debuted his operatic career in the opera Carmen as Le Remendado, standing on stage alongside some of Australasia’s top stars. Taylor is involved with Project Prima Volta, a youth opera initiative that helps young people to explore their talents in an empowering environment. He has also been awarded the Maori High Excellence Award in both 2019 & 2020. Taylor also has extensive experience in oratorio, such as John Stainers Crucifixion, Messiah, Durante’s Magnificat, Saint Saens Christmas Oratorio, Rossini Petite Messe Solenelle, Mozarts requiem and many more. In 2018 he also sang the role of Gastone in Festival Opera's production of La Traviata and is currently preparing the role of Monostatos in Festival Opera’s 2023 production of Die Zauberflöte. Taylor has an exciting year to come where he will be working with NZ Opera & the TANZOS programme (2023) as well as various other projects throughout Aotearoa.




Bass - James Roberson


James Roberson is a Graduate of the University of Auckland with a Bachelor of Music (Classical Performance: Voice) and a Master of Music with First Class Honours (Musicology). James also holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching (Secondary) and works as a classroom teacher, studio vocal teacher, performer, and choir director. He has recently been appointed as the Director of Liturgical Music at St Ignatius of Loyola Catholic College in Auckland. James has a passion for new works and his compositions aim to reflect the needs of the performers with whom he comes into contact. His compositions include Southern North: an art song cycle about three iconic Wellington locations for solo voice and piano; Moher Cruinniú: a duet for two voices about the see meeting the cliffs of Moher in Ireland, and Tone Poems: The Storm: a work which aims to capture the contrast between the calm before a storm and the ferocity of the storm in action. James enjoys writing for singers and welcomes the challenge of creating a new work to serve the needs of a group or director.