Australian choral groups revive neglected 19th-century oratorio, once widely performed

Posted on: August 3, 2021

“A chance encounter between a Tasmanian music director and a historian has led to the first performance since 1936 of a choral work by Charles Sandys Packer,” writes Catherine Zengerer in last Tuesday’s (7/27) ABC News Australia. “Margot Lampkin OAM from Choral Productions Tasmania … discovered that [historian Luke Agati] was writing a biography of [Packer], an English composer who rose to fame and then disappeared into obscurity…. Agati, a collector of early Australian music publications [had] spotted an old copy of a composition by Charles S. Packer, called Crown of Thorns. The oratorio [was] considered a masterpiece by Australian musical societies in the late 19th century…. Packer was a rising star in London’s musical world in the early 19th century when a twist of fate saw him transported to the colonies [for bank fraud]…. He was eventually given a conditional pardon…. In 1863, he composed … Crown of Thorns … [which was] played as often as Handel’s Messiah in Sydney…. It disappeared from performance lists after 1936…. Determined to revive the piece, [Lampkin] worked with three Hobart choirs…. The work was finally performed … in Hobart on Good Friday, just as it would have been a century ago.”