Multi-textured concert at Geraldton’s St Francis Xavier Cathedral a feast for senses

Daryl IngvarsonGeraldton Guardian
A concert by French organist Johann Vexo and tenor Damien Riviere demonstrated the superior acoustics of the Monsignor Hawes-designed St Francis Xavier Cathedral in Geraldton.
Camera IconA concert by French organist Johann Vexo and tenor Damien Riviere demonstrated the superior acoustics of the Monsignor Hawes-designed St Francis Xavier Cathedral in Geraldton. Credit: Supplied, Charmaine Trezona

The magnificent music presented by organ virtuoso Johann Vexo and soloist Damien Riviere at St Francis Xavier Cathedral on Tuesday, February 12, spanned 301 years.

It was like reaching across time as the audience enjoyed a rare treat when the two internationally acclaimed artists appeared in concert. The program featured a variety of compositional styles that demanded attention to the subtle nuances unique to the composers.

The concert opened with the lively Comfort Ye Ev’ry Valley from Handel’s Messiah.

Renowned performers, tenor Damien Riviere and organist Johann Vexo, presented a concert at St Francis Xavier Cathedral in Geraldton.
Camera IconRenowned performers, tenor Damien Riviere and organist Johann Vexo, presented a concert at St Francis Xavier Cathedral in Geraldton. Credit: Supplied

This magnificent opening established the virtuosity of the artists, Vexo coaxing everything from the cathedral organ to Riviere’s soaring and unamplified voice.

The genius of Monsignor Hawes’ cathedral design was evident as Riviere’s changing positions under the dome added an ethereal element to his voice, complemented by the organ.

The organ’s sounds emanated from the rear loft and from the gallery, giving the performance a multi-dimensional ambience that is purely acoustic — a rare experience in a world of amplification.

The presentation included works by Handel, JS Bach, Mozart, Marcel Dupre, Louis Vierne and Maurice Durufle.

Each piece gave the audience a contrast in sound and texture, from the delicate Mozart Andante in F to the more robust Vierne Carillon de Westminster, which is an improvisation on London’s Big Ben Chimes.

Organist Johann Vexo and tenor Damien Riviere performed to a full crowd in the Monisgnor Hawes designed St Francis Xavier Cathedral in Geraldton.
Camera IconOrganist Johann Vexo and tenor Damien Riviere performed to a full crowd in the Monisgnor Hawes designed St Francis Xavier Cathedral in Geraldton. Credit: Supplied, Gerry Eastman

This most enjoyable musical experience reminded the audience how fortunate it is Geraldton has the St Francis Xavier Cathedral, a venue capable of attracting world-class performers.

Vexo and Riviere will continue their tour with appearances in other Australian capitals and New Zealand.

Credit must be given to the concert organisers who managed to secure their appearance in Geraldton.

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