Concert review: Spirit of Christmas, QPAC

The Christmas spirit was well and truly alive at QPAC.

Delighting audiences for over 40 years, the longest running event at Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) did not disappoint.

QPAC’s concert hall was bedazzled in Christmas fare that would put a smile on the face of the grumpiest Grinch.

Waveney Yasso invited the spirits in by performing an Acknowledgement of Country through song. Using electric pedals to live loop her guitar and vocals, she offered a unique acknowledgement and a moving performance to kick off the 2023 Christmas concert.

With three double basses and an impressive string section, the ‘Christmas Overture’ by the Queensland Youth Orchestras, conducted by Musical Director Simon Kenway, brought everyone together for a more refined carols event. From traditional songs to modern hymns, the hall was filled with angelic sounds from the featured performers, alongside QPAC’s own Chamber Choir.

Having soared to new heights completing a superb two-year national tour playing the title role in the Disney and Cameron Mackintosh production of Mary Poppins, Stephanie Jones was one of the main soloists and comperes of the evening. She showed the Brisbane crowd just how much of a leading lady she is from the very first song, ‘We Need a Little Christmas’.

Daniel Belle and Marcus Corowa as featured artists had their own charm and powerhouse voices in equal measure, while recent Queensland musical theatre graduate Sophie Montague joined in with the Spirit of Christmas as a guest artist.

Sounds of AustraNesia had flown in from Far North Queensland and despite their towns being flood-stricken that week, they brought so much hope in their original songs ‘Prince of Peace’ and ‘Heavenly Teardrops’. Soloist Marcus Corowa joined them to fill in for those who couldn’t be there.

Brisbane Birralee Voices is a signature children’s choir in Queensland and led a wonderful Aussie rendition of ‘12 Days of Christmas’ with Jones and Corowa. The swapping of a “partridge in a pear tree” for “goanna up a flame tree,” was pure delight, as was watching Jones and Corowa with the young Birralee Voices.

A nod to Australia’s own Christmas song ‘How to Make Gravy’, sung by Corowa, was a treat for Paul Kelly fans, and this was followed by a Christmas message delivered by The Salvation Army’s Major Scott Allen.

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Daniel Belle sang us into the final carols, with his voice as smooth as butter in ‘O Holy Night’, supported by the orchestra, choir and Emma Hadfield on the Concert Hall’s illustrious 6500-pipe Klais Grand Organ.

Popular with Brisbane crowds since the first concert in 1984, the Spirit of Christmas is a sellout each year, and this is why QPAC has begun the new tradition of sharing the concert on its digital stage. Free to livestream on Christmas Eve, the concert was brought into living rooms via some slick camerawork and, at this time of year, was a welcome invitation to attend an event at home on the couch.

Spirit of Christmas
Presented by QPAC
Starring: Stefanie Jones, Marcus Corowa, Daniel Belle, Sounds of AustraNesia, Queensland Youth Orchestras with the QPAC Chamber Choir and Voices of Birralee, Waveney Yasso, Sophie Montague and Major Scott Allen
Musical Director and Conductor: Simon Kenway

Stage Director: David Burton
Broadcast Director: David Pawsey
Choral Director and Special Choral Arrangements: Timothy Sherlock
Lighting Designer: Ben Hughes
Sound Engineer: Geoff McGahan
Stage Designer: Bill Haycock

Concert Hall, QPAC
22-23 December 2023

Spirit of Christmas was live-streamed on 24 December 2023

Lisette Drew is a writer, theatre maker and youth literature advocate, who has worked nationally and overseas on over 50 theatrical productions. Her play, Breakwater, was shortlisted for two playwriting awards and her novel The Cloud Factory was longlisted for The Hawkeye Prize. In 2022 she received a Kill Your Darlings Mentorship and was a City of Melbourne Writer-in-Residence. Lisette shares her love for stories and storytelling running writing and theatre workshops for children.