Playing harmonium epic effort

Organist Simon Mace practises on the Alexandre harmonium on Thursday ahead of next week's City of Dunedin Choir concert at Knox Church. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Organist Simon Mace practises on the Alexandre harmonium on Thursday ahead of next week's City of Dunedin Choir concert at Knox Church. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
"Is this sacred music which I have written or music of the devil?" Italian composer Gioachino Antonio Rossini mused after writing Petite Messe Solennelle in 1863.

Dunedin organist Simon Mace would certainly argue the latter in 2012.

The University of Otago music student will undertake a harmonium odyssey during a City of Dunedin Choir concert next week of Rossini's epic work.

Mr Mace (21) will have to pump the foot pedals of the Alexandre harmonium about 3000 times during the two-hour concert - the equivalent of jogging uphill for 3km - while dressed in an evening suit and bow tie.

"It's certainly going to be challenging. I haven't had much experience with the harmonium. This will actually be the first time I've played the harmonium in public, so it will be a new experience," he said on Thursday.

"There's a lot more horizontal movement on the pedals with the organ. With the harmonium, you're just pumping the pedals. You have to produce the wind yourself."

The 149-year-old harmonium was provided by the New Zealand Organ Manufactory in Oamaru for the concert and was in "remarkably" good condition, choir music director and conductor David Burchell said.

"I was pleased to find that it is exactly at concert pitch - not just close by, as you might have expected with an instrument of this age," Mr Burchell said.

The soloists for the concert are soprano Emma Fraser, alto Amanda Cole, bass Julien Van Mellaerts and tenor Matthew Wilson, while the piano accompanists are John van Buskirk and Sandra Crawshaw.

The City of Dunedin Choir presents Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle at 7.30pm at Knox Church on September 29.

- nigel.benson@odt.co.nz