With his signature beaming smile, Australian Brandenburg Orchestra Artistic Director Paul Dyer strode onto the stage, kissed his crimson polka-dot tie with a flourish, and turned to conduct his band and the Brandenburg Choir through Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. As if embodying those unseen exclamation marks, Dyer did a little jump for joy with each cry of “hark!” during an exquisitely modulated rendition of this Felix Mendelssohn festive favourite.

The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra. Photo supplied

The first of 20 short works in this year’s Noël! Noël!program, it set the tone for an evening of majestic joie de vivre from the 16th century right through to a few contemporary compositions, including Ola Gjeilo’s haunting Prelude, reminiscent of Byzantine and Eastern European chant. The orchestra was stripped back to eight core players, or sometimes 12 with added brass – including sackbuts, which Dyer explained were once strongly associated with Christmas – while the predominantly male choir numbered 22.

They were frequently joined by young Australian soprano Morgan Balfour, who is currently based in the United States. Though a few moments suggested her voice is still developing physically and technically, she delighted with a...