The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra’s Noël! Noël!is an annual fixture presenting a program of festive music interleaving the traditional with the contemporary and the sacred with the secular, where Billy Joel rubs shoulders with George Frideric Handel. It’s a musical smorgasbord that appeals to a broad church and supplements, or supplants for some, the more traditional sacred Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.

ABC Noel! Noel! 2021

In Sydney, the audience is masked and the concert lasts 80 minutes with no interval. We are handed a run sheet but the full program is only available for download. Border closures necessitate the absence of some key members of the orchestra; others have only just escaped interstate lockdowns – signs of the times, in spite of which performers and audience are clearly happy and grateful to be lifted by the event.

Conducted by Artistic Director Paul Dyer, sansharpsichord, the 17-strong orchestra, which plays on period instruments, is joined by 19 choristers, the alto section as always, comprising only...