The annual performance by BMS of Handel’s Messiah is always popular and last Saturday’s concert was no exception – the Cathedral was filled to capacity with an enthusiastic and attentive audience.
An annual occurrence it might be, but the choir’s rendering of this well-known work was by no means routine. Under Tom Newall’s masterly direction and with the Lancashire Chamber Orchestra playing as always with skill and verve, ably supported by Samuel Hudson on the chamber organ, the choir combined passion with precision; heads were up, diction was crisp as the singers conveyed the drama of the familiar but always moving story with energy and conviction. So thrilling was it that a member of the orchestra said it made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up.
The performance was made all the more memorable by the contributions of the four exceptional soloists. Soprano Charlotte Hoather, in her first public performance of this work, mesmerised the audience with the beauty of her singing (for Charlotte’s take on this experience, see her blog post.)
Helen Anne Gregory’s rendering of the contralto arias was powerful and compelling. and the male soloists were equally impressive: Alexander Grainger brought a freshness and vitality to the tenor solos while baritone Matthew Mannion’s arias were supple and expressive.
As the strains of the final amen died away, it seemed as though everyone in that splendid building had been drawn together, united by an experience that for many truly expresses the spirit of Christmas.
While praising this performance, let us not forget the originator of this great work, here celebrated by a member of the choir:
Messiah: Handel With Us
All week he is bound
in orange or blue by his acolytes,
Watkins Shaw, Prout or Burrows.
Tonight he comes with me,
does not remark on the wind, the rain
or the traffic, slips beside me
into the bright hall. None
can see him, not shepherds,
not angels, sopranos nor foundlings
yet he shall purify, for unto us
a composer is given; and he speaks
as if the ink were yet wet
on good will toward men; and
every time, in bar 42, the violins
conspire with the angels,
carry him off,