Choir singing in Royal Hall
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Handel Messiah

Harrogate Choral Society with Manchester Camerata

The Royal Hall, Harrogate, 7 December 2013

Messiah flyer

Truly memorable Messiah

When Handel composed his oratorio Messiah in 1741, he could never have imagined just how relevant it would still be well over 250 years later.

For many, this annual performance marks the beginning of their Christmas Season and the excellent performance of Messiah by Harrogate Choral Society on Saturday evening at the Royal Hall under the baton of their music director, Andrew Padmore, would certainly have got their season off to a splendid start.

The society were accompanied by The Manchester Camerata featuring as soloists Teuta Koco, soprano, Lynda-Jane Nelson, mezzo-soprano, Bo Wang, tenor and Stephen Gadd, bass, who sang at very short notice due to the unavailability of Duncan Rock.

The noble opening of the Overture with its following Allegro section taken at a sensibly brisk tempo, showed the orchestra in excellent form with exceptionally clean and tidy playing from both strings and woodwind.

Bo Wang gave a good account of the opening tenor solos, using his unusually rich tenor voice to good effect here contrasting with the almost whispered account later in "Thy rebuke had broken His heart" where he held the large and appreciative audience spellbound.

Lynda-Jane Nelson, mezzo-soprano used her beautifully rich and expressive voice to give superb performances of But who may abide, O Thou that tellest and He was despised, her warm personality glowing through her voice. Teuta Koco, soprano, sang with her bright and sparkling voice warming our hearts with her performances of How beautiful are the feet and I Know that my redeemer liveth.

Stephen Gadd used his splendidly authoritative bass voice to great effect not only when depicting darkness covering the earth but also in Why do the nations and particularly in The trumpet shall sound.

The Manchester Camerata performed almost flawlessly; the strings, crisp and playing with delicately delightful phrasing and nuance whilst the woodwind and brass were un-erringly accurate. Special mention must go to the continuo cellist and the continuo harpsichordist who held the recitatives and arias together with beauty and with grace. The chorus were full of vitality, singing with verve and with good enunciation.

From the gentler Since by man through the graceful O thou that tellest and the noble And with his stripes to the brilliant For unto us a child is born they sang with passion and meaning.

This was largely due to the conductor Andrew Padmore who took a different approach to Handel than most with great care and attention.

Each voice was given shape and care in its preparation, the end result being that the choruses had much more relevance to the meaning of the work as a whole.

Adrian Selway