Choir singing in Royal Hall
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Handel Messiah

Harrogate Choral Society with Manchester Camerata

The Royal Hall, Harrogate, 6 December 2014

Messiah flyer

Choral Society's Messiah proves a great hit!

When George Frederick Handel completed his most famous choral work, Messiah, in September 1741, he could never have imagined what a huge success it would, in future years enjoy both for performers and audiences alike. In Harrogate, many people regard the annual performance of Handel's Messiah as the beginning of their Christmas and, as the evening progressed, they would not be disappointed.

With a huge amount of energy and enthusiasm, the Conductor Andrew Padmore guided the Harrogate Choral Society and the Manchester Camerata, which provided the orchestral accompaniment, through Handel's score. From the start of the Overture, it was clear that the orchestra were on very good form playing with carefully shaped phrases and a distinct air of crispness and clarity. For the evening, a fine quartet of soloists had been chosen. Ben Thapa, Tenor, sang with passion, expressing every nuance of the narrative to maximum effect from 'Comfort ye, my people' through 'But thou did not leave his soul in hell' to the power and agility of 'Thou shalt break them'. Frederick Long, Bass, sang with excellence, communicating with practically all areas of the Royal Hall. His rendering of 'For behold, darkness shall cover the earth' was indeed very dark and the solos in Part 2, 'Why do the nations' and 'The trumpet shall sound' worked very well indeed, at good tempo and with excellent articulation. Anna Huntley, Mezzo-Soprano, complemented the group with gentle heartfelt solos. 'O thou that tellest' was beautifully paced and brightly sung whereas 'He was despised', sung complete on this occasion, had a sufficient air of seriousness to make it very effective without making it too sentimental. Samantha Hay, Soprano, was simply a delight to the ear, her lightly articulated runs in 'Rejoice greatly' were effortlessly produced and her singing of 'I know that my Redeemer liveth' was direct and superb.

Harrogate Choral Society was excellent and very well prepared for this event and the tone throughout was remarkably even. The runs in some of the choruses, 'And he shall purify' as an example, were sung with great confidence and clarity even though the tempos chosen by the conductor were very brisk indeed. On the other hand, the chorus 'And with his stripes we are healed' was taken at a very deliberate tempo and with delicate shading allowing the parts to show through. The Tenor section of the society deserves special mention. Numerically small, the singers gave all they could and successfully maintained a good balance with the sopranos, altos and basses. The Manchester Camerata played with excellence, the bowing of the strings beautifully co-ordinated, playing as one and very good clarity in woodwind and brass. The trumpet solo in 'The trumpet shall sound' was unhurried and crystal clear. The Continuo cello and harpsichord were simply excellent relating intimately with the soloists with tremendous accuracy.

This performance was indeed a wonderful opener to the Christmas season and we must thank Conductor Andrew Padmore for a sparkling evening of musical entertainment.

Adrian Selway