25 April 2009


St Mary' Church, Richmond

WITH the extensive coverage recently on Radio 3 and in music magazines, it would be hard to be unaware that this year is the 250th anniversary of the death of G F Handel.

It was fitting, therefore, that Richmondshire Choral Society chose to commemorate this with its first performance of Messiah for some 15 years, guided, as they put it in their publicity material, by their enthusiastic new musical director, Kathryn Haworth.

Together with the choir itself of some 60 voices, she had assembled a most impressive team with the admirable Cleveland Chamber Orchestra and Gordon Appleton on harpsichord. The four soloists, two of whom had performed with the choir last year, all had clear, distinctive voices, and the whole performance gelled together beautifully.

It is perhaps invidious to pick out highlights, but among the individual high spots were Nicholas Todd (tenor) on Every valley shall be exalted, a particularly moving He was despised by counter tenor Matthew Venner, bass Alexander Learmouth, comfortable on even the deepest notes, on The people that walked in darkness and soprano Amy Haworth's I know that my Redeemer liveth.

The choir itself made a thrilling first entry on And the glory of the Lord, were finely controlled on All we like sheep have gone astray and, of course, gloriously triumphant on the Hallelujah Chorus.

Perhaps I might also mention the fine bass solo on The trumpet shall sound with its beautifully clear and ringing trumpet accompaniment, and the lovely duet for tenor and counter tenor on O death, where is thy sting?

All these individual achievements were just part of a well-balanced and stimulating performance which led to a well deserved standing ovation from the capacity audience.

Peter Bevan

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