AS Saddleworth Male Voice Choir presented Handel’s ‘Messiah’ for the 55th consecutive year at the Civic Hall in Uppermill in December, DJC offers a review of the much-enjoyed tradition.
“Christmas is not Christmas without the Saddleworth Male Voice Choir’s performance of Messiah and they gave their 55th performance of this magnificent choral work in the Civic Hall.
“They were joined as usual by what has now become a dedicated and disciplined chorus of Ladies, sensitively accompanied by the Pennie Orchestra.
“The Choir’s musical director, Dorian Kelly had prepared them well and skilfully directed chorus, orchestra and soloists throughout the performance.
The chorus were in good voice and had been well rehearsed to cope with the demands of some of Handel’s most challenging choral writing.
“In the majority of choruses they managed the complex contrapuntal lines with clarity and the balance and intonation was good. The best choruses were characterised by excellent diction, clear contrapuntal entries, rhythmic drive and a variety of tone colour to portray the meaning of the text.
“In a performance where none of the choruses are cut then stamina is an issue and occasionally in one or two of the chorus this was evident.
“Three of the four soloists were students from the RNCM and the freshness of their voices showed great potential.
“Soprano soloist Ann Wilkes had a clear pure voice which was perfect for singing Handel and was most effective in the aria How Beautiful Are The Feet.
“The Alto part was sung by Mezzo Soprano Isabella Cheevers who again sang with a sense of line, expressively and managed with success those parts of the arias that use the lower tessitura of the voice. “The third student voice belonged to the Baritone Patrick Relph who is to be congratulated on a performance that was extremely accurate and supported by a sound technique managing some of the demanding melismatic passages with great skill.
“The fourth soloist, tenor John Pierce, first sang the Saddleworth Messiah in 2007 and this was his fourth appearance with the choir.
“John’s performance was characterised by a deep understanding of the demands of the work combined with the maturity and experience to confidently interpret the work in a way that brought the music to life.
“His opening recitative, Comfort Ye My People gave an indication of the quality of performance that we could expect, and his final aria Thou Shall Break Them demonstrated the full range, agility and dramatic expression of his voice.
“The performance was accompanied by The Pennine Orchestra and was led with great skill by Donald Clarke.
“The continuo of harpsichord (Peter Collier) and cello (Angela Costello) were a vital and sensitive support to a great deal of the performance and the trumpet solo in The Trumpet Shall Sound, was executed with customary skill and precision by David Chapman.
“The task of bringing the whole performance together fell to conductor Dorian Kelly. He produced a performance that left both performers and audience feeling proud that they had contributed yet again to a performance of one of the greatest English choral works ever.
“The warmth with which this performance was received by the sell-out audience was a joy to behold and the tradition of live music in this hall is one which we should all seek to support and maintain.”