Eastbourne's Best Messiah?

Robin Gregory reviews Eastbourne Choral Society

Handel's Messiah is often thought to be an easy "sing" because we all know it so well. Nothing could be further from the truth. So if I give very high marks to Eastbourne Choral's performance at the Town Hall on December 6th, I need to explain why I was so impressed.

The first fifteen minutes set the standard. The sixteen instrumentalists of the Baroque Collective caressed Handel's overture (baroque bows for all the strings); and tenor Andrew Wicks's "Comfort Ye" was subtly decorated and scrupulously phrased. Throughout the entire work, his golden tone was a recurring joy. The other soloists brought intelligence and insight to everything they sang, though counter-tenor Matthew Venner occasionally lacked power in his lower register, and soprano Daire Hatpin could have been more ecstatic in "I know that my Redeemer Liveth". Michael George's experience and maturity were evident throughout, and his power was thrilling in "Why do the Nations".

Four good soloists, then. And a small baroque orchestra of genuine quality, impeccably led by Rodolfo Richter. When called upon for solos, each instrument would have delighted Mr Handel himself. There was some exquisite oboe, and (especially in "Hallelujah") utterly brilliant trumpet from David Staff and Mike Harrison.

Conductor John Hancorn looked well-pleased with the work of the Eastbourne Choral Society, and justifiably so. They began well, and simply got better and better. Sopranos found notes they probably had not even realized they possessed; tenors sang with precision and subtlety rare among amateur choirs, altos and basses found always the right sound and the right power. This does not occur by chance, and John Hancorn must be congratulated on finding such fine performers and then drawing the very best out of them. An evening which left this critic as enthusiastic as the rest of the large audience.  

 

 

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