The Langcliffe Singers

Choral Classics in the Yorkshire Dales

MESSIAH: HANDEL

CHRIST CHURCH, SKIPTON: 25/2/17

LANGCLIFFE SINGERS AND FRIENDS

Handel's Messiah is undoubtedly one of the best-known and most frequently performed choral works in Western music, and so it would be only too easy to assume that it has always been unequivocally popular. However during his lifetime it was not particularly well liked and, although it was ground breaking in many ways, it was only its link with charitable performances which kept it in the public eye at all - a bit like an 18th century Band Aid single, it was known for its good intent rather than praised for its musicality. Fast forward to the 2017 and the change in perception is obvious as there is unlikely to have been anyone in the audience or choir who was not aware of its iconic status.  It is so well known that a choir which had not even met until the afternoon of the concert was able to come together and, with only two hours rehearsal as a unit, stage a performance which captivated the audience throughout.  Their enthusiasm for the work was apparent on the face of every choir member throughout the performance, and while the style of the production meant that this was not necessarily a completely polished performance what it lacked in finesse it more than made up for in terms of volume, flair and enthusiasm. Sadly illness and unforeseen circumstances robbed the audience of the opportunity to hear the tenor soloists, however the remaining solos were not only powerful but performed with great confidence and passion. This was particularly true in the cases of Margaret Coleman (Soprano) and Julia Glossop (Alto) who had the unenviable task of singing what are amongst the best known airs in classical choral work and yet still managed to breathe a sense of newness and sincerity into the pieces so that the audience heard them as if for the first time.  Clearly with an undertaking of this nature it is inevitable that there will be certain set pieces which become the focus of attention eg, Hallelujah Chorus at the conclusion of Part 2; For Unto Us a Son is Given in Part 1, All We Like Sheep in Part " etc Handel's "best bits" as it were! However, what should not be underestimated is the skill required to deliver these in such a way which not only makes the meaning clear and but conveys the power of the music as though it were freshly written. Familiarity can breed contempt, but when handled well it can generate not only enthusiasm but also showcase talent and generate considerable thought and emotion.  This was a concert which demonstrated not only the beauty of the music but also the talent of the assembled singers and the passion of the conductor to be able to raise the level of the performance to such a pitch where the combined effect was so much more than the sum of the individual performances. It truly was an regenerative and uplifting experience, full of vigour and reflecting the great enjoyment which each member clearly gains from singing:  celebration in song in every respect.