Thursday, March 31, 2011

Waltham Singers at Chelmsford Cathedral

Our Cathedral was crammed to overflowing to hear Andrew Fardell conduct his Waltham Singers, accompanied by “leading Baroque instrumentalists”, in a complete performance of Messiah. This much-loved work includes some of Handel's best writing, from the first tenor aria [expressively sung here by Christopher Watson] to the final Amen, beautifully contemplative at first, then splendidly celebratory, with the angels trumpeting the glory of God.

The authentic practices band made an inestimable contribution to this performance; it was clear from the opening Symphony that their tone would be pure without being austere.

Four fine soloists: Ruth Massey's alto, perhaps occasionally under-powered against chorus and orchestra, was warm-toned and eloquent, especially in a movingly compassionate He Was Despised. A nicely ornamented I Know My Redeemer Liveth from the elegant soprano of Kirsty Hopkins. Bass William Gaunt brought a richness of tone and an arresting delivery to Why Do The Nations, and to the last trumpet …

The Singers gave an impressively dramatic account of Handel's [often literally] descriptive writing - “every valley shall be exalted” - and his powerful effects in the Hallelujah Chorus and the superbly sustained Behold The Lamb and Since By Man Came Death. It's true that in a packed cathedral a little of their trademark attack was lost, but the architecture of We Like Sheep, for instance, was meticulously explored under Fardell's demanding direction.

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