HANDEL’S Messiah is almost an ‘institution’ of Britain’s cultural heritage. But I do wonder whether sometimes we forget how supremely beautiful a work of musical genius it is.
Peterborough’s Choral Society and friends, with members of the City’s Symphony Orchestra, left us in no doubt.
From the opening bars of the overture, the orchestra, precise and sonorous and prepared in three weeks of rehearsals under leader Angus McGibbon, promised much, and with the entry of tenor Greg Tassell with Comfort Ye My People and then the chorus, and the whole body of singers and musicians under the baton of Anne MacDonald, the promise began to be fulfilled.
Greg was to return more than once with passionate power, as in the recitative Thy Rebuke Hath Broken His Heart.
He would be matched by Neil Baker, bass baritone, in the electrifying Air, The Trumpet Shall Sound; the trumpets starred also in the chorus Glory to God.
The women soloists were Rebecca Hodgetts, soprano, and Emma Carrington, mezzo-soprano.
In his introduction, cathedral dean, the Very Rev Charles Taylor, also society president, had told us that some 50 of those on stage were guests from other choral societies who had joined with Peterborough exclusively for this evening’s performance.
The Hallelujah Chorus was stirringly rendered, and in the lament Surely He Hath Borne Our Griefs, the combined choir even touched something of the deep emotion that Handel inspired – as he testified, by the libretto created by his friend Charles Jennens – in writing this, the greatest of all oratorios in English.