27 July 2015
Not just at Christmas
Handel's Messiah is a piece for all seasons. Why just Christmas? An expanded Coro with chamber orchestra performed it over the weekend and it was a thing of wonder. These are great voices with some of the best musicians around town. Performed with just two rehearsals and a full day workshop. And that's for a performance extending to 3 hours (including an interval). Reading this? I was overwhelmed by some of Kyle's quiet but certain bass playing, although he admitted some struggle in playing and just seeing it without a light during the darkening afternoon performance. It's not easy; it's not at all short or repetitive. What a reading job it was! And not just for Kyle, of course. The singers all had their charts and read the semi-quaver lines (a chorister mate in the audience commented on Coro's renown as sight singers), as did other strings and Calvin on harpsichord. The trumpets and timpani mostly sat, but when they let go, the roof lifted with life and the heavenly tone of baroque trumpet. Just not so often. Messiah is has over 50 numbers in three parts. There are choral segments and solos, recitatives and airs from sopranos and alto, male and female, and tenors and basses, telling the story of Christ, of birth then death then resurrection. So this is not just a thing for Christmas. These are more secular days (even if we still stood for the Hallelujah Chorus) but the work remains a thing of immense satisfaction and Coro did an immensely satisfying job on it. Not the huge 300-voice thing it often is, but a chamber take (1742 Dublin version). Just occasionally I missed the immensity but there was plenty of capability. The strings were strong; I strained to hear Calvin's harpsichord; the trumpets and timp were infrequent. There were various soloists, often from within Coro. I particularly enjoyed Emma Griffiths (soprano) and Andrew Fysh (bass) from the two ends of the pitch spectrum, and Paul McMahon (tenor) in between. The whole was led with plenty of energy by Joseph Nolan, visiting from St George's Cathedral, Perth. I can just wait in anticipation for Christmas when someone else will be taking it on again. I met a follower of Wagner Ring cycles (she's attended a dozen or so around the world) and one of the choristers had sung in 15 Messiahs. I could see myself attending a few more of these.
Coro presented Handel Messiah in the 1742 Dublin version at St Paul's Church, Manuka. Principals were Joseph Nolan (conductor), Barbara Jane Gilby (violin, orchestra leader), Calvin Bowman (harpsichord continuo), Greta Claringbould (soprano), Emma Griffiths (soprano), Rebecca Alexander (alto), Veronica Thwaites-Brown (alto), David Yardley (counter-tenor), Paul McMahon (tenor), Andrew Fysh (bass), Peter Tregear (bass) and Tobias Cole (choirmaster). Too much to list all the others, but for my bass comprehensiveness, Kyle Daniel (bass).