REVIEW: Messiah performed with great passion

Chanctonbury Chorus SUS-140522-160149003
Chanctonbury Chorus SUS-140522-160149003

THE Chanctonbury Chorus and Orchestra celebrated Saturday, November 15, with an outstanding performance of Handel’s Messiah, the first in recent years.

Seated in a pew in St Andrew and St Cuthman Church, Steyning, I watched in anticipation as the four soloists, 18 musicians, one organist and 50-plus singers launch into Part One in front of a full house.

At the helm was Siobhan Denning, conductor and founder of the Chanctonbury Chorus since 1981.

Handel’s Messiah features impressive solo arias, like ‘Ev’ry valley shall be exalted’ and ‘Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion’, which are interspersed with compelling chorus numbers, telling the story of Jesus’s birth, life, resurrection, and final victory over sin and death.

Stephen Brown (tenor) delivered beautifully with a voice that truly reached all corners with a clarity of diction that was to die for.

The choir was in superb form – on the note and with unrivalled harmonies that meant months of hard work paid off.

James Cleverton (baritone) delivered ‘Thus saith the Lord’ with power and resonance which was perfectly suited to the acoustics of Steyning’s church.

Then the turn of Claire Seaton (soprano) with a voice that soared above the orchestra with grace and skill. Susan Legg (mezzo soprano) exhibited a lovely warm rich timbre to her voice, full of character and colour.

Special praise must go to the cello of Richard Kerney-Haynes, who was rarely out of the spotlight in Part One.

The string section, lead by Elaine Patience, did a job they could be proud of, although the occasional off-note was detected. The fluent trumpet solo of ‘The trumpet shall sound’ performed by Tim Mulkern in Part Three was beyond praise.

The ladies outscored the men in the choir, who occasionally sounded a bit wooly without always demonstrating the pin sharp accuracy necessary to get the best from Handel’s work.

So, was my expectation and anticipation fulfilled?

Indeed it was, with a resounding, yes! It just goes to show that passion, enthusiasm and sheer hard work can make a good performance outstanding.

Finally, thanks to chairman Simon Moore, volunteers and all those who turned out on a cold, damp night in November and went away with a warm glow of satisfaction, and, of course the audience, without which the performance would have been meaningless.

I wait with eager anticipation for the society’s next concert on May 16, 2015, at St Andrew and St Cuthman Church, Steyning.

This will be a performance of Schubert’s Mass in G and the Rutter Requiem ,details of which can be found on the website www.chanctonburychorus.org