The performance of Handel’s Messiah by Harrogate Choral Society is, for many people the beginning of Christmas in Harrogate and it must have been very gratifying for the performers, orchestra, singers, soloists and conductor to perform to an almost full Royal Hall. Equally gratifying was the standard of performance the singers and players gave to the audience.
It was quite splendid with four excellent soloists, Bibi Heal, soprano, who sang with great breadth of tone and sensitivity both in the recitatives and her solos. ‘How beautiful are the feet’ and ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’ were sung with almost heart-stopping beauty and with graceful phrasing and dynamic. Emma Watkinson, Mezzo Soprano, sang ‘But who may abide’, ‘O Thou that tellest’ and ‘He was despised’ with well-shaped and impressive drama, her voice full of well-controlled tone and delivered with musical excellence.
Luke Wilkinson, Tenor sang with a warm and rich voice delivering ‘Comfort ye’ with great musical comfort and ‘Every valley’ with wonderful vitality. This was confident singing which became even more convincing after the interval. Stuart Orme, Baritone was impressively persuasive in ‘Thus saith the Lord’ and ‘For behold. Behold, I tell you a mystery’ and ‘The trumpet shall sound’ demonstrated an commanding excellence of his art.
Manchester Camerata which accompanied this performance were superb. Playing with sheer excellence, it showed a unanimity of musical thought which pervaded every part of this work. The phrasing was delicate and the cadences beautifully shaped. Andrew Padmore conducted with amazing energy, driving the choruses along at brisk tempo.
The Choral Society were simply wonderful, dancing along the semiquavers with such ease and yet controlling the quieter passage with great control and feeling. This was an absolutely splendid and impressive Messiah of which the Conductor and performers should be very proud.