Listening to Messiah complete on the radio many years ago, in the then new performing edition by Basil Lam (whom I subsequently met), was one of the great musical experiences of my life.
I am delighted to report, from the first few bars of the live performance of this grand work in St. Nicholas’ Chapel, King’s Lynn, on Saturday, performed by the King’s Lynn Festival Chorus and Meridian Sinfonia, I suspected we were in for something equally special, and I was not wrong!
All the positive elements of current ‘authentic’ Baroque performance were in place, resulting in a fresh, crisp and clean performance full of joy and enthusiasm, but also being reflective and tender when necessary.
Ornaments in the vocal and orchestral parts were used, but not over done, and although the chorus was larger than would have been used in early performances of the work (Messiah was first performed in Dublin in 1742 ) in my view the Festival Chorus sang with remarkable clarity, smooth phrasing and gusto when required (a lot of the time).
The packed audience were honoured to have a fine team of soloists including the famous soprano Dame Emma Kirkby, who has had a distinguished career singing during the Baroque, period and revival, and the contributions made by fellow vocalists Martha McLorinan (alto), Peter Davoren (tenor), and David Shipley (bass) were outstanding, emphasising the passion and lyricism of the vocal lines.
The Meridian Sinfonia played superbly well in authentic style (the quantity of the orchestral forces about right for early performances Handel would have heard) and an organ was chosen as the continuo instrument, although a harpsichord could also have been used.
Well done also to the orchestral soloists, and I was pleased to hear that the “trumpet really did sound” toward the work’s end. We all stood up for The Hallelujah Chorus by the way.
Congratulations to Tom Appleton, the music director, and all involved in this memorable musical event, another great musical experience for me. Here’s to the Chorus’s 40th anniversary celebrations in 2017.