« Christmas cards ..... | Main | Lead bullets harm the environment ..... »

December 19, 2006

Baroque Messiah

Last night attended a superb performance of the Messiah in the Abbey. This is an annual event, performed by the Schola Cantorum at Tewkesbury Abbey under the direction of Ben Nicholas. The Schola was formerly the Abbey School Choir, but sadly the school was finally, after a long struggle to remain open, closed at the end of the last scholastic year. The Choir however, was saved, moving to a new home in Cheltenham at Dean Close School. It formally became the Schola Cantorum when it moved and still sings Evensong in the Abbey at 17.30 on three evenings a week and other services as well when possible.

Last nights performance of Handel's masterpiece was accompanied by an orchestra of the same size as those that performed in the baroque period - in other words - small! BUT, don't confuse small with lack of volume. Baroque trumpets, harpsicord, chamber organ and the full suit of violin, viola cello, double bass and wodwind in the Abbey's vaulted nave make more than enough sound for anyone. The soloists did a superb job as did the chorus and the trumpets in echelon - at the West End with the orchestra at the other end - for "And the trumpet shall sound" sends shivers down the spine. In a departure from his normal arrangement, Ben Nicholas made a small, but significant change to the orchestration for the final great "Amen". Carleton Etherington manned the Mighty Milton at the beginning of the final chorus and supplemented the orchestra and chorus with some subtle chords from the organ, barely noticeable at first, but gradually rising in volume until with almost full organ he joined the great crescendo that concludes the very last Amen. As ever his timing was impecable and the organ ceased speaking at the exact moment the orchestra ceased - but the Milton's resonance is such that the echo rolled for several seconds beyond the cessation - and then the audience erupted in applause.

And the applause was very well deserved, for the Conductor, for the soloists, for the boy choristers and for the chorus. Nor must we forget the musicians whose playing is superb and without whom occassions like this would be rare indeed. What a privilege to be able to sit in the midst of this and listen to such a fine performance. Wine for the soul of the finest quality.

Posted by The Gray Monk at December 19, 2006 11:17 PM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Post a comment

Remember Me?