There are few choral works that reach as many audiences as Handel’s “Messiah”. I find it curious that it still has to be identified as Handel’s, as if there were some other great work of the same title with which we might confuse it!
I can’t be sure (and a cursory Google search can neither confirm nor deny) but it surely must be one of the most-recorded works of all time, with a truly incredible range of performing forces (size and type), speeds and even orchestrations. I’m no CD collector, but I still seem to have ended up with recordings by Beecham (RPO and Chorus, 1959), the great John Scott (Saint Thomas Church Choir and Concert Royal – Mozart’s orchestration, 2007) as well as digital downloads of more recent ‘classics’ by Messrs. Layton, Christophers and McCreesh. Needless to say, YouTube and Spotify between them can serve up more difference versions than any of us would ever need in a lifetime.
A Somerset Messiah
This term I am leading the Wellington Choral Society in preparations for a performance of Messiah on 24th March 2018. With only two programmed concerts each year, it’s not the sort of choir that really has a repertoire, but Messiah is the one work that peppers the music list throughout the group’s long history and starting work on it after a gap of a few years feels like being reintroduced to a long friend.
Wednesday’s rehearsal took place on the eve of the Beast From the East/Storm Emma cold weather that has crippled much of the UK. Despite the forecasts, over half of the choir braved the sub-zero temperatures and faithfully gathered to continue their exploration of this familiar music. Away from the cold, we enjoyed breathing new life into an old masterpiece. It was a beautiful embodiment of the persistence and sheer determination of our choral tradition, brought to life by a choir which has thrived in this west country market town for so many years.
YouTube, Spotify, iTunes et al may proclaim that this is Handel’s Messiah, but here in Wellington this great music belongs to the people that sing and play it, and those who come to hear it.
If you’re within reach of our town on 24th March 2018 then please come and listen to some beautiful live music, performed by singers and players from our community.
Wellington Choral Society and the Wellington Sinfonia, conducted by Laurence Blyth, will perform Handel “Messiah” at St John’s Church on Saturday 24th March 2018.
Tickets £12 available online or from:
Odette’s Tearoom, 27 High Street, Wellington (01823 667919)
Taunton Visitor Centre, Market House, Fore Street, Taunton (01823 340470)