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Energy and Drama

Handel's 'Messiah' from The Sitwell Singers
enjoyed by MIKE WHEELER


Peter Williams stepped down as conductor of the Sitwell Singers with a sparkling performance of Handel's Messiah in which all the familiar music came up as fresh as paint [St John's Church, Bridge Street, Derby, UK, 10 February 2007].

This was my kind of Messiah performance -- clear, airy, light on its feet, full of energy and drama, with well-balanced, alert singing from the choir (augmented for the occasion by several past members) and the generally clean, precise contributions from the period-instrument Sitwell Players.

The opening Sinfony was crisp and rhythmic, there was an infectious lift to the rhythm in 'O thou that tellest', and the Passion choruses of Part Two were taut and incisive. It was good to hear the Pastoral Symphony taken at a real dance-like pace, so it was a pity we only got the first section. The orchestral ending to 'Glory to God' was delightfully deft and precise.

The soloists, all members of the vocal ensemble EXAUDI, proved to be an accomplished team of Handelians. Soprano Juliet Fraser sang with clear, bright tone; 'Rejoice greatly' was nicely buoyant (though I do wish we could hear the original 12/8 version more often). Counter-tenor Tom Williams produced some beautifully floated upper-voice tone, especially in 'But who may abide the day of his coming?' A touch more indignation in the central section of 'He was despised' would have made the performance even more special.

Tenor Stephen Jeffes established a quietly authoritative tone with his very first entry, in 'Comfort ye my people', though he was prone to rather exaggerated expression later. Bass Jimmy Holliday has a magnificently sonorous tone, especially in the lower part of his voice. His magisterial accounts of 'The people that walked in darkness' and 'The trumpet shall sound' were among the evening's many highlights.

The resplendent final chorus set the seal on a memorable evening.

Copyright © 14 February 2007 Mike Wheeler, Derby UK



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