Handel’s “Messiah” Saturday 15th December 2017
Rousing choruses, splendid soloists, talented musicians and a standing ovation...that's how to celebrate a 150th anniversary!
This 150th anniversary performance of Handel’s Messiah by the Rugby Philharmonic Choir in the Temple Speech Room brought a near capacity audience to its feet – and not just for the Hallelujah Chorus! In Handel’s idiom, the choir was in its element with wonderfully clear diction, rhythmic vitality and a sense of collective purpose which was entirely convincing.
The soloists, too, impressed from the outset with tenor Jack Dolan’s arresting and incisive opening Recitative and Aria reminding us of the operatic provenance of the Handelian oratorio; Samantha Joy Taylor’s alto providing many of the most affecting moments with her sweet and plangent tone; the soprano, Emma Griffiths, soaring effortlessly and with pellucid clarity in her big Arias, and bass, John Fletcher, achieving a hieratic power in the unfolding of the great mystery, and, with Nick Long’s powerful trumpet obligato, a compelling confidence in the world to come in the great Aria, The Trumpet shall Sound.
Conductor Mervyn Bethell succeeded in channelling the choir’s enthusiasm into a convincing expression of faith which was powerfully communicated to the audience throughout, never more so than in the sonorous and resplendent final Amen – and if some audience members could be heard quietly singing along, this only served to convey more strongly the sense of musical unity and community achieved in this milestone evening of music-making by and for the good people of Rugby.
In recognition of that milestone and of the close relationship between the Philharmonic Choir and Rugby School, a cheque for £1867.00 was presented to the Headmaster in aid of a charity which the Phil has supported for some years. The Arnold Foundation aims to transform the lives of boys and girls from some of the country’s most disadvantaged communities by providing them with a boarding education at the School. It will be noted that the sum involved was not a random figure!
Perhaps we should allow the final word to go to one of our distinguished soloists who no doubt expressed the sentiments of many who were present on this occasion: “As always it has been an unalloyed pleasure to work with the choir and to see so many people on the stage. This augurs well for the next 150 years! And what a lovely performance: well sung, well played and well conducted.”