The choir was in fine form. Their distinctive formation on stage, with a phalanx of male voices in the centre, helped achieved balance and energy in both sensitive and full-throttle moods. The impact of their very first Handel chorus, ‘And the Glory of the Lord’, was terrific, and set their pattern for the evening. They showed versatility: the tough intricacies of ‘His Yoke is easy’, the very disparate demands of quirky rhythms and sonorous smoothness in the Chilcott, the joyousness of ‘O Holy Night’ - the whole range was distinctively expressed.
Expressive too were the visiting soloists – many of them regular performers with the RPC. The four singers brought out varied dramatic moods in the demanding solos of the ‘Messiah’ - Jack Dolan and John Fletcher, the tenor and bass, were declamatory and prophetic, with notable clarity; Emma Griffiths the soprano an ethereal angel; Chloe Underwood, the alto, confiding and reflective. Emma and Jack also featured after the interval ( the soprano and choir in Chilcott’s ‘A Spotless Rose’ was a highlight ), and their insistence (according to the conductor) on sharing the solos in ’O Holy Night’ resulted in a lovely sound. Jo Foote, the RPC repetiteur, and James Williams on the organ, sustained their high standard of accompaniment, and the original vision of Handel for an intimate orchestra with the Messiah was maintained by a small ensemble of players from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.
All this was in the growing tradition of exciting Philharmonic Christmases, and the large audience got their joy in equally large quantities.