Handel's Messiah by Candlelight - Manchester Camerata

Handel's Messiah by Candlelight - Manchester Camerata


Posted 2022-12-05 by David Keyworthfollow

Sun 04 Dec 2022

The story of Handel's Messiah, with its biblical libretto, crafted by Charles Jennens, is of birth, dejection and salvation. It is a fitting narrative for Gorton Monastery itself. Built in the 1860s by E.W. Pugin, for Franciscian Friars, it was deserted by the early 1990s and frequented by vandals and 'entrepreneurs' who stripped lead off the roof.

In 1996 it began its restoration and reopened as a secular events venue in 2007. It now hosts weddings, Tai Chi and Yoga practitioners and music artists and fans, amongst many other activities.

Manchester Camerata chose both the venue and time (3pm on Sunday) very well for their performance of Handel's Messiah. In Part I the natural light illuminating the stained glass gradually dimmed. After the interval, the candles lining the walls cast enchanting glows and ghostly shadows. The statues of the saints looked down on proceedings, like divine security guards.There was perhaps a poignant irony, amidst the magic, as composing by candlelight has sometimes, rightly or wrongly, been associated with Handel's sight loss.

Part II ended with the conductor, Nicholas Chalmers, encouraging us to stand, as is traditional, for the 'Hallelujah' chorus. Long before Shaun Ryder and the Happy Mondays, Handel realised that an infectious Hallelujah will get music fans up on the floor. Metaphorically, Handel's music kept us on our toes - especially important as the performance, including an interval, was over two hours long.

Especially in Part I, the score had a foot-tapping quality, as sections of the 16-strong choir overlapped and competed with each other to be heard and the orchestra fought back. It was as if the voices were about to get too loud and the strings too frenetic when Handel and Nicholas Chalmers, pulled them back from the edge. At other times, I felt the Baroque grandeur sounded a bit too self-important but this did not last too long.Parts II and III were the most satisfying for me, as the musical settings shifted from celebratory to sombre, or, like the December afternoon, from light to dark.

The singers in the choir took it in turns to perform the Messiah's solos. Nicholas Chalmers took time, after the interval, to congratulate Nardus Williams on the Rising Star award, at the 2022 International Opera Awards and Hugo Brady for a Kathleen Ferrier Society award .

I particularly enjoyed Claire Ward's affecting performance of If God be for us, who can be against us, towards the end of the oratorio.

After we stood for the 'Hallelujah' chorus Nicholas Chalmers took a show of hands on whether we would like to join in the singing next year. There was a clear majority in favour. We were back on our feet after the closing Amen for the ovation, before filing out into the winter evening, with warm memories of a memorable Messiah, within the sacred geometry of the monastery.

This was one of many performances of Handel's Messiah this festive season. On Saturday 10th December, Manchester Baroque will donate profits and other monies collected from its performance at Manchester Cathedral, to the A Bed Every Night scheme.

Forthcoming Manchester Camerata concerts include:

RNCM Concert Hall
Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) students will perform side-by-side with Manchester Camerata in an evening marking their shared 50th anniversaries. It will include Beethoven, Elgar and new work by RNCM alumna Carmel Smickersgill. Fri 9 December 2022, 7:30pm.

Festive Happening
Albert Hall, Manchester. Annual Christmas celebration with AMC Gospel Choir. Sun 11 December 2022, 3pm.

Mozart, Made In Manchester
Mozart, Made in Manchester series. The Stoller Hall Sat 25 March 2023, 7:30pm.

See more here .

Manchester Camerata's outreach work involves therapists providing musical sessions in care homes and education settings across the north-west and beyond.

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!date 04/12/2022 -- 04/12/2022
71441 - 2023-01-26 01:53:43


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