REVIEW:  Angmering  Chorale, Arundel Cathedral

All over the world choirs and choral societies both  amateur and professional,  like to have a least one performance of Handel' s great masterpiece, Messiah, in their repertoire.

However things didn’t augur well for Angmering Chorale’s performance on Saturday 17th March. Factors were against the anticipated success. The dreaded second coming of the beast from the East had been forecast with heavy snow predicted, alongside some of the coldest weather outside the Arctic Circle. Would the choir, orchestra and soloists be able to get to the cathedral? Would the audience bother to leave their fireside? Also England’s rugby team had just put in a lack lustre performance to be trounced by Ireland. Would this performance of Messiah be similarly lack lustre? Or would it be as well received as the first performance in Dublin in 1742?

The answer lies in the absolutely stunning performance Angmering Chorale gave on Saturday, one which Handel himself would have been proud.Throughout the performance the soloists, orchestra and choir were excellent and wove Handel’s perfect masterpiece into a divine tapestry.

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Over the centuries there has been debate that Handel’s work was felt to be too dramatic and operatic. But on Saturday night the audience were enthralled by the stimulation of emotions and senses which came from the musicians’ dramatic operatic interpretations. Having four first class professional soloists, who with similar operatic backgrounds and experience at the highest performance level set the standard for the evening.

Tenor Mark Wilde’s recitative Comfort Ye, followed by the Air Ev’ry Valley started the evening . But it was his interpretation of the airs and recitatives in part two that tugged the emotions the atmosphere in the cathedral was one of silent wonderment during his performance of Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto his sorrow

Similarly Timothy Dickinson’s Bass baritone voice resounded around the cathedral. Dramatic and emotional especially evoking anger and indignation in the air Why do the nations so furiously rage together….

But one of the highlights of the concert was when, with his deep rich voice and Jon Yates on Trumpet they combined to make the Aria The trumpet shall sound truly memorable.

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A surpise for the audience in Arundel was Feargal Mostyn-Williams , a Counter tenor , who sang the Alto part. A beautiful voice with clarity that enhanced the music. He shall feed his flock was sung with such sensitivity one could almost feel the heart beat of the saved lambs.

I know that my redeemer liveth sung by Soprano Robyn Allegra Parton had the tingle factor and the audience were spellbound as they listend to her crystal clear voice fill the cathedral .

Her Aria He shall feed his flock carried on the sensitive tone set by the Counter Tenor Feargal

The Sinfonia of Arun deserve a special mention, their standard of playing was excellent and worthy of accolades given to them. Their playing of the Pastoral Symphony was sensitive and exquisitly executed

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Last but certainly not least was the performance of the chorale. It was truly magnificent and even given the vagaries of the acoustic in the cathedral they sang the choruses with such clarity that every word was discernible to everyone in the audience. George Jones their Musical Director had taken the unusual decision to mix the voice parts, but it worked well. The outcome was a rounded sound throughout the cathedral. Their attention to the dynamics also enhanced Jennens scriptural texts. A credit to their determination and hard work to rise to the very high standard which they now achieve on a regular basis.

This was a concert of the highest calibre, the capacity audience in the cathedral were treated to an exceptional evening of Baroque music performed at its very best, the standing ovation was richly deserved.