Review: Standing ovation for Billingshurst Choral Society

Review by George Parnell

It is a well-known fact that even as you read this review, someone, somewhere in the world is performing something from Handel’s Messiah. On Saturday, 9th April at 7.30pm in St. Gabriel’s Church, Billingshurst, it was the turn of BCS. This was the first time that the Society had performed at this venue and it was a most fitting place for this deeply religious work.

The choir was accompanied by ten members of Ensemble OrQuesta, who are dedicated to performing Baroque music. This was a similar-sized group of musicians who would have performed Messiah at its premier in Dublin in April 1742. The young, dynamic soloists: Rachel Allen (soprano), Laura Fleur (mezzo-soprano), Kieran White (tenor) and James Berry (baritone) added to the rich hue of the performance, all under the baton of the distinguished conductor, composer and baritone, Marcio da Silva.

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At the start of the instrumental overture to this much-loved three-part oratorio, the audience fell silent and were immediately immersed in the Baroque period where the crystal-clear harmonies permeated throughout the church. The array of instruments was a feast for the eyes, in particular, the lute and harpsichord.

Marcio da Silva

The choir balanced the timbre and sonority inherent in each section to create a near perfect harmony in all choruses. Especially notable was the strength of rhythm throughout the choral singing, even when some of the tempi were challengingly fast moving. As you may be aware, many amateur choral societies struggle to balance their vocal sections in numbers, yet the tenors and basses in BCS coped admirably despite their smaller contingent. The choral highlight, anticipated by so many in the audience, was the majestic Hallelujah chorus, which was an absolute triumph and thoroughly enjoyed by performers and assembled listeners alike.

Special mention has to be made of the conductor and music director, Marcio da Silva, whose evident passion for this masterpiece could be sensed by all. His inclusion of an organ as well as a harpsichord player, created a truly Baroque atmosphere. The incredibly talented violinist, Ed Taylor, must also be highlighted for his orchestral leadership and outstanding musical interpretation during the entire oratorio. All four soloists executed their respective arias and recitatives with great emotion and meticulous skill, providing the glue to those very demanding choruses throughout performed by BCS.

The standing ovation at the end of this truly glorious and memorable concert was the audience’s own seal of approval.

George Parnell

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