Saturday, 6th December 2016

Messiah – George Frederick Handel

Otley and Ilkley Choral Societies

This performance took place in a packed Otley Parish Church under the baton of Barry Jordan. The combined choirs were supported by Robert Sudall on the organ, and Pat Jordan, who provided the harpsichord continuo. Also present was the Yorkshire Chamber Ensemble (in very fine form,) who accompanied with great sensitivity all evening. The four young soloists were all products of the Royal Northern College of Music: Teng Xiang Ting (soprano), Rhiain Taylor (mezzo-soprano), Andrew Brown (tenor) and Terence Aybare (bass).

Their contributions were outstanding; Andrew’s light tenor voice was well suited to this piece, but there was plenty of power on tap, when required. “Comfort Ye” (No.2) was sung with real refinement, and the virtuosity required in “Ev’ry Valley” (No.3) was well within his capabilities, despite the brisk tempo.

I very much enjoyed Rhiain’s rendition of the fiendishly difficult “But Who May Abide” (No.6) - a sterling effort, although occasionally just a little lacking in weight and definition on the lowest notes. She also provided one of the highlights of the whole evening, with a gorgeous performance of “He Was Despised” (No.23). This was something to savour – simply ravishing. The first to perform this piece (in Dublin) was the celebrated contralto Susannah Cibber, a lady possessed of (ahem) a colourful past, and sister to Thomas Arne. I’m sure she would have been impressed!

There were too many felicities in Teng Xiang Ting’s performance to list, but she sang with a lovely, burnished tone, and great purity. High points for me were “How Beautiful Are The Feet” (No.38), He Shall Feed” (No.20) and “I Know That My Redeemer” (No.45).

Terence Aybare’s bass was rich and powerful – a wonderful instrument! His “And The Trumpet Shall Sound” (supported with some outstanding trumpet playing) and “The People That Walked In Darkness” will long remain in my memory.

The choir was generally on excellent form, one or two minor mishaps notwithstanding – they seemed just a little more settled in the second half of the concert. The big choruses were delivered with a combination of affection, passion and real gusto. Under Barry Jordan’s leadership, they appear to have improved incrementally with each performance.

All in all, this was a great evening out, and well worth missing “Strictly” for!

Robin Cook