It was a cold, wet, wintery night in Wakefield. However, inside the Cathedral, the audience was ‘blown away’ by the colour, the vibrancy, the passion and the excitement of Handel’s Messiah, performed by the Yorkshire Philharmonic Choir on Sunday 25thNovember 2018.
Some of us have heard Handel’s Messiah more than once. Some of us have heard it several times, and a few of us have heard it more times than we might actually wish. However, on Sunday night in Wakefield Cathedral, packed to absolutely full capacity, it was as if it was being heard for the very first time – it felt so fresh, crisp, exciting – a wonderful, colourful, delightful discovery – a feast of music, passion and feeling.
Under the baton of the energetic and inspiring Andrew Padmore, the Yorkshire Philharmonic Choir, the Amici Ensemble, the organist Tom Moore and the four soloists brought what can sometimes be a ‘same old, same old’ Messiah to new and vibrant life.
From the very outset, the gorgeous tenor voice of Toby Ward rang out with clarity and authority, setting the tone for the evening with the opening recitative ‘Comfort Ye’.
But not to be outshone, the Choir gave a very impressive, polished and professional performance, singing with commitment and great clarity.
Invidious to pick and choose from the marvellous choruses, but particular mention has to be given to the dramatic and utterly convincing interplay between the Choir in ‘He Trusted In God…’ and the tenor (Toby), singing as the Evangelist, telling the story. Playing the part of the derisive, baying mob, the Choir’s vicious mocking is countered by the poignant, heart-rending cry ‘Thy Rebuke Hath Broken His Heart’. Who could fail to be moved by this? We were all there, feeling the horror, the pathos and the acute sadness.
The Choir, as described by a member of the audience, ‘sang like angels’ in the lovely ‘For Unto Us A Child Is Born’. A beautiful piece, beautifully sung. The lyricism of the semiquaver ‘acrobatics’ was just about perfect, giving a delicacy and a lightness of touch which made the spine tingle.
A star performance was given by Miles Taylor. His rich, accurately pitched voice was perfect. Unforgettable in the Air ‘Why Do The Nations’, his mastery of melisma was impressive. And in the Recitative ‘Behold I Tell You A Mystery’, Miles had us spellbound.
This performance of Messiah was beautifully enhanced by the lovely, pure, clear voice of Bibi Heal, (soprano). Bibi sang like an angel throughout the whole performance. Her Air ‘How Beautiful Are The Feet’ was just perfect. She surely must have been the very envy of every soprano in the Cathedral.
And last but certainly not least, Beth McKay, (Alto). Clear and expressive – she brought out so convincingly the drama and pathos of ‘He Was Despised’.
The singers were superbly accompanied by the Amici Ensemble, enhanced by the utterly capable and accomplished Tom Moore, Accompanist and Continuo. A wonderful group of talented musicians. The cello was lovely, the trumpet memorable, everything worked so well – truly a fabulous orchestra.
And all brought together into a perfect whole by the masterful command of Andrew Padmore. Andrew coaches, coaxes and demands the very best from his performers – and gets it. Leading the performance at just the right pace – it sounded so very right. Surely Handel was up there in the rafters, giving it his approval and applause.
And what a finale. ‘Worthy Is The Lamb’ and its final, explorative ‘Amen’ was live music at its very finest. Sung with, as appropriate, sensitivity, gusto, finesse and skill - it demanded, and got, a standing ovation.
New light through old windows. A truly exceptional Messiah.