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April 23rd 7:30 pm - 10:30 pm
No matter how many times one has heard Handel’s ‘Messiah’, if it is sung well, as it certainly was here there is always something new to savour while simultaneously rejoicing in the many highlights of this cherished score. The concert was dedicated to the people of Ukraine, and a collection for the Disasters Emergency Committee raised £1,350 on the evening, which commenced with the Ukrainian National Anthem, played majestically and poignantly on the church’s organ by Lucy Morrell of the Kent Sinfonia.
Under the vigorous baton of Andrew Storey there was excellence on display in every department. The small orchestra of only about twenty players, under the brilliant leadership of Chris Halstead, gave a superb rendition of the Overture and never flagged at all during this demanding marathon. Tenor Adam Tunnicliffe’s opening solo ‘Comfort ye my people’ was confident and commanding, setting the tone for the rest of the evening’s singing.
Ashtead Choral Society were on explosive form from the outset with a wonderful sound which was sustained throughout the whole performance with astonishing energy and stamina right to the very end. All four voices were well drilled, with immaculate diction, precise entries, sensitive to dynamics, revelling in the text. None of the favourites disappointed: ‘And the glory of the Lord’, ‘For unto us a child is born’, ‘Hallelujah’, of course, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain’, all memorable. It must be said that the tenors seemed to enjoy the most as sheep that have gone astray!
Soprano Eleanor Pennell-Briggs sang with elegance but also fire as her voice soared in St Martin’s generous acoustic. ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth’ was a special highlight. Mezzo-soprano Helen Meyerhoff was a joy in all her contributions with fine diction and sensitive handling of the text. Bass James Oldfield offered creamy textures to his solo items, pride of place of which must go to ‘The people that walked in darkness’.
The whole evening was a credit to Andrew Storey in particular, but also the commitment over many rehearsals, stunning stamina of the whole choir, and not least the excellent support during those rehearsals of piano wizard Stephen Ridge.
Written by Bernard Raymond