Keswick Hall Choir

CHRISTOPHER SMITH St Andrew's Hall, Norwich

CHRISTOPHER SMITH

St Andrew's Hall, Norwich

Under John Aplin, Handel's Messiah quivered with life.

Taking the old oratorio that we all think we know so well and presenting it without the usual cuts that spoil its structure, he lengthened the vocal and orchestral texture and put rhythmic spring back into the music. That was not all. He increasingly brought out dramatic values and shaped key moments to convey the thrills of the unfolding religious drama. He had the forces he needed to give both delicacy and strength to his interpretation.

Under Paul Clarke, the Academy of St Thomas was lithe and alert, elegantly echoing the singers' ornamentation.

Ray Simmons duetted with the fine bass Vojtech Safarik in The Trumpet Shall Sound.

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The three other soloists were excellent too. The tenor Joshua Ellicott sang stylishly with seemingly effortless control while the counter-tenor Derek Ragin matched agility with an impressively varied upper range.

With a little smile, soprano Nicki Kennedy caught the note of rejoicing. Her attention to words paid dividends in arias when she really did sound as if she was asking questions.

Flexible and tireless, the 40 singers in the Keswick Hall Choir were light on their feet when the music danced along. They also projected plenty of power and passionate climaxes.