Handel's Messiah

CHRISTOPHER SMITH Norwich Cathedral

CHRISTOPHER SMITH

Attracting a large audience in support of the Big C Appeal, the 20 instrumentalists of the Norwich Music Group, led by Frances Allright, combined with three times as many singers from South Norfolk Operatic and Choral Society in Handel's ever-green oratorio.

The conductor was Philip Aldred. He brought the best out of his performers and generally opted for quite a brisk pace, though he did not always move on from section to section as quickly as he might have.

While the chorus went to work with a will, especially in the grander movements, the four soloists added character and variety, wisely not resisting the urge to insert a certain amount of period ornament.

Contralto Veronica Grint seemed to grow into her role, making a particular impact when expressing grief and sympathy. Sounding less confident, June Harrison was not so successful in capturing either happi-ness or serenity in the soprano part.

David Burrows revealed an attractive, unforced tenor voice. It made just the right contrast with the gruffer tones of the bass, Anthony Joule, who was at his best when evok-ing the people walking in darkness.

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Concerned with the artistic integrity of Messiah and perhaps anxious to give full value, Aldred included virtually all of Handel's setting.

This meant a long evening on hard seats, and rather a lot of people left before the end. They missed some fine music, but they were sending a message that concert promoters would be wise not to ignore. It is unfortunate too that the lighting in the Cathedral nave shineth not on the faces of the soloists.

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