London Festival Orchestra, Norwich

IAN CLARKE More than two and a half centuries after it was first penned by Handel, his everlasting masterpiece Messiah is still as wonderful as ever.

IAN CLARKE

Musical tastes change; alternative styles come and go; writers and performers have their day.

But more than two and a half centuries after it was first penned by Handel, his everlasting masterpiece Messiah is still as wonderful as ever.

A 900-strong audience ventured out on the coldest night of the year and sat transfixed as they enjoyed a splendid performance of the two-and-a-half hour orchestral and choral epic at the Theatre Royal.

The intimate candlelit atmosphere helped re-excite those feeling flat after the end of the festive season.

Most people will know Messiah best for the uplifting experience of the celebratory chorus Hallelujah.

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The long-time tradition of the audience rising to its feet as the chorus begins was followed and conductor Ross Pople hardly needed to turn round to prompt the massed gathering to do so.

The 13-strong London Festival Voices ensemble sang out Hallelujah with great gusto. If only every voice in the auditorium could have joined in the great number with such professional ability to really lift off the roof.

For Unto Us is another rousing chorus and the four acclaimed soloists treated the audience to several excellent renditions including He Was Despised, I Know That My Redeemer Liveth and The Trumpet Shall Sound.