A CAPACITY audience enjoyed 56th consecutive performance of Handel’s Messiah by the Saddleworth Male Voice Choir and an augmented Ladies Chorus accompanied by the Pennine Orchestra.

The evening opened with the traditional singing of Christians Awake (The Christmas Hymn) involving all present right from the start.

The 75-strong chorus was an impressive sight on stage and the performance clearly benefited as a result. This was particularly notable during the choruses He Trusted in God and Lift up Your Heads.

The chorus performed well throughout although they experienced some timing issues during the more complex contrapuntal sections. The Hallelujah chorus was particularly worthy of mention as it was well controlled and impressive throughout. Overall the chorus produced a confident, well balanced performance.

The four soloists performed to the high standards expected at this event and added greatly to the musical success of the evening. April Grime (soprano), whose background included studying at the University of Leeds for her Masters in Music Performance, gave a tuneful performance.

This was her first time of singing the Soprano solo in the Messiah, although being a “local lass”, she had attended the event many times with family in her youth and was excited to be on stage.

Helen Ann Gregory’s (mezzo-soprano) is a former student at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) and this was her second appearance as soloist in the Saddleworth Messiah. Despite what appeared to be some early uncertainty, Helen settled well into this demanding solo part.

John Pierce (tenor), also a graduate of the RNCM, has become a popular choice for this event, this being his fifth appearance and he did not disappoint with his rich tenor tones and his ability to put so much meaning to his interpretation of the words.

The bass soloist, Thomas D Hopkinson (another postgraduate student from the RNCM), also performing for the first time at this Saddleworth event was, for me, outstanding. His sonorous voice filled the hall and his delivery of the notes in his lower range was precise and powerful.

The Pennine Orchestra accompanied the performance throughout to a high standard. The inclusion of a harpsichord in their number always impresses. The orchestra also experienced “a first” in that they saw a change of leadership this year, due to the retirement of Donald Clarke after 36 years at the helm. On this occasion they were led by Andrew Rostron.

The performance was both efficiently and thoughtfully controlled under the baton of Dorian Kelly, Saddleworth Male Voice Choir’s Musical Director.

The audience response confirmed the success of this event. Long may this tradition continue of combining the musical talents of Saddleworth into this one major performance, so appropriate to this time of year. RHW