review ~ Handel's Messiah, 10th Anniversary Concert with Conductor Colin Start.
"Anniversary performance for choir to be proud of"
"THERE is no final, definitive version of Handel's oratorio Messiah. Handel himself directed several versions of this noteworthy and deservedly popular work.
Until the present day it has been performed frequently by a rich variety of small groups, intensely, clearly, transparently, and also by vast resources brought together to celebrate the work's great message and Handel's genius. It is a central part of the English choral tradition.
It has been performed many times here in Alnwick, in several forms with varying degrees of enthusiasm.
Recently, it was performed in St Paul's Church, Alnwick, by Alnwick Choral Society in a close-to-complete version presented by the Society's director Colin Start.
He attempted to make the work, appropriately, as close to being Baroque as possible, which altered some of the decoration and increased the pace at which a good deal of it was sung. This required a good deal of understanding of it all by his musician and choir. He succeeded, and produced a remarkably well integrated performance, powerful and clean.
The Choral Society is at present at its largest and best ever, and obviously had put much work into this familiar and flexible score, while appearing to enjoy it most of the time.
The accompanying orchestra of 17 professional and amateur players, largely from Tyneside, was competent, effective, and fitted into what was a small space remarkably well. Scott Grey, the choir's keyboard workhorse, played his part on the organ with his usual musicality.
Claire McKenna (soprano) is local, young, showing considerable promise, sang clearly, feelingly, some work so familiar that it could be daunting, but she managed very well indeed. Heather Burns (contralto) returned to the Society again, with her distinct voice, and sang very well. The tenor, Austin Gunn, has a very fine voice and his singing was particularly outstanding, as was his presence. Tim Jones (baritone) is a regular and welcome soloist with the choir, and enriches whatever he sings.
St Paul's is a fine setting for such a work, it was full, time never dragged, it flew magically. This performance, most appropriately, celebrated Colin Start's tenth anniversary as director of Alnwick Choral Society. He and the Society are to be congratulated on what they have achieved in these ten years, they have been memorable and enjoyable, and their repertoire has increased considerably." FTD
Northumberland Gazette, Thursday, November 24, 2005